Music Madness: Stephen Stills and Erik Mongrain

2008-11-21

It’s all gone a bit mad since October. I’ve been to so many gigs that, combined with the start of term, I haven’t really had time to write them all up.

Stephen Stills was my first gig at the City Hall; cool venue inside, dramatic, good looking, comfy seats. The sound is pretty poor though. I was sitting a way back, but on the balcony and right at the front of it so the view was excellent. Being at the gig made me feel young; it’s rare that I am in the lower quartile of the age range these days. There was an element of homage about the whole thing; there were two old hippies in the front row who clearly got stoned to CSN (or maybe Buffalo Springfield) when they were young and were going to cheer regardless. But, it was a good gig. His voice is a bit wavery with age — he murdered "Change Partners" — but his guitar playing was generally wonderful; I think I preferred the acoustic half to the electric, but both were strong. It was all a bit dad rock, but it was still good.

Erik Mongrain I’ve not seen or heard before, but he’s made a splash on YouTube. This was in the same series as the Bob Brozman gig that I went to earlier in the year; their advertising is still chaotic. It was 10 quid to get in, but half price because I am on the mailing list (which I don’t think I am, all although I tried to be). The venue was in North Shields. The box office phone was redirected to a random office somewhere, and never answered.

Gig was great through. Erik’s clearly a technical genius, playing intricate, complex music uses both hands interchangably to make music — he strums with his left hand, fingers with his right. All very guitar hero stuff. He’s also quite shy, and retiring. He often described what his songs were about, but the descriptions were usually incomprehensible; regardless, there was a wonderful meditative feel to the evening. You could listen and relax and let the music wash over you.

I hope the series continues, because they’ve got some great players. But, if they advertise so badly and carry on making it hard to get tickets, it’s not going to. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Originally published on my old blog site.