Hilary’s Nottingham diary
July 3, 2003
By Special Diary Guest Hilary
Not that anyone would wish it, but are these guys never going to peak? Will they just keep on getting better and better forever? Last night in Nottingham, in yet another unlikely-looking club (perhaps the Robin in Wolverhampton wins that one but do phone in…) on a damp Tuesday evening all I can hear behind me, in tones of wonder, is a guy murmuring ‘Fok me!!’ ……. every ten seconds throughout the entire performance. And he was right (and no, I didn’t offer).
These damn city centres all smirk as I drive in, knowing that they’ve trapped another sucker into a guided tour of their one-way system (Seen the roundabout? Well see it again, stupid girl. And again….), but this time I got lucky and a very sweet suit guy took me all the way from one of the outlying bloody roundabouts right to Rock City. Nice people.
This crowd were so into the music that sometimes you could hear a pin drop between songs (‘ a very attentive audience’, said Arthur appreciatively), so into the music that they were dancing almost all the way to the back and so deeply, deeply, into the music that they got the truly extraordinary performance they deserved. From the first song – and you know I’m crap at titles, but I remember this was Your Mind And We because it was a surprise start – everything took straight off, hit the roof and never came down.
Arthur’s voice was breathtaking. He has never, never sounded like this before. Somehow he has finally married the honey sweetness to that rough corrosive bitter edge with perfect balance, and the result had to be heard to be believed, especially in Old Man – and he knew it, too! He was happy as a puppy the whole way through – at one point Mike was trying to help him straighten out his guitar strap like a papa rearranging a messy kid, and Arthur was squealing in a falsetto ‘Get your hands off me! Somebody call the cops!’
I know that the orchestra is tremendous. And they get exactly the sound on the album but hell, I like it so much without them, and not just because it’s freer and hotter. And in any case, last night, Arthur apparently had a trumpet-and-strings synthesizer tucked somewhere in his voicebox and Mike had one on his guitar and I don’t care if you believe it or not, you had to be there because they did it all without any fancy instruments (and in the bath, I bet you all try to do the badda badda stuff too, right?).
I think it was Itshak Pearlman who was once asked what the violin meant to him and he answered as if it was obvious -‘The violin? It’s the voice of the soul.’ …but Arthur playing harmonica comes close, it’s the voice of soul, and he was so so hot on DC…still echoing in my head (and not only there, right girls?). And oh my, Mike did not hit that roof, he went straight through it, turning a bopping crowd into an awed bunch of slack-jawed bug-eyed ‘Fok me!’ merchants every time he got loose, no gimmicks, no ego, just plain old brilliant guitar playing, bringing roars of approval from all the gee-tar aficionados. ..and however much he sounds as though he was born to do this, those who know Mike’s own sweet and lilting melodies must also be hugely impressed by how versatile he is..
But it’s the music, it’s the music that really goes to the bone. What is it about those songs? I mean, how come, guys? How come all these years later it turns everyone on just exactly as it did back then? Everything has changed, the world has changed, the people have changed, even the damn weather has changed, the past is another country and all that and still, and still.. the music is so rich, there’s so much there. The way it moves inside your head, striking off without warning in different directions that seem absolutely right as soon as they happen, the way the words pull against the music… who knows?
But from everyone there and especially Fok-me man and me, thank you so much. I wish we could all give you as much as you give us.