Edwyn CollinsHarvest Sun @ Arts Club 7/9/19
Of the many reasons there are to love EDWYN COLLINS, one that is clear tonight is his genial nature and sense of humour. Referring to us in a deadpan tone as “the audience”, throughout the night he gently directs proceedings, telling us when to be quiet and introducing his songs with an engaging warmth; his laugh is a guffaw and he has a sense of mischief. And that’s before we’ve even got to the music, or that voice.
The audience is mixed, but the majority are comprised of Edwyn Collins aficionados, those of a certain vintage whose cheers are as buoyant as their quiffs. Shouts of “Go on Edwyn, lad” punctuate the night, creating a really nice atmosphere at this packed, sweaty gig.
He spans the decades with a comprehensive playlist that showcases his talent. From the start of his career with the post-punk 1980s Orange Juice songs, including What Presence?! and Blue Boy, to the pop perfection of 1994’s ubiquitous solo hit A Girl Like You, with the reflective songs from his most recent album Badbea dropped in through the course of the night.
His accompanying band are brilliant and capture the up-tempo essence of his back catalogue, as well as the more mellow yet still perfectly pitched recent songs. The upbeat, radio-friendly Outside rocks the room. As he says, it’s got an “Iggy Pop voice and Buzzcocks sound”. The playing is relaxed and fills the room without ever overpowering the vocals or rhythm section.
The biggest cheers come after Collins performs In Your Eyes, from 2010’s Losing Sleep, as a duet with his son, William. And while a saccharine emotion is not always welcome at a gig, it’s a sincere reaction. What’s even sweeter is that William can be seen pogoing away to his dad’s hits from behind the merchandise stall later. Good songs just don’t date.
The guitar riffs move with ease from soul to post-punk to pop, throbbing through the venue. There’s some swaying from the audience, but, William aside, it’s a rather static gig – possibly as a result of the overwhelming heat and lack of air inside, or because it’s a relatively gentle affair.
The production on the album versions gives the tracks an energy and grit that is missing a little from their live counterparts, while a change in pace would help to lift the second part. Saying this, Edwyn’s voice is beautiful with a rich tone that you would be happy listening to for a good while.
The more commercial material comes in a glut towards the end, with Rip It Up one of the last songs before the encore. He states towards the end of the set that he’s “exhausted”, but that doesn’t stop an encore that includes a harmonica solo, which we’re warned we must “shh” for.
Edwyn’s whimsical sense of humour and mellow nature entertains as much as his sonorous voice. Using his walking cane, he directs the audience, indicating which half should sing and cheer at which point – and we adhere to his commands, possibly because he does it with a massive grin (there’s also a “behave yourselves”, accompanied by an arch smile).
Plainly, it’s a really nice evening with a really nice man who so happens to have perfected the craft of catchy pop songs and poignant love songs, all slung together with an originality and a voice that should have made him millions. He’s affable, talented and unorthodox and all the better for it.