Friday, 30 October 2015

Chris Smither - Matthews Hall, Topsham, 29th October, 2015

Topsham Treat

Smither was in sublime form last night, the second time I have had the privilege to see him play live, and to see and hear him in such an intimate, local venue as Matthews Hall was the proverbial sweetness on the sweet-already cake.

The highlights were from the start right through to the end. Smither's guitar playing - primarily the blues - is an effortless masterclass, and surprisingly only a few songs are open-tuned. There is a simplicity to his blues-patterns, but the strength of his fingers in bending notes, and for the slower blues [like the beautiful What It Might Have Been] the perfection in tone, make his playing quite stunning.

And then that voice. The baritone that has a slight rasp or booms out its bass resonance on some songs, is as strong as ever. And then the songwriting: fifty years of sustained excellence.

All of this is linked by the ease of the seasoned raconteur, whether telling us about domestic realities or, of course, the history of songs: writing that song for his father which he did hear before he died - the most complex of his songs, I think, and beautiful, Father's Day - and those that have earned, for example, Love You Like a Man, famously covered by Bonnie Raitt, and more recently, as relayed through an amusing anecdote about this, by Kelly Clarkson. His stories are amusing and entertaining, as are so many of the witty songs, such as Origin of Species.

It was memorable, and I am listening now as I type and loving it.

Special mention should go to Julian Piper who organised this gig, as he did when Chris last played locally, reviewed here. A great blues player himself, Julian has an impressive resume as musician and founder of the band Junkyard Angels, as well as guesting with many famous guitarists on stage and on record, but as local impresario he has over so many years brought amazing artists to the Southwest, and last night's was one of many performance feather's in a fellow musician's empathetic hat. Music events like this, and the pleasure it brings to many as well as the introduction to those who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity, is quite brilliant. Thank you.

You can check out further details about Julian and his music here.

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