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Betsy Trotter review by Richard Gould

Many thanks to Richard Gould for this kind review. Did anyone take any photos at the gig?

Set List :- Green Back Dollar / Not Fade Away / Perfect / Poor Man /    Summer Lands / Work Song / Rags Old Iron / California Silks & Satins / Its Only Love (The Mystery & The Flame) / Devil In Me / Where The River Bends / The Shade

Well, forget about “Malcolm In The Middle” – we were regally treated to “Malcolm In Our Midst” on Saturday night. Not that those in attendance needed any proof, but we duly received 12 “Reasons To Be Cheerful” in the very same week that Charterhouse Square, Farringdon gave up its secret of plague burial.  It must have been a pleasing sight for Our Malc as he surveyed the gathered souls in the intimacy of the Cellar.  A pleasing and very apt degree of reverence was shown by those souls – All drawn by the one desire – to hear one of this country’s great under-appreciated (venerated ?) singer-songwriters.

There’s little to be gained from revisiting all the “ifs”, “but fors” and “maybes” from down the years – let’s just be thankful that he is still among us with his rich, warm voice and his dazzling digits. Yes, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop – And that’s no more than he merits.  Forget all the unintended lack of respect OR the need to tell the rest of the world “now” that the younger generation miss the point of enjoying the “moment” for what it is (here endeth the epistle of a Grumpy Old Git!) 

Anyway, as I was saying, we were treated to yet another thoroughly entertaining set from Malcolm – altho’ it must be said on somewhat of a “reverse running order” Bill O’ Fare.  Maybe he was savvy to know that he would be the “pull” anyhow.  His self deprecating humour was present in abundance alongside his singing and playing.  Maybe because he only played for about an hour but, I found myself wishing it was going to be a repeat of his Sunday Afternoon Triumph @ The Constitution back in last October.  A small gripe all things considered, plus he also delighted us with an instrumental “California Silks & Satins” – perhaps given the age of the audience he could rename it “California Pills & Statins” ?

The set’s combination of covers and originals was a good mix.  The covers benefit from hardly being yer bog standard ones too !  Opening with a traditional American song known by many a title, “Green Back Dollar”, sets both the tone and the bar for what ensued, a standard that was maintained throughout.  The two standout items for me were two of his own compositions and I know that I am far from being alone in hailing both “Summer Lands” and “Where The River Bends” as some of the strongest material he has written.  There are some others too but, they were not aired on the evening. We were also treated to a work-in-progress in the shape of “The Devil In Me” that also bodes well should he ever feel inclined to deliver a full album of new material.

His encore with “The Shade” from the misunderstood in some quarters “Aliens” was an interesting reworking.  Mild Mannered Man that he is, Malcolm had to be prompted that he had a new 2 track CD to plug.  Even then he politely avoided divulging its contents – namely a “band” arrangement for “Perfect” (Perfick indeed ! – Away with you and your Pa Larkin vocabulaire – Essex or Kent ?  It must be an Estuary Thing !) plus an interesting reworking of “Candy Cane”.  A nice touch on the sleeve – credits to the “Fabulous Middleton Brothers” (does that make Kim, Michelle Pfeiffer ?),  Tony Smith and Nick Ring (nice to see “Alfie” in on the act too!), and Tim Mayne.  There’s a network of sincere people about him that should inspire him to keep going.

In conclusion you/I (as with most of the assembled throng) are/am left with the never ending conundrum.  He shouldn’t be just playing to a loyal few – He should be able to fill larger, sympathetic venues and revel in the appreciation his work deserves.  We’ve been here before – but, please let’s have “some more Sir” – Oliver Twist be buggered.  And if that doesn’t get the message through let’s quote St. Delia – “Let’s Be ‘Aving You !”

 So as not to overlook “Roadhouse”, who followed Malcolm, they played a cracking set of covers with some neat arrangements on standards.  A great vocalist / harp player, a very tasteful guitarist, a great female bassist and vocals, all topped off with a “more than able drummer”, plus some great harmony vocals.  A convincing take on Robert Johnson’s Come Into My Kitchen” was followed by a couple of Bill Withers songs. The sombre “Use Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”.  They wrapped up the proceedings with the Anthony Newley / Nina Simone “Feeling Good”.


© Richard “R.R.” Gould 17th March 2013


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