Richard Dawson

 Trinity Arts Centre

Another night, another redundant church, this time the Trinity centre on Trinity road near the old Trinity library. Long time fans may remember that the last time I was there it was to cast my vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become leader of the Labour Party. I forget how that turned out. A distinctly night-clubby atmosphere; in retrospect standing in a hot room with several hundred maskless young people may not have been the best idea I have ever had, although the bouncers were requiring evidence of lateral flow tests from all revellers on the way in. Points to the bar for selling soft-drinks for only a quid. Not completely convinced by the idea of labelling the men's loos "gender neutral" without altering the architecture, but let's not go there. (Boom-tish.) It being a night club there was no seating, and everyone had to stand around like folk-lemons between the doors opening and the support act coming on.

The support act eventually came in on stilts. He had a cymbal on his head. He also had a steel drum, a xylophone, and some kind of auto-harp. And an old fashioned typewriter. An old fashioned typewriter works fairly well as a percussion instrument, as it turns out. He also had a bowl of water and a tube, and what might have been fluorescent plastic orange bagpipes. And a toy pig. "This is a song about animals. This is a song about mosquitos. This is a song about bathrooms. This is a song about my favourite Chinese restaurant in Japan." At one point he fired a drum-stick at a gong with a toy crossbow. (He hit it on the third attempt.) He appeared to be performing a hybrid between Japanese traditional music and Western circus one-man-band acts. Of all the stilt-walking bagpipe playing traditional Japanese xylophonists with cymbals on their head I have ever heard, this was certainly the most recent. I am not sure if it was folk music, or even music come to that, but it certainly wasn't dull.

Richard Dawson was the reason I was there. In a way, he is as unique as his support act. He has a strange powerful bellowing folkie voice that is inclined to leap octaves unexpectedly. He writes strange unpoetic observational and very dark lyrics. In verse 18 (really) of the opening song the narrator find the murdered body of the pious well-loved widowed village quilt maker and vomits on him. Another ditty begins  "Dead dog in an alleyway, dreaming of home, just before I awake to a savage kicking." It's actually about a homeless guy. "Jogging" sounds like it is going to be a satire on annoying people who hog pavements, but it's nothing that cheerful. "When I pick up the groceries one of the girls who works in the checkout tuts, and it destroys me a for a week." I notice that "it's lonely in middle England" has changed to "it's lonely in Brexit Britain."

Since the last time I heard him, he has acquired a freak-out drummer, and on two-thirds of the songs he accompanied himself on a loud electric guitar, which the young people seemed to like. I thought it blotted out what are very interesting lyrics and a very unique voice. It was hard not to like the over-the-top rhythmic improv of the final song which left both performers feigning exhaustion. (After milking the audience for applause there was no actual encore.) But I much prefer Dawson as stand-up comic and Dawson as folk singer to Dawson as rock star.

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