Edwyn Collins Live in Brooklyn

The triumphant US return of chart outsider and living legend Edwyn Collins. It would appear the reviewer enjoyed the gig.
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The triumphant US return of chart outsider and living legend Edwyn Collins. It would appear the reviewer enjoyed the gig.

Let’s not mess about here, Edwyn is a living legend. A modern day One Man Velvet Underground, if you will. His musical mark will long be measured not by chart placings, hit singles and the like but by the number of musicians, good ones, bad ones and everything in between who have been inspired by his music to pick up a six string and have a go. True, 'A Girl Like You' became a world wide phenomenon but that was the exception to the Just Outside The Top Forty norm. Here is a man who once advertised his forthcoming album as including ‘The Flop hit singles 'Lean Period' and 'What Presence'.’ I think it’s safe to say Edwyn’s more than comfy with his position in the grand scheme of the musical universe. And if it’s good enough for Edwyn...

So here we are at a gig I never thought I’d see. Edwyn returning to the States. Friends back home have waxed lyrical about the greatness of his return to live music. About the warmth of his gigs, the all round positive vibe generated by Edwyn’s presence on stage, the excellent collection of wonderful musicians who’ve been playing with him of late - everyone from former Postcard Records label mate, guitar genius Roddy Frame to The Greatest American West Coast Band never to come from the West Coast of America, Teenage Fanclub. But most of all they’ve talked about Edwyn’s gigs like they’re an actual event. Something worth seeing. Something special. Something not to be missed. It’s not some pathetic sympathy vote. We all know Edwyn’s been to hell and back. It’s more a case of, ’Jesus, we nearly lost him!’ It’s time to appreciate him.

I walk straight up and tell him, ‘Edwyn man' (apparently March 13th 2011 is the day I chose to start talking like a hippie)

The Rock Shop, Brooklyn. Ace little venue. Part of town I don’t really know. Give you all a heads up, take cash. ATMs (cashpoints, holes in the wall) are in short supply. True to form, I landed at the venue with the princely sum of $12 in my pocket. Graciously, young William has offered to sell me his Dad’s latest album for $12s. But you need money for a few drinks and, anyway, it wouldn’t be right to impose like that would it? It wouldn’t. Trust me. There’s an ATM in the bar. Out of order. There’s one in the deli next door. The screen reads something like, Please Refill. Hmm. There’s one in a deli a few blocks up the Avenue. The screen resolution is set to stun. Finally I find one even further up and on the other side of 4th Avenue that charges about $8,000,000 in processing fees to withdraw $100. There’s an upside to this mind. Outside The Rock Shop I bump into Edwyn and Grace. I’ve always said never meet your heroes. I turned down the chance to meet Joe Strummer once and regretted it almost immediately.  Nah, sod that. I walk straight up and tell him, ‘Edwyn man (apparently March 13th 2011 is the day I chose to start talking like a hippie) it’s great to see you here. Really it is.’ Awesome eh? But I mean it. It is. ‘No problem at all. We just got on a plane.’ The Collins wit is still intact then. But he’s gracious and kind and looks quite prepared to stand and chat outside all night. Grace comes over. What a marvelous woman. Read her book, The Restoration Of Edwyn Collins - you can buy it here,

Lovely woman. I tell her I loved her book and so did my kids. It’s inspiring. Really it is. Anyway, these fantastically friendly Scots have a gig to go to so I don’t keep them any longer, glad that I’d said hello. Sorry Joe, it was me not you.

Right I get my CD. $15s, thanks William, grab a drink and shuffle into the back room and settle in to watch The Kinbeats. They are yet another in that long line of excellent guitar bands out of the UK. Except they’re not. They’re German. Amazingly, they sound neither like Can or Sparks. They have to have been fathered by Liverpudlian sailors. They’re good. Very good and they’ve a little tale to tell. True or not who cares it’s a good story. Apparently, they decamped to London so Patrick (dead German name that. Telling you, Scouse sailor) could track Edwyn down and play with him. It’s a good story and, true or not, Edwyn had sung his praises outside earlier and a little later Paddy will be on that same stage playing in Edwyn’s band. I don’t know if they’ll ever be big but they’ll always be good. Go see them if you get the chance.

Get another drink, listen to some 80s pop tunes on the P.A. while they set the stage up and wait for the main event. The place fills up. It’s sold out. It’s not massive but it’s a good little venue. The sound is dead on. Grace leads Edwyn through the crowd and the band take the stage. It’s a beautiful sight. Two guitarists, a bass player, keyboards and a drummer in a flat cap - this should be mandatory for all drummers - and Edwyn sat up there on an amp. Smiling. For the record, I can find beauty in abandoned factories and opencast mines. It’s all relative.

Introductions over and they open with a new one, 'Losing Sleep'. It’s a proper old Northern Soul stomper of a tune. If it wasn’t for the fact it’s so small in here and the fact that I can’t dance either, I’d be knocking out a few hand springs and strutting my stuff to this one Wigan Casino style. Great tune. Well played. Next it’s all the way back to the first Orange Juice album for 'Dying Day' an exuberant declaration of eternal love that tugs at the old heart string of some people. I bet. I’m rather partial to it too. We’re treated to a cherry picked selection of Collins old and new the highlights of which, for me anyway, are actually the newer tunes. I love the urgency of songs like 'Do It Again' as much as I love the pop perfection of 'Falling And Laughing'.

Yeah you’ve heard it a million times but, like The La’s There She Goes, we should all be grateful that it somehow managed to slip through.

Edwyn’s glorious baritone comes through as strong and true as ever and the stage banter’s still there.
‘Go for it Edwyn,’ some one shouts.
‘Oh I will. Don’t worry. Huh, huh, huh.’ And the laugh it’s still there too. This is brilliant. This is what live music is meant to be about. It’s fun. It’s not angst ridden. It’s joyous. And it’s slipping away too fast. 'Rip It Up' gets an airing complete with saxophone bits. The anti boredom song actually sound better than it used to. Edwyn stands up for 'A Girl Like You'. Yeah you’ve heard it a million times but, like The La’s There She Goes, we should all be grateful that it somehow managed to slip through. Everyone in this room looks happy. Everyone in this room should be happy. This is something special. Edwyn Collins up on stage flanked by yet another posse of incredible musicians in a venue that holds a couple of hundred tops with a crystal clear sound system, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday night.

For the encore we get treated to the poignant 'Searching For The Truth' then, with obvious pride, Edwyn summons William up on stage to belt out 'In Your Eyes'. Grace has been stood in front of me most of the night hugging and been hugged by a multitude of well wishers, friends old and new, I’m sure. I catch a glimpse of her face. It’s the personification of happiness. Woah, woah, happiness. Last song. The unmistakable drum break of 'Blue Boy'. Edwyn’s always been rockier live than on record (Cd, MP3 just doesn’t seem right) but this is the rockiest I’ve ever heard 'Blue Boy' played. ‘Go for it man!’ Edwyn takes a bow, the band jams on and even the anorak clad Pastels fan to my left lets lose and taps his toe a tad. I’m knackered. That happy knackered you get. It’s a good knackered.

Grace’s book is called The Restoration Of Edwyn Collins. If tonight’s performance is anything to go by she may need to rethink that one. To restore something, someone implies bringing them back to their former glory. I’d argue Edwyn’s surpassed that and the best may be yet to come.

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