As homecoming gigs go, this was as triumphant as it gets.
A sell-out crowd at Oran Mor in the trendy West End of Glasgow roared their approval just after 9pm as Edwyn Collins, assisted by his wonderful wife Grace Maxwell, climbed a short flight of stairs and made his way to centre-stage to take his customary seated position where his microphone, his lyric sheets and his bottle of water awaited him. He was dapper and handsome wearing a smart suit and old-fashioned panama-style hat, albeit I thought he looked a bit more tired around the eyes than he’d seemed on the other gigs I’d seen him perform since his comeback.
The band, consisting of a number of his oldest and most loyal comrades – Andy Hackett on guitar, Paul Cook on drums and Carwyn Ellis on bass – together with Tom Edwards on guitar and Boz Boorer (yes the same Boz from Moz!!!) on keyboards – launched into Losing Sleep, the title track from Edwyn's LP. The noise levels within Oran Mor went up a notch further. Then Edwyn joined in on vocals…..and immediately we all knew it was going to be treated to something really special.
This was the sight and sound of a talent on top form and someone clearly invigorated by the fact he knows that the quality of songs on his new LP are as good a collection as anything he has recorded in a career that now spans 30 years. Maybe some people who came along to the gigs in recent years have done so out of a sense of loyalty and sympathy, eager to show their support for Edwyn as he tries to show that while his illnesses may have affected his mobility, they have had no impact on his ability as a songwriter and performer. Others may have gone along hoping to hear some old Orange Juice classics one more time, with the bonus of the guitar talents of Roddy Frame.
Tonight however feels different from the outset. The audience cheer as loudly for Losing Sleep material as they do for the ‘classics’. The guest vocals on the new songs are taken by Carwyn for the most part, although Andy and Boz do a lot of the harmonies. It all sounds fantastic, save for the occasional blast of feedback that is a result of someone being a wee bit too close to a monitor.
It is a set that races along at an unbelievable pace and is always top-drawer quality. Thanks to the infusion of some half-a-dozen of the new songs, it is a more coherent and balanced set than recent tours. There’s still more than enough OJ songs to keep those of us from that era satisfied (and I reckon about 80% of the audience were in the 40-something or older bracket, the remainder were young hipsters obviously impressed at how many of their own contemporary heroes have said Edwyn is such an influence - Consolation Prize, Dying Day, Falling and Laughing, Rip It Up and What Presence all get an airing. But so do some of the best songs from the solo era including Make Me Feel Again, Don’t Shilly Shally, The Wheels of Love and A Girl Like You.
It was the last-named that got the second loudest roar of the night. Not because it’s his biggest and best-known song, but for the simple fact that Edwyn, as he first did in January 2009 at this Celtic Connections gig in Glasgow, got to his feet and sang his heart out. And when his vocal ends, he says goodnight and exits stage right, leaving his highly talented band to play out the song for another two or three minutes.
Those of us who have seen him before know that the great man is merely taking a breather. He’s determined to do an encore. Yes, it would be easier for him just to stay put and not go through the difficulty of edging his way back down the stairs only to come back up them a few minutes later. But Edwyn is determined to do things properly.
It’s just him and Carwyn who come back on stage. And the pace slows as Carwyn plays acoustic guitar and Edwyn sings the two songs that close the current LP. That’s where you can detect a slight frailty in his voice but it is marginal and it it is also quite clear that his voice is much stronger than it was this time two years ago on the first of the comeback gigs.
The loudest roar of the night came for the second half of the encore. The band come back to take their places, joined by William Collins – Edwyn’s son who by the year is becoming more and more the spitting image of his dad when he was a young man. William is on stage to sing co-vocals on In Your Eyes, one of the truly outstanding tracks on the new LP, and one co-written and performed by members of The Drums. Master Collins is a star in the making, as hopefully you will soon see for yourself from one of the two video clips I managed to shoot at the gig (I’m only sorry the memory card runs out about 30 seconds before the conclusion of In Your Eyes – the roar of approval from the crowd was so heartfelt).
Then it was Blue Boy. The song that more than any other has become THE definitive Orange Juice song thanks to the way Edwyn has been performing it in recent years. What a way to finish. I couldn’t get the grin off my face. And I wasn’t alone.
A slow amble out into the cold and wet Glasgow night via the merchandising stall where I pick up a t-shirt that harks back to the Postcard era and a copy of Coals to Newcastle, the Orange Juice box-set issued by Domino Records. And there will be more on that tomorrow…..
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Make Me Feel Again
Edwyn still has some UK dates coming up in the next week or so – Newcastle, Manchester, Preston, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham.
Later this month and early into December, Edwyn will be appearing in Paris, The Hague, Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels, Cologne, Munich and Schorndof, before what will surely be a triumphant appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival on 11th December at Minehead in Somerset, England. Full details of all the gigs can be found here.
Get yourself along if you live near any of these cities. You’re in for a treat.
Special thanks to Comrade Colin for the photo that accompanies this posting.