Thursday, 20 December 2012

Duke Special - Shepherds Bush Empire, 20th December 2012

I first went to see Duke Special live at the Shaw theatre in May 2010 - I had a seat in the very front row, and he was playing with the same full band as tonight. On that earlier occasion the mix of songs was mainly from his Mother Courage and Silent world of Hector Mann collections. Since then I've seen him live at the Union Chapel and at Wilton's Music Hall  - both times mainly solo, save for the odd guest to duet with, or (at UC) one or two musicians accompanying. I think that's all the times I've seen him live - but that's only over a period of two and a half years.

But the full band sound - with sax, double bass, drums, quirky percussion, hammond organ and guitar - that's the business! Definitely the best way to experience the Duke! Wasn't so struck by tonight's main support act - Michelle somebody? (there was another featured female vocalist for one song in the encores - a song about an angel? And also the bearded chappy mentioned below) The duet with Michelle was reasonably good - a cover of a cheeky song but not terribly memorable.

Tonight there were lots of the old favourite classics, particularly during the encore (Salvation Tamborine, Apple Jack, I let you down, No CoverUp, Digging an Early Grave, Last Night I nearly Died, Love goes Deeper than This, but sadly not FreeWheel), plus my new favourite from his most recent album, about the human condition, and lots of lesser-known songs from Under the Dark Cloth and O Pioneer, his two most recent albums. Not all of them are 'big hits', but Hand of Man (spirit of America) and Snakes in the Grass are pretty good. And so is the Georgia O'Keefe one (which features the O Pioneer line), and also the final  'bird on the edge of space' one, (will add more if I can recall them.)

There was a fab duet with a singer/guitarist whose name I didn't catch, but who seemed to be scandinavian, judging from his accent. They first sang one of DS's songs (Washday blues I think it's called) and then did one of his. His song, with DS accompanying, was superb - the patience of angels? I recorded a goodly chunk to help me identify both the song and the singer in due course.

I was particularly struck tonight by how beautiful DS's voice is. He has such a fantastic range - there was one song in particular with very very low bits, then his fine tenor range - and then (in other songs) he can produce a very sweet and gentle falcetto at the top end too!

Wish I could recall which song featured a very fine screeching top note sung by the sax player! It was fab!!

And the squeeze box sustain notes accompanying No cover up - another terrific aspect.

The whole sound was just so wonderfully rich, combined with perfectly crisp audible lyrics.

I liked what DS was wearing - a red shirt, thin black tie and a dark grey suit jacket - quite a formal look really! He had a  real go at XFactor - really loathes it and sees it as inimical to art (he sees his job as being an artist with something to say via his music)

Standing was ok (there were seats up in the circle - not sure if I even knew that was an option when I booked), except for the pain I started to feel in my left knee towards the end - and the fact that my view of DS was only very much glimpses, albeit from reasonably close. But I stuck with my position - until shoved out of the way by two drunk and annoying blokes just in time for the final bop-along encore numbers. I almost let my annoyance spoil the end part of the gig! My view got even worse and - after trying to maintain my position despite them inserting themselves into my personal space, I eventually gave up and stood behind them again - because I couldn't even bop along otherwise.

I was paranoid about the risk of getting my phone(s) pickpocketted, so my hypervigilance prevented me getting too engrossed. I was also aware of feeling a bit sad about being on my own - I really don't think I will attempt to go to a gig like that on my own in the future.

My other REALLY big mistake this evening was the hotdog. Oh my god - that was so foul! And I attempted to start eating a SECOND one, just because I had a 'two for the price of one' offer via O2 Moments. Not a good idea. Felt so sick - in fact I STILL feel sick now!! I only ate a small fraction of the second one in the end. I did, however, enjoy my pear cider very much (despite its price)

Cheekily saved money on the tube fare by re-using Bob's card, since he was already 'maxed' on the daily limit. Seemed to work.

Forgot to mention - initially forgot my ticket and only discovered it when I had parked at Ealing Broadway - had to go back home to fetch it. Glad I checked before travelling to Shepherds bush, but wish I'd listened to my innner voice on leaving the house, cos it was telling me to check if the ticket was in my bag before I drove away from the house!

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