September 4th 2004
Well, what a fantastic night! I knew it was going to be great seeing Kevin play with Johnny McKinnon, but it would be a first time for the rest of my family as my children are too young to go to most of the adult venues he plays. This was a house concert hosted by Gillie and Tony in the garden of their lovely home in Pensford near Bristol.
We drove over, following a series of unbelievably slow drivers, and despite my panic found the place easily and were almost the first to arrive. We parked and walked round onto a terrace, where there was a wonderful garden falling away down to a hidden stream. There was a double gazebo set up with a little stage and there was Kevin doing a sound check! Magic!
We were warmly welcomed by friends of Gillie who I had seen before at the Kevin concerts I had been to. When I met Gillie herself I recognized her as someone I had been dancing next to at the Polish Club in Bristol, that memorable night with Hannah. Kevin came up at that point and was his usual friendly self. While the family arranged their seats I chatted to various people including Ian and Carol Reay, well-known to many people who have attended concerts.
There was a simple buffet laid out and drinks, including a pin of Butcombe beer! Gradually more and more people arrived and I managed to chat to Kevin again, passing on greetings from Hannah. I also chatted to Johnny who told us about the fierce Scottish midges, the English ones buzzing about in the garden were feeble in comparison apparently!
At last the concert started with a young woman called Amy. She sang what I presume were her own songs but she didn’t introduce them or herself, apart from the last number which was an Irish folk song which she accompanied with her bodhran. My husband plays the bodhran in his group but at that point he had wandered off and so missed it!
Amy was followed by the splendid and entertaining James Slater. He played an interesting set, the sort of singer you need to hear a few times to really appreciate. He had a good rapport with the audience who were sitting on rugs, garden chairs, blankets, as the light went from the sky and a little bat flew around overhead, presumably catching the feeble midges.
James finished and we were full of anticipation as we waited for Kevin and Johnny. It was getting darker and colder, and candles were lit on the steps up to the terrace and torches around the garden. Eventually as the moon came up Kevin and Johnny trotted onto the stage.
And of course it was well worth waiting for! Every time I hear Kevin I think he is better than the previous time – or maybe just very different. Surrounded by so many friends he was even more relaxed and funny than usual. Apparently his set list had disappeared – he had left it on a table and presumably someone had taken it as a souvenir.
He sang most of his well-known songs – I’ll attempt to remember a list as an appendix but he sang some with different tempi from usual which was fascinating and nice as a change for those of us who were very familiar with them. He and Johnny had a splendid line in repartee, some of the jokes rambled off into the surreal, really very funny. There were cut-out sheep around the garden especially for Johnny (I can only guess the connection!!!) One of them with a black face seemed almost alive as it peered at Johnny through the gloom.
Johnny was left to do a couple of solos, ‘Great Balls of Fire’ – an interesting version as he didn’t know all the words! However he played with enough vigour and enthusiasm to cause our neighbours on rugs to abandon their wine and picnic and leap up and dance. He played a second number which I really cannot remember although it was good.
Kevin returned and they continued until past midnight. Our children were so tired we left fairly quickly but I’m sure the party continued.
It was a wonderful experience, a fantastic performance, and really memorable. The best bit? Looking at my children’s faces as they listened and watched, under the stars, the moon looking as if it was caught in the branches of a tree; they were wrapped up in blankets because of the cold but glowing, eyes sparkling with enjoyment and the magic of it all.
I’m now looking forward to seeing Kevin again in Bristol at the Polish Club again on October 9th!
Set List (I think, and not in order):
Another Long Story
Visions Of White
Let’s All Go To California
I Wish I Were Blind
Broken (I think)
I Don’t Even Know Your Name
I Can’t Drive You From My Mind
Red-Blooded American Boy
She Don’t Wake Me Up (I think)
Reckless (not sure)
Flower Of My Heart
Heartbeat (Kevin’s dad wrote the song and Kevin couldn’t resist watching the tv programme – not impressed ‘it sucks’ according to KM!)
And I’m sure there were some others too! It was great!