A "Cultured Evening"

by Drew Nimmo (djnimmo@hotmail.com)

I've been an avid L+M/James Grant devotee since the inception of Friends Again. Its a small musical world in terms of poularity but puts a big smile on my face to be part of it.

I first saw Love and Money live in the penultimate show of 5 at Teviot Row (Edinburgh University) during the Fringe festival of 1994 . I was standing in the back row with an assorted arrary of friends in varying states of inebriation: one fell asleep to the mellow sounds early on, another played verbal tennis between songs with a more than able James Grant, while the rest of us swayed - unsteadily - to the fine music. The band was excellent and James Grant's immense vocals, guitar licks and witticisms guaranteed an unforgetable evening.

The next concert was August '98 at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh; an altogether different experience billed as James Grant, with Karen Matheson and the BT Scottish Orchestra. Arriving well-oiled once more with two of the group from the previous show, we entered the concert hall full of expectation and were shown to our seats. The atmosphere however was stricken by a pre-opera like restraint that was both worrying and inappropriate. A cigarette was lit to help analysis of the situation, but the military-efficient staff descended immediately like fire blankets, informing us that we were a serious fire hazard and a similar attempt in the future would, in no uncertain terms, result in the confiscation of our tobacco. Puzzled but amused, we carefully doused the flames, sat down, cracked open a can of Red Stripe and began to peruse the pre-match "programme."

A group of four luvvies in front were whispering frantically amongst themselves, obviously unsure about something in the evening's line up, until eventually one turned round and looking at us quizzicaly enquired: "Who is James Grant?"

Outraged.

Our gasps fell on deaf ears and, a few seconds later, out came our ineloquent, but only plausible response: "Who the xxxx is Karen Matheson?"

Sadly, the majority of the packed hall appeared to be Capercaillie fans or Edinburgh festivalgoers who hadn't the faintest idea about the music or the callibre of our main man. The die was set and things did not auger well.

The BT Scottish Orchestra opened proceedings with a couple of laidback Cafe del Mar style violin arrangements. No complaints, rather enjoyable in fact, and polite applause all round. If I remember correctly, James Grant appeared some 50 minutes later- just in time, as our day-long anticipation was being steadily eroded and the sterile audience was in danger of outstaying its welcome.

When the man finally appeared, all three of us leapt to our feet in unision, applauding and cheering enthusistically. I say all three of us, as the remaining 800 or so clapped politely and cast dissaproving glances in our direction.

To the vast majority of the audience that night- and "Mr. Outraged" who made an unnecessarily dramatic early exit- no apologies: the emotional response to music should never be repressed or contained. The minority who actually went to see James Grant that night had probably grown up with his music and had a deep connection with it. To feel like an impostor at your own party isn't the greatest of experiences. Too many wet blankets can dampen the spirit as well as extinguish cigarettes.

James launched into Candy Red Guitar and sending us into paroxisms of delight, we lit a cigarette in celebration. We were on fire again. (The subsequent playlist order remains a bit of a blur but included most of the new songs from Sawdust and several L+M classics.) We had been pulled from the brink of despair. Our vociferous support in between songs was not going down at all well with the stiffs seated around us and the anti-smoking lobby was apoplectic, but having abandoned our seats for an arial view and greater movement, we were by now, unstoppable.

After our third standing ovation for the third song, James, erudite as ever, said to the other 797, "I don't think my fans realise this is a cultured evening."

Cheers,
Drew Nimmo (djnimmo@hotmail.com)


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