Scott Matthews Tonight at the Town Hall in Birmingham, I again witness the poised brilliance of Scott Matthews. Up there on stage with just a simple black back drop, and, to set the scene, smoke lingering in the air around him - like an ethereal spirit rising from a funeral pyre. Matthews gives us a short but sweet first half performance just on his own with an ever-changing array of acoustic guitars all vying for his attention. They are brought from the wings one by one as if waiting to be consumed by Matthews' touch - like groupies awed in silence. He lulls the audience into a trance with songs from his three studio recorded albums, and unexpectedly at the end of a short first set he plays what could be considered his masterpiece "Elusive" (released 2006 on his debut first album "Passing Stranger"). I think I must have been expecting a special announcement or something, as he drops this one on us without warning -and that's a bit of a shock (be it an understated version too). In my mind, and from what I know about the man, Matthews is attempting to move beyond the dizzying heights of his Ivor Novello award winning song. My notion is that he's conflicted here - as he cannot deny the audience his greatest song to date, and yet is attempting to surpass his own genius, which lingers in the air as if caught in amber for eternity.


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Grace and Danger: The Songs of John Martyn Part of the English Originals Weekend tonight saw a veritable cornucopia (yep, I’ve been reading the dictionary again) of artists pay their own tribute to a man who, in my humble opinion, is hugely underappreciated. Of course John did himself no real favours during his 40 odd year career... what with all the drink and drugs... and more drink... and... oh go on... just a few more drugs. Having his leg lopped off in 2006 probably didn’t help matters either, but the overwhelming feeling that you got after he passed away last year was that John well and truly lived life to the full. Inevitably if you’re going to do that you can expect massive highs and crashing lows and listening to John’s songs it’s clear that’s just what he got. Anger, love, hate, bitterness, regret, joy... he covered pretty much every emotion under the sun and tonight’s gig gave us a chance to see how others manage to interpret what are, often, intensely personal songs.


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