|Justin Currie/Derek Meins - Bristol, The Fleece - 14th May 2012|
|Written by Russ P|
|Saturday, 26 May 2012 04:00|
Tonight's support act, Derek Meins, is a troubadour of the keys - an amalgam of Ed Harcourt and Elektra-era Tom Waits. The subject of taxation may be a well-worn one in rock music courtesy of Mansun, Cheap Trick and The Beatles but Meins gives us a thoroughly down to earth take on the pains of self assessment. The song is literally named after his national insurance number which, during the course of many telephone calls, burned itself into his mind's retina. Of course Meins kindly asks us to forget the number as soon as we leave the venue.
A chatty chap he tells us how glad he is to be playing in this here fancy venue tonight after what one would presume to be the teahouses and cowsheds of the previous few nights. Meins closes with a song set to the words of a famous poet, which sounds highfalutin but is actually coarse, gritty and down to earth.
Ever the dour humorist Justin Currie steps onstage to an intro tape of Matt Monro's 'Portrait Of My Love' and self-effacingly warns us: "You won't hear anything as good as that tonight".
And maybe I'm ever the contrarian or perhaps I'm simply out of touch because I'm taken aback by the amount of Del Amitri material that he's playing tonight. I love Del Amitri. It's a nice surprise. But I'd come here expecting pure solo Justin Currie with ne'er a backward glance to the past.
Justin is playing without band tonight and extremely early on the crowd are with him singing along to every word of 'Tell Her', 'Just Like A Man', 'When I Want You' and 'Empty'. It's only when Justin takes off his acoustic guitar and sits at the keyboard do we start to hear some more solo material with 'Where Did I Go?' and 'You'll Always Walk Alone' - Currie's willfully perverse counter to a Rogers and Hammerstein song?
Back on guitar 'Always The Last To Know' shows that Justin still retains a huge tranche of his old Del Amitri fans. And then mid-set Justin really hits his stride. 'Walking Through You' is tender and Justin amazes with his falsetto control - one of the highlights of the night. Always polemic Justin sidesteps an audience invitation for some friendly racism against the Welsh only to let off on one about drunken Scottish cunts and quips "...well...people are the same everywhere aren't they?"
'Little Stars' is a new one and it's simply astounding. There's something reverential and hymnal about it revealing another depth to the man's work. It's another highlight and is a thrill to hear. It's a taste of things to come and will hopefully turn up on a forthcoming album. And...highlight of highlights is 'What Is Love For?' - one of my favourite songs. Outwardly Justin shows barely any sign of emotion and I wonder if he's performing on automatic. Whether he's playing by rote is irrelevant though. I feel it. And I get shivers.
Justin more or less packs in the songs tonight with barely any banter. The crowd shout out the familiar and the obscure and Justin racks his brains and obliges most requests even going so far as saying to the audience: "Amuse yourselves", while he walks to the back of the stage, back to the audience, while he has a quick practice of 'No Family Man'. Almost immediately he tells us that: "...it's too high". Despite being in the wrong key he doesn't skip a beat...until later in the song where he misses a lyric: "...well if you don't fucking know it..." So Justin is a man of few words...unless challenged and unless playing tonight's finale - the stanza heavy 'No Surrender' proving why he's my favourite lyricist.
But Justin returns to the stage mopping up the unaddressed requests from the audience while throwing in another new one that seems to be the companion piece to Del Amitri's 'Jesus Saves'. Where that song was full of cynicism and irony this new one is less so. It doesn't exactly show a full softening of Justin's barbed social commentary but it does have a tender heart, which it shares with 'Little Stars'.
Finally how can a downfall be an uplifting highlight? In Justin's world he makes cruelty, indifference, stupidity, monotony, futility, ennui and nihilism very beautiful. And 'Be My Downfall' is one of Justin's many songs that encapsulates and recognises both sides of our human existence.
Photos courtesy of Russell Prothero http://www.russellprothero.co.uk/
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