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Friday, October 06, 2006

An Entertaining Tale from the Rufus Court Chester

Alexanders Jazz Club, Chester
Thursday 5th October 2006

As I queued outside the venue, patiently waiting for the doors to open at 8:00PM prompt, I just took a moment to ponder. Is this just becoming an annual routine? This was the 3rd time in as many years that I’ve come to see Eleanor McEvoy at this venue. I’ve dragged the missus away from her regular evening episode of Emmerdale, she’s not best pleased. We’ve arrived early because if we didn’t then we won’t get a decent seat. Eleanor won’t get behind the mike until 9:30. All this lot will have an hour and half’s worth of drink inside them by then. Is it really worth the hassle? Then the rain falls…..

As luck would have it we brought along a couple of friends, time passed quickly and it wasn’t long before the sound technician was at the desk and lights were dimmed. Eleanor popped up from nowhere and launched, accapello, into the opening lines of a slowed down I’ll Be Willing.

From the off the audience, whose ages spanned the spectrum, were spellbound. Every song was greeted with full attentiveness from all and each one received timely and generous applause. This was not lost on Eleanor and it was best summed up when a voice in the crowd enquired about the prospect of an Eleanor ‘Live’ album. “If I ever made a Live album, I’ll probably make it in Chester”.

This was Eleanor’s first UK concert since the release of her latest, and in my opinion, her best album, Out There. The album is a perfect example of pigeon-hole unfriendliness. Further evidence of her versatility was backed up with the array of instruments lined up across the back of the stage. The only one she didn’t have a go at was the barstool upon which her violin was resting.

In the afternoon prior to this show Eleanor was appearing at Liverpool’s Radio Merseyside being interviewed by Billy Butler. As well as correcting him on the actual venue, this was an ideal opportunity for her to encourage prospective attendees to shout out requests for their particular favourites. So as well as a healthy representation from her Out There album, there was a bit of audience participation.

Eleanor herself joined in with off-the-cuff song selection with a special lyrically adapted version of Joni Mitchell’s Cary, which contained a reference to Alexander’s Jazz Club.

This was yet another terrific performance by Eleanor. No doubt she will always be welcome to return to Alexander’s again and again – no doubt I’ll be queueing outside too – whatever the weather.

Chester setlist

Acoustic Guitar
1. I'll be willing
2. Fields of Dublin 4
3. Quote I Love You Unquote
4. Non Smoking Single Female
5. Whisper A Prayer To The Moon
6. Only A Woman's Heart
7. Did You Tell Him

8. Driving Home From Butlers
9. Paddy Carthy's Reel
10. Wrong So Wrong


Acoustic Guitar
11. Isn't it a Little Late
12. Days Roll By
13. Joni Mitchell's Cary (lyrically adapted for Alexanders)
14. Did I Hurt You (audience request)

Bass Guitar
15. Little Look

16. Suffer So Well

Electric Guitar
17. Ave Maria (audience request)
18. Territory Of Poets
19. The Way You Wear Your Troubles

Electric Guitar
20. Biochemistry
21. Apologise (audience request)

Editor's Notes

1. Said hello to a couple of very keen followers - Martin & Sue. If you think that a drive up to Chester from Essex was an act of dedication, they told me the were taking in the UK tour. The following night's gig was on the Isle of Aran ! Check the link to Tim Symes' review , Martin & Sue get a mention. (Tim's personal journey was from Taunton to Wolverhampton).

2. We were given lift to the Chester gig by Mr. & Mrs Butler - and after the show they gave us a lift could say we were Driven Home by Butlers.

3. Eleanor received the odd shout out from the audience for one or two songs (I don't shout out myself) but after the show I did mention a brilliant cover of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan. I heard it a couple of years ago on an RTE Radio 1 concert but I've never witnessed her do it at a go and check Tim's setlist.

4. Eleanor closed with Apologise (Check out the cheeky Radio Caroline jingle between the opening chords on the Podcasts). I think that its rather fitting that she did. My next scheduled live gig is Celine Carroll in Dublin in November. It was the same title , different song, which sparked my interest in Celine.

Martin & Sue's UK Tour Report
We’re back and recovering from a holiday of a lifetime. We can hardly believe that 8 days seem to pass so quickly especially when you consider all that we packed in. Yes, if you haven’t guessed by now we are the folks Eleanor talked about in her recent pod cast.

The planning started some time ago when we decided that the joy of seeing Eleanor and the destinations on her UK leg of her tour had us hooked.
The adventure really started on Thursday 5th setting off from deepest darkest Essex and driving the 213 miles to Chester. Despite the rain we managed an open top bus tour of Chester and had the full devoted attention of the tour guide as we were the only ones on tour. Alexanders in Chester was an excellent location and a very well attended evening. We were both worried and amused when in the second half she declared that after a conversation with the promoter in Arran no tickets had been sold. Of course we knew that at least two had been sold or at least that’s what we hoped as the arrangement was to collect at the venue. We could hardly resist at the end of a superb performance letting her know that we too were Arran bound, much to Eleanor’s amazement.

The journey to Arran was long and took most of the day on Friday, but we managed to get there in time for the 15:00 ferry. On arrival we had some more concerns, a notice that ferries may be delayed or cancelled due to bad weather greeted us. Something that wasn’t accommodated in our tight schedule! Fortunately the ferry was prompt and we hoped that the tour bus had made it too. If we were thinking of a song to sum up Arran on Friday it was definitely ‘The Rain Falls’. Torrential rain fell most of the afternoon and drenched us on our way to eat at a local restaurant. The McAlpine hotel, venue for the concert and our room for the night was just yards from the ferry terminal. The highlight of the hotel was the hospitality and the enthusiasm of Tam the hotel manager and promoter for the evening. Tam had an incredible sense of humour and this was evident in the sign displayed at reception – ‘Any unattended children will be sold as slaves’. The audience was small but not exactly just the two of us, about 30 people in an airy ballroom in the hotel with a magnificent mirror. We manage to fight through the crowds and get a table in the centre at the front and our quest for the day was rewarded with a fantastic performance including our request from Chester of ’To Sweep Away A Fool’. The audience were very appreciative and it was pleasure to have no background distractions of a bar in the same room, which usually brings with it washing glasses and stocking up.

Saturday morning the sun shone on Arran revealing the true beauty of the island and encouraged us to take a short walk along the coastal path.
But no time for resting when you’re OUT THERE on tour! We boarded the ferry and bid farewell to Arran. Next stop Coatbridge. A much shorter journey once we had reached the mainland but complicated by a SatNav failure. Resorting to a manual option of a map book and roadsigns we successfully reached the Georgian Hotel, once again venue and our bed for the night. We had expected to eat in the bar before taking our seats but had taken no account of Scotland playing France at football and a 5pm kick-off didn’t make eating in the bar a peaceful choice. So we set off to see what Coatbridge (small suburb of Glasgow) could offer and the best we could find was a kebab supper i.e. with chips. We guessed that France had scored with the roars and cheers from the bar and it all ended 1- 0 to Scotland. The venue for the concert was a large function room at the side of the hotel with a bar. The audience were the largest and the nosiest of the tour and the promoter even had to ask people to be quite during the first support act (well done that man). As Eleanor took the stage they were far quieter. She was brave enough to sign ‘C’est bien’ in the second set, but it was well received particularly as the Scots had won.

The journey was getting shorter each day. Sunday 8th October and Edinburgh was our destination. Just a 40 minute drive and no boats! We had decided that Sunday required some luxury for us and we checked into the Sheraton Spa and spent most of the afternoon indulging in pure relaxation in the Spa.

After dinner in the hotel we walked the rain drenched street of the Holyrood district and after asking directions from a couple of students we found the Cabaret Voltaire club. A small venue with no windows, which appeared to be set in the vaults of a tall granite building. The audience were quiet and very appreciative and some had travelled far. A man buying CDs after the concert had travelled down especially from Aberdeen (about a 4 hour drive)and was quite a recent follower. In fact he had heard the Out There CD in a music shop and was immediately enthralled. Our own discovery of Eleanor had been while she was supporting the Homespun tour in 2005 and we were delighted to hear an acoustic version of ‘Effortless Cool’. We were also surprised to hear ‘I hear you breathing in’ from Yola, which we hadn’t heard live before.

Monday 9th October and heading back to England. We had more travelling today to get down to Doncaster and the A1 provided us with a scenic journey through the borders. Unfortunately not both of us could attend the concert in Doncaster as an Open University exam needed Sue in London. We had told Eleanor in Edinburgh so she wasn’t too surprised when Martin attended with another woman – his sister who lives near Doncaster. She had a wonderful evening and got her copy of ‘Out There’ signed for her birthday. Recognised a few people from the Wath-Upon-Dearne festival in April and Ruth joined Eleanor on stage for a duet of ‘Only a woman’s heart’.

The Hull venue was the smallest. The New Adelphi Club is situated in a residential area of Hull quite close to Pearson Park. The crowd was few in number (about 35), but they were appreciative and there was plenty of banter, particularly when Eleanor asked if an Irish woman with a van would be required to pay a parking ticket. We were rewarded for our request in Arran and Eleanor finally played an excellent version of ‘Trapped Inside’ -a delight! Perhaps in recognition of the local connections with Homespun she also played a Homespun number, ‘You are here’. We had hoped that Dave Rotheray would make an appearance but unfortunately he wasn’t in town.

Thursday 12th October, and we had finally reached the last destination of the tour (for us anyway) in Wolverhampton. We thought it only right that just before the concert, we presented Eleanor with a token of our appreciation and the most appropriate gift was a ‘set list bag’. The bag contained a bottle of Beaujolais wine, Jameison whisky, Champagne, coffee,milk and of course bread. In return she played ‘Its mine’, ‘My own sweet bed tonight’ and ‘Biochemistry’. We were also thrilled to hear ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and ‘Stray thoughts’ for the first time on this tour.

We never tired of seeing Eleanor play for 7 nights and there were always changes to the set list. In total we must have heard about 40 different songs with regular appearances of ‘Non smoking single female’, ‘Fields of Dublin 4’ and ‘Suffer so well’. It was all the fun we had expected it to be.
And of course the finale was to arrive home and find that we even got a mention on Eleanor’s latest Pod cast. What a holiday!

Sue & Martin

Interesting Links

Dave Randall's Review


(Balcony TV, Dublin)