Inside I spotted a good spare place in a central pew fairly nearly the front. Laid down my cardigan to hold the spot and queued to buy an icecream tub. Once in my place, I had time to photograph the beautiful ceiling,
and to tweet, and then the first support act was starting. He was quite good (and I later bought his CD, which was only £5) but I must confess I did carry on tweeting during his set. He had old TVs showing odd images (or, in one case an actual video of his song) Boxes used a lot of pre-recorded backing track music and beats. Hmmmm.
The next (main) support act were on next - Foreign Slippers. This singer is Swedish and she wore a retro looking red suit with matching red hat (later Duke Special was also wearing a bright red shirt - colour co-ordinated!) As she started to sing her first song at the piano, I thought her voice sounded like a female version of Antony and the Johnsons - although a bit less mannered. She does have a superb and beautiful voice. I liked some of her songs very much; couldn't hear all of the words and greatly disliked the songs when she used a horrible thumping pre-recorded drum track.
This is the third time I have seen Duke Special live. the first was at the Shaw Theatre with a full band. The second was solo (just with piano) at the wonderful Wilton Music Hall. And this time he had a drummer (with a lot of big bass drum featuring) and a Hammond Organ player - plus of course the piano. And a couple of guest vocalists later on in the set (the drummer also provided some harmonies on a few earlier songs)
It was a mixture of songs from Under the Dark Cloth (I particularly love the long explanatory introduction to the Rita di a Costa one),
some older 'classics', including FreeWheel, Last Night I nearly Died and Digging an Early Grave, one Ruby Murray song and several from the new CD. I tried to keep track of the set list - although I think I may have missed some, and/or got the order wrong. I may come back to edit further, but this is my initial attempt (some titles not correct)
For me the highlights were the beautiful stripped back version of Freewheel, featuring guest vocals by Foreign Slippers, plus a final section of what sounded like extemporized lyrics referring to the Union Chapel venue itself and (very movingly) God - really stopped me in my tracks that did: quite a moment. It seemed so appropriate, in a song about Freewheeling, for him to stop a moment and just let his mind freewheel about what was right there and then in that very moment. I felt privileged to share that unique live experience! (I recorded part of it, but missed the first section sung by Duke Special before the section sung by Foreign Slippers)
I also loved the I am Perfect song with so many clever opposites - far from obvious ones and very subtle in the rhyming. The line about the words crawling back inside the ink was another real 'wow!' moment!
DRAFT ATTEMPT AT SET LIST
Spiritual America - Dark Cloth
Rita di a costa - Dark Cloth
Hand of Man - Dark Cloth
Snakes in the Grass (from the new CD)
Nothing shall come between us (from the new CD)
Last Night I nearly died
Punch of a Friend - from new CD (& single)
Lost Chord ( I misheard this title as Wasps Court!) - duet with Foreign Slippers - from new CD
Freewheel (duet with Foreign Slippers) - with improv references to the venue itself. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT FOR ME!!
Condition (I am perfect) - from the new CD (the words are crawling back inside the ink) A WONDERFUL SONG!!
Happy Days and lonely nights (a Ruby Murray song)
Wanda - Hector Mann
Salvation tambourine (I could go to London)
Hard times (duet with friend he pulled out of the audience)
How I Learned to love the Sun (oh the feeling) (from new CD) - with umpapa style - also featuring Duke singing part of the song up in his falcetto range - which I'd never heard before. Not sure about that aspect.
I wish I was a fisherman (Foreign Slippers song - with Duke singing harmonies) - I've found a You Tube video of this on a different night - see below. It's very lovely.
FINAL ROUSING ENCORE = Digging an early grave (with audience joining in, and also some from front rows invited up onto the stage!)