Thursday, May 17, 2007

So we call on mini heroes*: Willy Mason at the Shepherds Bush Empire

"Erm, was that Willy having a sneaky fag by the side door?" Said Yaz, as we strolled down the alley beside the Shepherds Bush Empire.

"Yes," I replied, but acting too cool for school to turn back and say "hi."

"We should go back and say hi," she said.

"OK then."

"No I'm too shy."

So we faffed about for a while, me pushing her to go and say "hi" while she hid behind a copy of The London Paper. After a couple of minutes she finally stumped up the courage and turned to scurry back down the alley, only to see Willy get up and go back inside.

"[Swear]," said Yaz.


So yes, Wednesday night with Willy Mason at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I'd been looking forward to this gig for ages, actually; I love both of Willy's albums (pushed to choose a favourite, I'd say the first one - mainly because, although I think the second one is a consistantly stronger album, I think the first one contains his best songs, and I appreciate the slight roughness about it. Also, for a long time I thought it was called 'The Humanzie,' not 'Where the Humans Eat,' which probably says more about me than anything else), and have been eager to see him live for a fair ol' while now.

Unusually for a Yaz/Tim gig, we were standing; on the plus side we were closer to the stage, but on the downside, my knee's still slightly buggered, and Yaz is quite short. Still, we nabbed a reasonably quality spot to the left of the stage, and for the most part (we'll get to that later) had a good view.

The support act was some dude called Elvis Perkins, who I wasn't instantly enthralled by. Nevertheless, he did win me over eventually, thanks to some songs that had a distinct whiff of The Beatles and Bob Dylan about them. There was quite a nice ramshackle vibe about him and his band too, and in hindsight they were the perfect fit to accompany Willy Mason's sound (some of the band even joined Willy onstage towards the end of his set).

Willy came on without any fanfare, almost as if he was slightly shocked that anyone had turned up, and proceeded to plough through his material. Straight away I decided that, while a Willy Mason gig doesn't have much in common with a Rolling Stones gig, the one common feature of both is that their music sounds so much more vibrant and alive on stage; like the Stones, I think, given the choice, I'd rather listen to a live Willy Mason album than a studio one. It just sounded so *right* played out to an audience.

Another thing that I liked was that there were a couple of technical hitches - a broken string first ("it's all gone tits up!" bemoaned Willy), then some other guitar problems - that only served to endear him to the audience as he joked around and engineered a solution to one problem by tearing up his setlist and wedging bits of it into his guitar (I don't know exactly how that worked, but it certainly looked impressive). And then, after he'd done his encore and the audience collectively thought about heading home, we all cheered as he came running back on stage saying "oh, I forgot to play this song for you," before launching into an amazing version of 'Oxygen.'

It was a quality laid back evening that felt more like he was playing some songs to a load of friends rather than a paying audience. I'd definitely see him again.

(On a side note, though, I've just read a review in the Evening Standard that basically suggested that his laid back attitude was a downside of the gig; I'd disagree - it's rather refreshing to see a singer not full of attitude and self-importance for a change. Mind you, they were also a bit negative about the Chris Cornell gig at the Astoria that my bro went to, and he said that was awesome. So *snaps* to the Standard)

Downsides? Oh, yeah, I was saying about the view, wasn't I? Well, soon after we'd grabbed our bit of turf in the Empire, some couple rocked up and sat down on the floor beside us (seriously, on the floor - they've cleaned the floor of the Empire - it was shiny! Well, until after the gig had finished…). Fine, I thought, until I realised that the guy was basically cuddling upto my leg, almost as if he was trying to use a personal space issue to get me to move away. Then when the support act came on, they both jump to their feet - and START TALKING TO EACH OTHER! I mean, seriously, erm, trying to listen! Not only that, though: the guy started making calls on his mobile! And he had a massive head that kept obscuring my view when he lent in to listen to what his girlfriend was saying. Lord knows why, though - I could hear her well enough.

Anyway, revenge was on hand in the form of some little kid who kept literally shoving his camera over their shoulders and in front of their faces in order to take pictures of Willy. And he took A LOT OF PICTURES. I think the little dude basically assembled a flick-book of the entire evening.

(Oh, there was also some old dude standing right by me sketching Willy as well; his pics were pretty cool, and I can't help wondering if he'd been hired to do them for a DVD cover or something; the gig was, after all, being filmed…)

Some pics, yes? Crappy pics - but pics nevertheless!

*OK, so I know the actual lyric is "so we call on many heroes," but this is a case of me mishearing it long ago, and my version getting stuck in my head. And anyway, I like to think that if I needed help I would call on a box of small chocolates.


Dinah said...

Woo! That sounds like so much funness. And great pictures, too.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

I always imagined Willie to be an old man, for some reason. Someone who looks a bit like Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Anyway, you should've shrunk Giant Head Man's (and his girlfriend's) head like that tribesman did to Beetlejuice in...umm, Beetlejuice.

* rummages in bag *

I think I've got some of that powder spare in here, if you want it... *

Tim said...

Dinah - It was fun! A nice, chilled out evening of top tune-age!

Inexplicable Device - That's Willy Nelson, you crazy foo'!

That powder sounds useful for next time. I'm always plagued by people with massive heads at gigs!

T-Bird said...

Willie Nelson is a cutie!

Tim said...

Boobs! Check out his stuff on myspace if you're not familiar withi him - the boy can sing!

T-Bird said...

You do realise your hit count will treble with every mention of breasts, right?

I'll boob over and tit a look at the mammaries website!

Tim said...

Damn! Boobs has seen through my nerfarious plan!

Dinah said...


and Penis! for good measure.