Friday, January 13, 2012
Andy White at...the Pearl Company
She's a masterpiece
after all this time
He didn't sing it until about four songs into the second set, but when Andy White began "If I Catch You Crying" last night I watched his hands. I've been stuck on this song since I first heard it on Blackie & the Rodeo Kings BARK album. It's essentially C, F, G...with a "minor fall, and a major lift" but it's intoxicating!
When Andy last played The Pearl Company with Stephen Fearing, I was not able to see them as I had tickets for Jackson Browne at Hamilton Place. Sometimes you have to make these decisions. Remember that night when, in various venues around town, we had to choose from Bill Bourne, Selena Gomez and Tony Bird? Fortunately Andy White made this return engagement. Too bad the crowds that showed up for Valdy didn't appear last night. The twenty or thirty who did make it are glad they did.
Intimate? You bet.
White reminded me of Billy Bragg in his approach both musically and lyrically. One man and a guitar, singing about the politics of government and love. There was a bit of punk rock in the way Andy played that guitar, and a bit of the Guthrie-esque folksinger in the audience singalongs. One thing about the people who go to the Pearl...they're not afraid to sing!
White wore a military-style jacket over a "Where's Waldo" white and black striped shirt. The woman behind me said, "Oh, he's changed his clothes. I liked the scarf better. That shirt shows his tummy!" She'd been there early for the sound check, I think. He quickly covered his 'tummy' with his 12 string guitar, ramped up the echo and fingerpicked the intro for "Looking for James Joyce's Grave".
I recalled my visit to Ireland, sitting at Joyce's desk in his study, or having my photo taken next to the Joyce statue off O'Connell Street. As White sang four or five songs about Ireland it brought back memories of taking the train from Drogheda to Belfast, of martello towers, of the best fish & chips I've ever had, and the pubs. The dark, stained walls and heavy Guinness-soaked atmosphere of the pubs and the loud rock music provided by the local bands.
One complaint I had about last night was the audio mix, usually crisp and clean, it was hard to make out the words. It wasn't White brogue, but either I was sitting too close to the front, or Andy was leaning too far into the mic. My friend Frank remarked about the same thing. And maybe, just maybe, White could go a bit easier on the effects that he pushes his guitar through. While providing a fuller sound, it did tend to muddy things a touch. But these slight problems are nothing compared to the intimacy that is achieved at the Pearl.
White alternated stories with songs and, in fact, many of his songs are stories. "Italian Girls on Mopeds" is a perfect example. "When I Come Back" (from his most recent CD songwriter) touched me, as he sang about "hear[ing] the Beatles for the first time, a hard day's night in '64". I recall well the day I heard the Beatles for the first time, and then I remembered the Hard Day's Night coffeeshop in Ardee. All these memories from 40 or more years flooding together.
That's what songwriters do, they speak to you of shared moments in time and experience. Whether we come from the same geographical area or time zone, or era we share so much.
Music can reach deep into our souls. Had coffee with a guitarist friend who told me that she sold her most recent CD to a woman who played it for her autistic sons. She said it had an amazing impact, it's the only thing they'll listen to. It comes them down, relaxes them. She bought 20 more copies, to give to people at the Autism Society. The principal of their school is playing it over the PA every morning. "Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast". It can also raise our consciousness, bring us to tears, unite us to fight for a common cause...
That's why the Pearl Company, and all who sail in her, are so important.