- Charlie McKeon
Under the arched dome in the hallowed space of the Gustaf Adolfs Kyrka, the pews full and the remaining standing spaces tightly packed, the lesser-spotted PROFFESOR YAFFLE delivers a set of cosmic lullabies and acoustic delight on a hot Saturday night.
You could never accuse Professor Yaffle of playing too many gigs. Their appearances are few and far between, and this September’s performance is their first since they supported Michael Head And The Red Elastic Band at The Florrie back in December. In fact, this is only their 15th gig in eight years. There’s no great master plan to speak of here, no lofty ambition of five album deals and sell-out stadium tours. It’s a far more wholesome and organic idea than that. This band simply play and write together because they enjoy playing and writing together. If people like it, if they turn up to a gig, then all the better. And they do. They do like it, and they do turn up to gigs. In fact, the gig sold out in record time, such is the demand for their own brand of dreamy, pysch folk storytelling.
The evening begins with a hushed reverence around the room for the deft and delicate folk stylings of CHARLIE MCKEOWN, a gifted writer and guitarist who performs with humility and warmth. Touching on elements of Nick Drake, John Martyn, and Chris Wood, there’s a lightness and effortless touch to everything he plays. He loves to be heard and, just as with Professor Yaffle, he’s appreciative of being appreciated. And here, in this space, on this balmy late summer evening, with the last of the sunshine straining through the old lead light windows of the Scandinavian Church, he is more than appreciated. An absolutely perfect and beguiling musical pairing against the impressive backdrop of one of the city’s most unique venues.
With nods to West Coast 70s folk, Fred Neil, early Genesis, Simon and Garfunkel and, in parts, locals such as Shack and The Coral, and formed, layer upon layer, around the twin vocals and guitars of Lee Rogers and John Edge, Professor Yaffle’s spiritually-imagined songs benefit from floating around in a venue such as this, a place designed for peaceful contemplation. Written with a deep and reflective maturity, Rogers’ songs are of love, life and the human condition. The Edge Of Existence, written about a friend taken too soon, and much favoured by 6Music’s Tom Robinson, is a favourite of the Yaffle devotees here; lilting and emotive, it’s deep, sad and beautifully constructed. Rogers easily finds a happy medium between this level of introspection and the humour of the everyday. Last Stop Entitlement is the tale of North Liverpool pub crawls in the 80s, while Put It Out finds him despairing at an Everton game, while a fan behinds him lights up a spliff. The very mention of Goodison brings well-humoured booing from the more clear-thinking and mature-minded red contingent in the room, to which he replies “If you want to boo, it’s in D”. These vignettes of life through the fish-eye lens of Lee Rogers’ world, come at us with relaxed charm, beguiling and luxuriant, and welcomed by all, and are presented by an accomplished group of likeminded musicians who simply love to love performing. We left, begging for an album, which, given the sparsity of their gigs, may be with us at some point in the next 10 years.