One of the biggest things I have missed this year is the gigs. The nervous excitement before the act comes on, the electric atmosphere of a room full of people, the ringing in your ears at the end of the night.
Sadly, that experience is still a while away, but in the meantime socially distanced gigs are a good midpoint. Chris and Paul’s gig was the first live music I have seen in over 5 months, after countless gigs and festivals were cancelled due to the C word.
It was a very strange experience compared to what I’m used to walking into, almost feeling like a 1950’s diner, somewhere in America. Small round tables, a single microphone on the stage and the dimmed lights. Truth be told, I was hesitant about how this was going to go. I’d seen reports from other socially distanced shows, some good, others not so.
But I’m glad to say my fears were unfounded.
8PM hit, and Paul (Lonely Tourist) took to the stage, and we could tell he was a bit nervous (and who could blame him, no gigs in 5 months can do that to you), and after a quick tune up, we were off for the first song.
Paul’s soft Glaswegian vocals and strummed acoustic guitar was the perfect mood setter for the night. Lonely Tourist is a new discovery for me, and safe to say, he is pretty fucking cool.
The second song from Paul was a new one, written during lockdown. Tom and the Library, a song exploring the unknown, and with some unfortunate lines about Morrissey, and my favourite line – Trump with daffodils – continued to keep the mood going.
There were also songs about streets he used to live on, the way his dad answers the phone, jobs he imagined having, songs about shift work, and songs about emptiness. With a mix of percussive head bangers and foot tappers, and some more soft finger picked songs, Lonely Tourist is definitely one I want to see live again.
But sadly the final song had to come from Paul. The Ballad of Paul Tierney (after starting with a slightly awkward round of applause) was a great end to his set. A final head banger/foot tapper, it would have been a great singalong – if they were allowed – and a great end to the entrée, before the cheese course that was Chris Webb.
At just past 10PM, Chris took to the stage, armed with a beautiful Gibson acoustic and a full set list to entertain us for the rest of the night.
The set was opened by a song called The Island. Written at the beginning of 2020, this song was supposed to be a thinly vailed song about Brexit, and, in parts, has aged like a fine wine (or cheese, depending on how you look at it). Nevertheless, the song was a great start to his set, and gave us the soft voice and finger picked style we are used to from Chris.
We were then treated to the opening track from Chris’s last album, The Monkey And The Jukebox, titled salt. A sad song that was complete bullshit, this song really showed his incredible talent and range of sounds produced from just one guitar.
Throughout the rest of the night, we were treated to more finger picking, head bobbing and foot tapping, with both new and old songs. Songs about breakfast, cancelled gigs, New Year’s Eve, Glasgow, and even a cover of John Martyn’s May You Never, all showed off Chris’s skillset.
But sadly, after 13 songs, it was time for the last two of the night. Stone, from Chris’s latest album was followed by an unreleased song – The Inevitable Lockdown Song. I’ve been hesitant about lockdown songs, as, before last night, I was yet to hear a good one. But I’m happy to say I finally have found one. With references to talking to plants and walking around in circles, this song had one of my favourite lines I’ve heard recently – I know the reason, it won’t last forever, but it’s hard to see over the hill.
And then it was the end of the night, and what a night it was. It was brilliant to be back seeing live music, and Chris and Paul were the perfect welcome back. Only problem is, I can’t wait until the next one.
I’d like to thank Chris and Paul for being amazing musicians and inviting me along, and to all the staff at Chapel Arts Centre, for hosting an amazing evening.
Some thoughts about socially distanced gigs:
As I’ve said a few times already, it was so good to be back seeing live music, and it is something I’ve really missed. But it’s just not the same as a normal gig. The performers were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them, but it just lacked that electric buzz you normally get from a show. You don’t get the fun of making friends with random people, or the drunken sing-alongs that some of us are used to.
From a promoter’s side, this is going to be really difficult for a lot of smaller bands and artists to play shows. Ticket prices are a lot higher than what you would normally pay, capacity is lower, and not as many venues have the capability to actually accommodate for it. The next year or two is going to be really difficult for a lot of artists, but hopefully more venues will be able to do these sorts of gigs in the next few months.
Words by Ted Stargatt