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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

James Grant - CentreStage - 8/7/11 (Kilmarnock)

To an extent Kilmarnock is a musicians graveyard.
It's where the old, and those on a downward slide, go to quietly slip away barely noticed by the general public.
There are obvious exceptions, but take a look at the local newspapers entertainment section - and then exclude the home grown talent and cover bands - and more often than not what you will find is the artists who feature in the 'stars of yesteryear' and 'where are they now' columns of the music magazines.
It's a dire state of affairs, but as mentioned there are exceptions, and every once in a while people do come along and try and breathe some life into the town.
The latest are those behind the Kilmarnock Fair Festival, a week long event that features a few local acts and some well known names who are regulars at the successful Darvel Music festival.
The sort of acts that have a solid fan base, and while they may not be gracing the mainstream magazines can get derrières on seats.
This Friday evening it's the turn of James Grant of Love and Money to entertain us with his original soft folk influenced material and a few acoustic re-workings of material from the glory years of Love and Money.
In all honesty I've lost my way with Love and Money and anything that James Grant has done solo.
The last time I seen him play was in a support slot to U2 on the Joshua Tree tour.
Literally decades have past since then.
Time has however been kind to James Grant.
He still has a strong voice and his musicianship is of a high class and I doubt there are many people who could show him a thing or two on the fretboard.
There's a small problem though.
The spark that should flicker into a flame doesn't splutter into life.
It's difficult to pinpoint a problem, but it might not be one that resides with James Grant himself, and is more so one that lies with the audience.
Bands and artists feed off of adulation.
They want to hear that what they are doing is eliciting a positive response and from that it kick starts a cycle of one-upmanship.
The more an audience gives then the more an audience gets and tonight the audience isn't giving much.
Polite applause is set as a benchmark and few are willing to reach for it.
So from my perspective what happened was that James Grant went on auto pilot.
He played his material and did so to a high standard, but he didn't let loose.
Things did however pick up when Fraser Speirs joined him.
Fraser is the man who most recently has provided his harmonica playing skills to Paulo Nutini, but that is just one star that shines in his crown as he has an international reputation for being one of the best in his field and now I know why.
With his arrival on stage his musicianship acted as a catalyst for James Grant to up his game a bit and the whole feel of the show shifted to one that gave the impression of allowing the audience to be flies on the wall watching two men enjoying playing together, and by ignoring the lacklustre response and focusing on meshing their talents together they provided a saving grace to the evening.
Without Fraser the night would have bounced along on the fair to middling take it or leave it level and for that I will have to be eternally grateful to him.
Up until that point the highlight of the evening had been having a couple of pints with Chris and Mark.
I sincerely hope that the other events arranged had a bit more life to them because if not then the people behind arranging this week of gigs will be wondering if it was really worth the effort.
A common feeling for anyone promoting anything around these here parts.

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