Moseley Folk Festival
Whenever I see Edwyn Collins I see my whole life behind me flashing in front of me. Who else has just about written a great new song every three months or so and then repeated that for the past thirty years? One of the greatest songwriters the world has ever seen, his albums are like diary entries.
Anyway, on a beautiful end of summer evening in a Birmingham park, Edwyn, perfectly reasonably rockin' Double Denim like no man should - after all much of his career has been about doing what no man could, no other man should - enters the stage to a tumult of applause and takes a seat on a Peavey amp - some might say Edwyn's bottom is one of the better uses of a Peavey. Good height. And proceeds to call the tunes like an old-time-sing-song barn dance cantankerous old man, I mean he literally does and for the next hour or so, it is simply mesmerizing and the "Audience," we are simply thrilled honeys.
He opens with a song that redefined an era, those 80s, Falling and Laughing, it's a song that gave Lloyd Cole and Nick Heyward shortlived careers - I remember seeing Orange Juice in Liverpool back then and having to sleep at a motorway service station on the way back because stupid horse race fans gathering around Aintree had taken up all the cheap hotel rooms for their grand national fix.
So many great songs, the Postcard singles, the Zeke days, the Gorgeous George era, the hits and a few from his newest (quite possibly best ever...) LP named, but not at all, 'Understated'. Crowd pleasing stuff is an understatement. It was spectacular.
Sensational James is on guitar and he is a perfect fit. Sure, he too went with the Double Denim and for a moment I had to check across the front line to see whether that was the band uniform... - the band uniform actually seemed to be uniformly bad hair (sorry to moan but it's what I do best...). It's true, Mrs X. noted that they incorporated every era of bad rocknroll haircut - the INXS, the Sad Mancunian, Hippie with hair oil... Anyway, look, you know when you see a guitarist and you can't imagine they'd still take a human form without a telecaster or that big brown log of a gibson thing strapped over their shoulder? That's James. Infusing the songs with crazy energy and joy. A lesser mortal than Edwyn Collins might think twice about employing James, lest he steal the show. He was really that good.
Towards the end, Edwyn stood and rocked and rolled for Rip It Up, it's easy to recall that ancient Top of the Pops appearance with those dancing girls - choreographed by their infant offspring most likely - ripping up bits of paper. It ended with a bit of a crowd pleasing call and response. Lovely middle aged male chorus singing the wooh-wooh-woohs in a BIrmingham field. Lovely.
There's a gentle crackly Home Again before the whole thing ends with Don't Shilly Shally, a great song which somehow sounded defined by it's era back then. That sound, you know, the sound of all records then, Julian Cope's Trampoline, say, sound... Great songs but something about them, yurrrghh. Tonight Don't Shilly Shally is beyond great, so joyous, a boisterous unconstrained thing with bring down the house choruses and guitaring from Sensational James. Oh wow.
I asked my five year-old daughter what she'd thought about Edwyn Collins' show and she asked why he always held his own hand, why he didn't stand up like the others in the group, who sang in the group when he was sick. Those would be difficult questions to answer for later. For now, she looked up through the clear sky to the stars twinkling over the stage, "It's a good night for a telescope." She said. For looking back and forwards.