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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Gigs - John Prine - RNCM

Star rating - 10/10

It's not often you feel in the presence of greatness, but that was exactly the feeling that the packed crowd at the Royal Northern College of Music had after hearing the beautiful country singer John Prine give a towering, yet seemingly effortless performance.

At the age of 68, having successfully fought off cancer, and with no album to promote, Prine is clearly playing for the love of performing. He started off with a great track from his 1971 eponymously titled first album Spanish Pipedream, and he just didn't stop for a two solid hours of gem after gem from his expansive repertoire. And he seemed to be enjoying it every bit as much as his adoring audience clearly were.

He is a consummate story teller - some of his songs are sad, poignant and serious but he also has the ability to inject warmth and humour into most everything he writes. John Prine's talent seems to come very naturally to him, just writing about what he knows but with the perception of a hawk to focus on the things that everyone can relate to. He was accompanied by just two very talented musicians on a double bass and guitar, giving an intimate stripped down feel to the evening. 

As well as being a brilliant song writer, he seems like a genuinely lovely man. He played Illegal Pipedream at the request of a fan, having not performed it for three years - not that you would have noticed by his great rendition. Sam Stone is the heartbreaking tale of the fate of a returning war veteran which is sadly just as relevant today as when it was released in 1971- 'there's a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes. Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose'

And the great songs from across the decades just kept on coming - The Sins of Memphisto; Christmas in Prison; Speed of the Sound of Loneliness - made famous by Nanci Griffiths but Prine really owns it; Grandpa Was a Carpenter; the beautiful Souvenirs, and Glory of True Love.

In truth there were too many highlights to recount them all - it was just one of those very special evenings that will last long in the memory, and at which it was a privilege to have been present.

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