Live Review – Lincoln Durham – The Live Theatre, Newcastle
In the year between his visits to the Live Theatre, Steph MacLeod has had a good haircut, bought some smart but casual stage clothes and is now a fully qualified Folk Singer. The nerves that previously troubled him now give him a childlike vulnerability when he sings about the dark times in his life.
MacLeod has had a life that the rest of us only have nightmares about and when he told the story about the beggar he’d met earlier in the day; that prefaced Man in the Coldmy blood ran cold and hopefully everyone in the Theatre thought ‘there but for the Grace of God, go I.’
The young Scotsman is a Born Again Christian; which he openly admits saved his life, but that only became apparent when he introduced his magnificent version of Amazing Gracewhich will stay with us until the end of time.
Steph MacLeod has a voice that I can only describe as pearlescent, smoky and soulful…very, very soulful. Remember the name – Steph MacLeod.
There was a battered fiddle, a couple of guitar cases and a single bass drum on the stage as Lincoln Durham emerged from the shadows and as he strapped on his guitar smiles were exchanged and eyebrows rose as we took in the spectacle before us. The singer is as skinny as he’s tall and he was wearing red Converse All-stars; tight black jeans that had seen better days and were help up by braces over a white ‘wife beater’ vest, plus he was sporting a wispy Van Dyke beard and (this is the best part) our man was sporting a rather fine brown Bowler hat. Seriously – what’s not to like?
To simply list the songs would be doing each and every one an injustice as Durham turns his songs into magical vignettes; with each one being completely different from what came before it, but the resulting concert is truly spellbinding.
Durham has a gruff voice that is frayed around the edges which gives his songs character and make the audience strain to hear the words; but the effort is worthwhile. His voice and singing style is only half the show; as his guitar playing is – WOW! He plays a Resonator, the likes of which I’ve neither seen nor heard before. It could have been tarnished, but I want to believe it was actually made of brass (it could have been) and the noises that we heard from it tonight were staggering. The other was a battered old acoustic that wouldn’t have surprised me if Durham had said that it had been left to him by Robert Johnson; whom he appears to have sold his Soul to, in return for a fire in the belly and a style that is a direct descendent from the founding Father of the Blues.
The young singer not only made his guitars gently weep but when he picked up his fiddle; that Devil down in Georgia must have got a tad nervous as he will eventually have to give up a second golden instrument because of the way Durham plays his.
The surprises didn’t end there as a fourth stringed instrument made an appearance towards the end of the night and; if I hadn’t been sitting six feet away from him I’d never have believed someone could get such a loud and powerful noise out of a Diddley-Bo!
Oh! I’ve forgot to mention that not only did he sing and play the Blues like a man being prodded in the backside by the Devil with a pitchfork; but he also told wonderfully humorous stories in between songs as he struggled to tune his guitars – forgetting that this is the Blues Maaaan….it’s not meant to be perfect.
I’ve seen scores of Roots based singer-songwriters in the last thirty years and not a single one comes close to this young man; Lincoln Durham is the ‘real deal’ when it comes to the Blues.