Kevin Welch in Concert at the Live Theatre, Newcastle
Live Theatre Newcastle
22nd April 2012
These days George Welch only performs at festivals and the occasional folk club so it was a delight it was to see the ex-coalminer, local folk legend, Renaissance Man, raconteur and artist of some renown at such a prestigious venue as the Live Theatre.
Looking uncannily like a Mississippi plantation owner in a flat cap George regaled the captivated crowd with a mixture of his own songs, classic folk tunes and the occasional twisted pop song … and of course his stories.
George put his own stamp on Oh What a Beautiful Morning; turning it into a gospel hymn played on the ukulele. When he introduced Hard Times Come Again (No More)by telling us it was a song he’d hoped never to have had to sing again, then shook his head in disbelief, there was a collective lump in our throats as his double-bass voice and Christine’s banjo strumming gave this ancient tune added impact.
In theory, the fulsome figured singer shared a stage with banjo and fiddle player Christine Jeans, who put in a virtuoso performance of her own but was more often than not used as a foil for George’s rambling stories and daft jokes. In another life, George would be as famous as Dylan, Guthrie or even Springsteen. But life can be cruel. For those of us who get to see and hear him play live, the honour is ours.
Welch Senior had the audience nicely warmed up for Welch Junior and Kevin (no relation) was very appreciative of the other man’s talents. He praised him three times during his own performance.
I only discovered Kevin Welch late last year when Bob Harris played a track on his radio show and I’m most definitely a convert now.
Looking not unlike like a young Neil Young with his ruggedly chiseled features and lifeless long hair, Kevin opened his set with his own song about ‘hard times’. The Great Emancipation was spine tingling and set the tone for a great night.
During the first hour, the man from Oklahoma prefaced most songs with the story of how they came about; with the one about writing Marysvillewith his son bringing a rye smile to a few parents’ faces. The song itself was changed dramatically from the album version and sounded even better as he sang the bleak tale over some slight classical guitar licks.
Everyone has their own reasons for liking or disliking singers but I defy anyone not to like Kevin Welch’s voice. It’s like a piece of well-worn Spanish leather that has been left out in the sun too long and is perfect for his take on Americana-folk.
Although he was technically promoting A PATCH OF BLUE SKY, that album is two years old now; so tonight we got a couple of new songs. One was called True Morning and was a well-crafted love song (even though KW said he wasn’t happy with the title) and Dandelion Girlwhich certainly bodes well for the next album if it was anything to go by.
As the evening flew by, Kevin stopped telling stories as he tried to shoehorn as many songs into the set as possible. One, Killing Myself, with it’s work/hurt, work/hurt, work/hurtchanted chorus, felt like a punch to the stomach but had me fighting to stop myself punching the air and screaming YEAH! (Which would have been so wrong and very uncool).
The set ended with his most commercial song – A Patch of Blue Sky.Yet again, stripped of the dazzling production values on the album the song was left to speak for itself through one man and his guitar, and it was just as good as the original version.
Without leaving the stage Kevin was called back for an encore. He treated us to an intimate and powerful version of his friend John Hiatt’s song Train to Birmingham. He eventually left the stage to a standing ovation from the 150 or so people in the Theatre and was last seen being swamped at the Merch table.