An enthusiastic band of the faithful squashed into the noisy back room of the Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham on 26th November, for a lively gig from a witty and on-form Boo Hewerdine.
Belying the slightly uncomfortable performance on his 'Live One' album, and his sometimes brooding on-stage presence behind Eddi Reader, Boo smiled and joked his way through a baker’s dozen of songs accompanied by the winsome, if breathless, Rosalie Deighton on vocals, and the talented fast-learner Dave Marks on bass.
The small back-room at the Patch, which doubles as the home of Twickenham Folk Club each Sunday night is intimate in the way a top oven is intimate, and it's hardly an ideal venue for a softly-spoken singer. Indeed, from time to time in the gig Boo, like Rosalie before him was accompanied by the not-so-faint sound of bar chatter the other side of the door, and occasional crashing of saucepans from the nearby kitchen. The lack of space was such that come the interval, the trio were forced to hide, hilariously, behind a velvet curtain - hapless Manie Krugers: ‘off-stage’ but with feet and elbows clearly visible.
Nevertheless the homely surroundings seemed to suit Boo, perhaps in some part accounting for the stronger, meatier delivery than typically heard on his records – and beneath the plaintiveness and sadness easily associated with Boo’s music, on this hearing I detected a thread of anger running through the gig, beginning in a powerful Bell, Book and Candle (complete with introductory Emmerdale synopsis), and continuing through to Slow Learner, normally dismissed as slightly too self-pitying, which came alive with the added bite. (Has Eddi recorded this song? I think it would suit her).
That’s not too say our heartstrings went untugged. Teasing his audience by inviting requests (‘Nope, sorry, it’s got to be the one that’s in my head already’) Boo seized on a thrown-out shout of
Ontario, complete with slightly anomalous sing-along chorus, segued smoothly into Murder in the Dark, Boo's depressing, pessimistic picture of married life, and then (abandoning any pretence of requests now) a tight I Felt Her Soul Move Through Me finished the section. Credited on the album to Hewerdine/Reader/Henderson/Dodds, to my mind this song is nevertheless Boo’s own - and possibly his finest. Written after the death of Boo’s mother and Eddi’s father in just a short space of time, it’s a simple but powerful piece with clever and subtle images. Hearing anything sung live often brings out different aspects, and this time the couplet ‘Too late I landed / To say goodbye’ suddenly struck me as the keystone of this short song.
But it wasn’t all miserable. We enjoyed Patience of Angels and - this being a folk club after all - Boo obliged with a new song Harvest Gypsies written for up-and-coming folk artist, Kris Drever as well as the sentimental favourite Follow my Tears; the choruses of all accompanied by an enthusiastic audience.
Boo finished with Peacetime, which will be the title song of Eddi’s new album out in January. Peacetime’s not a new song - it’s on Anon. I’d never really thought of it as a ‘protest song’ before, but that’s how Boo described it, neatly extending and tying off the angry thread that I detected weaving in an out of all his songs that evening.
Boo has recorded eight albums with Eddi, and he told us that Peacetime is the best of the lot. Listening to the song last night it wasn’t hard to imagine it with a Simple Soul type arrangement, with Eddi’s vocals soaring over the top.
A new album! Eddi Reader sings the songs of Boo Hewerdine, perhaps? A great prospect.
Boo’s on tour for a while longer on his own before he joins up with Eddi in the New Year. See him if you can.
Stone in your shoe
Bell Book and Candle
Patience of Angels
Honey be Good
Follow My Tears
I felt her soul move through me
Murder in the Dark