Gig review: Ian McNabb – 50 Songs (part 1) @ The Capstone Theatre Friday 9th December 2011
You could hear a pin drop.
Silence, reverence… call it what you will, it’s surely what an artist craves: the undivided attention of those who have paid to see a performance. Ian McNabb had the intimate Capstone Theatre in the palm of his hand last Friday night.
As part of a unique double header over the weekend, McNabb played two different solo sets, over two nights, each with 25 songs on the list. It was a viable commercial idea (both nights were close to sold out) and a creative one too.
Digging out the back catalogue is always an easy option to shift tickets at this time of year. But the ex-Icicle Works singer put a bit more thought in than most – and promised his fans he would dig out a few obscure tunes.
He did. And for a man who sings in the grown-up ‘Lady By Degrees’, “don’t bang on about some obscure band,” it’s pretty ironic that his followers will do exactly that about him to whoever they meet.
The gig itself was a revelation. McNabb wandered on looking like a Laurel Canyon lothario and treated the Capstone to a tour-de-force of performance. We had the solo acoustic troubadour belting out the likes of ‘Hollow Horse’, ‘All Things To Everyone’ and ‘The Lonely Ones’; the John Martyn-esque phased, electric reading of ‘Stood Before St Peter’ and the piano man delivering a heartbreaking, but life-affirming version of ‘Believer Of Me’.
McNabb has received negative reports for his between song banter in the past, but sipping on water and Guinness, he was charming company with an anecdote or two breaking up the set. New songs ‘King Of Hearts’ (clearly written during a Bill Withers week on Spotify) and the Scott Walker-esque ‘Ancient Energy’ kept his hand in the present, but it was the likes of ‘Evangeline’, ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’ and ‘Seven Horses’ which had the crowd singing along.
It’s a dilemma for the artist, but one not for these nights.
I suppose on a cold December evening, with the River Mersey whipping up a bleak, midwinter storm, what the crowd are listening for is less important. That they are still listening at all is surely good enough…