Patty Griffin, Union Chapel (Islington, London,UK. July 25th 2013)
AMERICAN KID is Patty Griffin’s first album of new material in six years. Honouring her late father, the songs are personal, visceral, passionate, emotional and all the more so for being sung live in the atmospheric Victorian gothic surroundings of the Union Chapel. The auditorium was designed around an octagonal ground plan; add in some beautiful stained glass windows through which the early evening light filters, an enviable reputation for being one of London’s best live music venues and you have the perfect setting for Griffin’s much anticipated show. The long queue snaking around the Chapel and its environs before the doors opened was a sight to behold!
Accompanied by guitarist (that description doesn’t really do justice to this versatile and professionally trained jazz guitarist who has been a mainstay of Alejandro Escovedo’s band for a number of years) David Pulkingham, Griffin walked on stage to a rapturous welcome and opened the proceedings with Waiting for My Child from her GRAMMY award winning DOWNTOWN CHURCH. Moving seamlessly in to Ohio, the first of a selection from the new album, Griffin’s voice complemented by Pulkingham’s vocals (standing in for the recorded album’s Robert Plant) rose to fill the room and circled around the rafters – at times it felt as if there were more than just two people singing and playing, such are the acoustics. Pin sharp and crystal clear whether delivering folk, gospel, country or really rocking it out as they did on No Bad News. This song was written when Griffin ‘didn’t like either my president or my boyfriend – but I like both now!’ That wasn’t the only track from 2007’s CHILDREN RUNNING THROUGH – two more, the blues influenced Stay On the Ride and Up To The Mountain (MLK song) which honours the civil rights campaigner, also featured. Delving even earlier into her back catalogue she delivered an intense Flaming Red from 1998’s album of the same name.
Griffin is afforded much respect by her peers and this was nicely showcased by her performance of Top of the World which was covered by the Dixie Chicks and secured them a GRAMMY in 2005 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. Amongst others, Griffin’s material has been covered by luminary Bette Midler and the always graceful Emmylou Harris. Illustrious company indeed.
Griffin thanked her record label for ‘taking a chance on an old girl like me’ and whilst she has always attracted a cult following, this latest work together with some performances at judiciously chosen festivals, live radio and TV appearances should bring her work to the attention of a wider constituency. She certainly deserves that recognition and seems a more relaxed on stage performer these days.
A standing ovation brought Griffin and Pulkingham back for an encore. By this time, darkness had fallen and the Chapel’s balconies were delicately lit by candle shaped lights – the crowd shouted out request after request. ‘So many suggestions’ beamed Griffin before closing out the night with Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone and Coming Home To Me. Incisive choices with which to send us on our onward journeys. This powerful performer will be back in London in November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival playing at the Royal Festival Hall – her star will shine brightly there as well! Jela Webb