(originally uploaded by Schrollum)
Recently I've found it hard to enjoy music in big sit down venues so despite the long wait (I've had the tickets for six months!) I was a little apprehensive about seeing Joanna Newsom at the Royal Albert Hall. Ys may be the best album I own and that's the first time I've said that about a non Galaxie 500 album in a very VERY long time. I'm not sure it can work like that - it exists so far removed from anything else I own that it seems almost ridiculous to set it alongside the indie-guitar music that makes up so much of my listening.
So anyway I arrived at the RAH just as The Moore Brothers set was finishing up and I opted for the lav and a bottle of water over catching the end of it, I hadn't been all that impressed by what I'd heard on the Internet but should probably give them a bit more of my attention (particularly given Joanna's effusive praise). Roy Harper arrived on stage at eight and played through his 1969/1971 album Stormcock...it was great to hear and he still has a great voice and presence.
As an aside, my first introduction to Roy Harper was in the middle of my Heavy Metal phase (probably 80 or 81) and my cousin Clare asked if I could go and buy her Bullinamingvase, I guess because it was hard to get a hold of in Cork. I was happy to oblige but equally happy to mock her for listening to such "old" music - I taped it before I passed it on (because I did that with any album that passed through the house). It was probably ten years before I actually listened to it and became aware that my mockery was very poorly placed and that it was me whose blinkered attitude was deserving of mockery.
Anyway, Joanna arrived on stage to a rapturous welcome - I'm still astounded at just how successful she has become - she is, after all, a stunningly individual and unique talent (on an indie label) and that sort of talent doesn't often get recognised (probably Bjork and Kate Bush are the obvious exceptions). She opened with Bridges and Balloons, which seems to be the norm, and then played an astounding set including all of Ys (not together), a couple from The Milk Eyed Mender, Colleen, a trad song and a new song. High point in a show of astounding highs was Sawdust and Diamonds. It was great hearing Ys in the stripped back and stunnigly beautiful (four-piece) arrangements it worked so much better than I imagined it would (even if the Ys Street Band EP had given clues...)
She seemed genuinely in awe of the venue, the audience and particularly of Roy Harper's performance, about which she gushed enthusiastically, which solicited a shouted "you're welcome" from Roy in a box at the back of the hall.
So apprehension was misplaced, it was an astounding performance. She is a treasure.
Oh and that's now two acts I can cross off My Top 6...bands or artists I've never seen live