A glance at the profile here might reveal that I like music. Lots. I like music a lot and I like lots of music. That's classical, blues, military bands, folk, rock, jazz, cajun, rockabilly, punk, pop, rock 'n' roll, skiffle, big bands, doo-wop, country...
Country. Oh, buddy, as I found they say in West Virginia. I do like country music. (And, let's not forget, I also like western music.) Some of the newer stuff ain't too bad, and I do confess to Garth, the Mavericks and a few others featuring in the collection, although I've never been convinced that they belong on the same shelf as Cash, Haggard and such folks. In fact, the more that I think about it... That's country, my ass.
That phrase is borrowed, shamelessly, from a song I was loudly singing last night. Luckily, around 300 other people were obliterating my own horrible efforts with much more harmonious renditions. Together, we were making a joyful noise unto Dale Watson, in a tiny Kilburn venue called The Luminaire. I didn't know, as I continue to wait with diminishing patience for kneehole surgery, that I am capable of standing on one spot for upwards of two and a half hours. Today, the knee is making its displeasure felt, even more stridently than it was throughout the show. Were the event to be replicated tonight, I would not only happily repeat the uncomfortable standing, but would cheerfully limp the 30-mile round-trip to The Luminaire to do so.
The Doggone Honkabilly Band opened the proceedings with a couple of their own tunes and a whole bunch of generally boisterous covers taking in Cash, Monroe and Hanks I and III. They were about as good as a British country combo could be. That's as good, of course, as a born-and-bred Texan would be singing Mad Dogs and Englishmen. However good it sounds, deep inside you know that it's just not quite right and while you might pay to see it, you'd check your change. After the Honkabillies, a brief interval, and out walked Mr. Watson and his buddies.
I've been one among a crowd of many thousands for such varying legends as Queen and Luciano Pavarotti. I've seen Topol playing Tevye and Opera North performing The Flying Dutchman in large city theatres. I've sat in smaller halls to enjoy performers from Dr. Feelgood to Glen Campbell. I've squeezed into tiny rooms to give attention to relative unknowns from Harvey Andrews to Jake Thackray. I couldn't contemplate trying to remember the hundreds of semi-pro performers I've heard in pubs. As I lay on the settee during the early hours of this morning, waiting for the Tramadol Hydrochloride to kick in and allow me some sleep, I contemplated. I pondered. I reminisced and I compared.
Last night, Dale Watson probably delivered the most enjoyable concert I've ever attended.
Not just because I was standing front and centre, within arm's length of the singer, throughout. Not just because his third song was the Bob Wills classic Faded Love, sung at my request. Not just because he brilliantly performed, at a guess, fifty or more songs during a long show, a goodly proportion of these in response to requests from the crowd. Not just because he not only has a great voice but could also comfortably assume the lead guitar duties in almost any band, of any type. Not just because he has more charisma, personality, warmth and intelligence than the combined offerings of any three entries in the current hit parade. Not just because of his frequently expressed, clearly sincere and humble, gratitude to the folks who buy his music and attend his performances. Not just because his colleagues, on stand-up bass, drums, pedal steel and fiddle, gave uniformly outstanding performances, occasionally straying into virtuoso territory. Not just because of his - and their - impressive capacity for tequila and beer. Not just because he lingered post-show, graciously greeting anyone who wanted to talk to him and happily posing for endless photographs with, and signing autographs for, his public. Not just because, chatting afterwards, we found that we share common views on Tom T. Hall.
No, it was probably the most enjoyable concert ever because, well... I wouldn't know where to start.
So, Dale Watson and your band, thank you.
Thank you, Bob Harris, for drawing the show to my attention.
Thank you, Margaret, for ignoring my pessimistic presumptions, for checking The Luminaire as late as the day before the gig, finding that tickets hadn't yet sold out and for buying me what may well have been, albeit a month prematurely, the best birthday present ever.