For those of you who are not familiar with this concert, it has been put together as a tribute to Nick Drake and his work and has been touring the UK to rave reviews.
The performers included Scritti Politti front-man Green Gartside, Vashti Bunyan, Robyn Hitchcock, Irish vocalist Lisa Hannigan, US soul singer Krystle Warren and Scott Matthews who won an Ivor Novello award for his own music.
Underpinning the evening was bass player Danny Thompson who was there at the beginning of folk pioneers Pentangle, he also has played bass on Nick Drakes Five Leaves Left amongst playing on an amazing amount of recordings including John Martyn, Sandy Denny, Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin, Peter Gabriel, Ralph McTell, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Marc Bolan, Richard Thompson, Everything But the Girl, Robert Plant, Donovan, Tim Buckley, Loudon Wainwright III, Mark Knopfler, David Sylvian, Rod Stewart, and Roy Orbison.
The Musical director is Kate St John, and musicians are Neill MacColl, Zoe Rahman, Martyn Barker and Steve Jones plus an Australian six peice string section.
Added to the list are Australian performers Shane Nicholson from Brisbane with several acclaimed albums to his credit along with the work he has done with his wife Kasey Chambers and Melbourne folk duo Luluc singer Zoe Randell and Steve “Harmony” Hassett.
The Way to Blue artists live on stage
The music of Nick Drake has a timeless feel about it, ironic since at their release his albums sold very little (Five Leaves Left, only sold 2000 copies according to Joe Boyd) and it’s only been years later that his legacy has taken hold.
The concert “Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake” was held at the MELBOURNE RECITAL CENTRE on Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 November, I attended on a damp Tuesday night.
The Melbourne Recital Centre
The Melbourne Recital Centre
The concert was a night to remember, the performances were absolutely amazing and beautiful. The songs took on another life and were not exactly how Nick Drake himself would have performed them, these artists have their own particular styles and this is what they brought to the songs. In some ways their interpretation of Nick Drakes work brought a new life to them, one I hadn’t considered possible before.
The big irony with Nick Drake is that at the time of his recordings he was not successful at all, you would not have seen the numbers of people who attend the Way To Blue concerts go out of their way to see him, unlucky them. His mixture of folk and jazz didn’t cut it with people but he was releasing records at a particularily point when Britain was moving through prog rock, heavy metal and folky wonderment, hard for even these songs apparently to stand out.
At his death in 1974 he left us just three albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon. All of them now held up as classics of their period. During the 80’s and 90’s he was seen as an influence on many artists as the new acoustic boom hit the music business and Nick Drakes own star began to shine.
The roof of The Melbourne Recital Centre - wonderful acoustics
The show has been put together by Nick Drakes original producer Joe Boyd and what a great job he has done. He has gathered a tremendous range of artists and musicians and they all do Nick Drake proud. There are times in the concert where you wish one of the performers coming on was actually Nick Drake, the night had a real element of emotion and sensitivity it all seemed as though Nick Drake was not far away at all, that he would appear the next time an artist entered the stage.
There could have been a little more audience conversation I felt from the artists, but as it was the songs were left to talk for themselves and of course Nick Drake, and this was probably the intention. Robyn Hitchcock who’s character and zaniness managed to come through just a bit, added a human component and was a nice break in the intensity of emotion that seemed to build with each performance.
Lisa Hannigan’s version of Black Eyed Dog was all foot stompin’, harmonium and memorable, almost making you wonder if it was a Nick Drake song.
The superb Krystle Warren put another aspect to Time Has Told Me. The song rose up and flew down with desire and passion, what beautiful songs Nick Drake wrote and how these varied interpretations show that.
Vashti Bunyan who made a comeback herself after giving the music business away added her own almost elf like interpretations. Her beautiful fragile voice hanging in the air as Nick Drakes poetic lyrics hung gently there with her.
Ex Scritti Politti front-man Green Gartside, who i wouldn’t have recognised looking nothing like his 80’s self was wonderful too, it was an absolute pleasure being in the same room as such magnificent performers.
The Melbourne Recital Centre on a very wet November evening
Who sounded the most like Nick Drake? well for me Scott Mathews was uncannily Nick Drake, beautiful wispy interpretations. But this was not a copy Nick Drakes vocal style night, every artist brought something new to this wonderful night of magic.
One of the highlights of the show were the Australian performers LULUC (Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett) and Shane Nicholson whos interpretations were spot on, they easily held their own in such glorious professional company. They are world class and deserve all the success they can get.
Robert Kirby who died in 2009 was the original arranger on the orchestral parts for Nick Drakes albums and his original scores were used and beautifully played by the Australian string section.
The last song of the night was an ensemble version of Pink Moon done as all the other songs were with delicacy, feeling and empathy.
A fitting tribute and a show that held up wonderfully in it’s own right, marvelous performances that will last within me for years to come, exceptional.
Nick Drake would have been proud and had he lived I’m sure he would have been up there doing it all himself, as it is we have his legacy, one that will last forever.