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Sunday, 15 February 2015

John Strachan - NHC Music - 14/02/15

Everyone lives their own unique story.
From the moment we draw our first breath we exist to be the central character of a tale that features a cast of tens of thousands over a lifetime.
Some of our stories are rich and vibrant; others are mundane and rather repetitive.
Some are of course beautifully elegant, and then there are sadly those that are brutally ugly.

In many ways we don’t even appear to have much control of our stories either, and rather just seem to be swept along trying to use a rudder to partially steer in a preferred direction.
Sometimes though, within our stories, paths will cross and sparks will fly and last night those who took the chance and wandered along to NHC music enjoyed that specific moment as our own stories collided with that of John Strachan as we made a guest appearance in his tale.

Obviously John himself has already put a few chapters of his life into the rear view mirror.
One just recently closed - for now - covers his time as the front man for the much lauded Jiezuberband.
That in itself is actually less of a chapter and probably a story that deserves its own book.
From striding across festival stages to escaping the clutches of a Walter Mitty type con man it could probably be expanded into a ‘can’t put it down’ best-seller, but only time will tell if that happens.

Meanwhile our crossover appearance is all about John looking to take a tentative step back into performing solo with a set that was largely made up of material that hasn't been publicly aired before.

Initially he stuck to the tried and tested template of sticking to a set list that featured the songs that he was comfortable in sharing, but it was a sublime pleasure to watch him incrementally become more at ease and then stray away from it and embrace the idea of just throwing caution to the wind and seeing how receptive the audience were to some of the ideas he is working on.
As he said himself while introducing another new song ‘this is only about 98% finished, but we will see how it goes’ and then he augmented the set with some older songs that he admitted that he may struggle to remember.
A brave move, but a welcomed one as it was within the comfort zone of letting the set find its own path that we were all able to take the performance to the level of one that was no longer crippled with the invisible barrier between artist and audience.

Banter flowed back and forth, people were encouraged to participate with a couple of tambourines that were handed around and the experience became more akin to an house show party rather than that of the usual venue gig.

As a songwriter John certainly has a great deal to say and covers a great deal of ground in doing so.
From intimate and personal love songs to those with a protest message he put a great deal of thought into what he is looking to convey and then passionately sets his stall out as he performs the material.

Whether the roots of the lyrics are bedded in the works of Orwell, the current news or personal relationship experiences the quality bar is set high and while some of the songs are currently recorded at a demo level it’s going to be interesting to hear them fleshed out and in their full glory.

Personal highlight of the set was the reconstruction of The Creedence classic ‘Bad Moon Rising’ that was stripped down and rebuilt as an austerity dustbowl anthem that was more Woody Guthrie than John Fogerty.
It would be fair to say that John’s interpretation of it breathed a great deal of life into the lyrics and in some ways emulated how a few artists recently took the Springsteen ‘Born in the USA’ album and by removing the bluster shone a brighter light on the lyrics and made them bluntly and uncompromisingly obvious and left no room for misinterpretation.

Hopefully John will look to return to NHC music sooner rather than later as it’s an honour to be part of his story.

John will next be performing alongside Dixie Fried, Steady State Regime and Matt Scott in The Bellfield Tavern, Kilmarnock on Saturday the 7th of March. 

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