Saturday, 5 October 2013

A special night in Southport

 Hello dear readers!

 I want to tell you about the brilliant concert I went to in Southport on 22nd September. It formed part of Southport's From A Distance Americana Festival and was a tribute to Nanci Griffith, a folk artist whose music I love. The gig featured The Kennedys, The Carrivick Sisters and Edwina Hayes.

 I had been looking forward to this gig since I first heard about it. After having seen The Kennedys live in June this year, I had resigned myself to not seeing them until they would return to the UK in June 2014. Then I found out they were coming to Southport in September!

 As well as the chance to see The Kennedys again, it was a chance to celebrate Nanci's music, support the Mines Advisory Group, be introduced to the Carrivick Sisters' music and finally see Edwina Hayes, of whom I had heard great things but who I had never seen live.

 The timing was also pretty good as it was at the end of the first week of my second year at University. I have some extra responsibilities at Uni this year so the first week was very busy for me. This gig would be a nice treat at the end of the busy first week.

 Another useful thing about the show was that it was fairly local - just an hour's drive for me. So all in all, this gig could not have suited me better.

 I arrived with my Mam in Southport on the Sunday evening, and we found the venue: the lovely new Atkinson centre. Well, an old building but newly done-up. It was gorgeous. With live music in the foyer and a fountain bubbling outside, as well as fairy lights on the trees, it was just an amazing atmosphere.

 We went to the studio where the performance would be and I was glad that it was a fairly small, intimate space - and my Mam and I managed to get the best table, in the middle at the front. The lovely Maura Kennedy appeared and we chatted, she took some requests and then the show began.

 It opened with a Kennedys set. It included some songs I hadn't heard before, such as Didn't It Rain and Jasmine. The latter was a request and I am so grateful to the couple who asked for it, as I had never before heard the Kennedys' version of this John Stewart song and it is absolutely beautiful.

 After The Kennedys' set, they were joined by the Carrivick Sisters; Laura and Charlotte, who play a huge range of instruments between them. During this show Laura played the fiddle and steel guitar and Charlotte played the mandolin. Both sang backing vocals for some songs, while Maura sang lead vocals - beautifully, as always.

 Pete and Maura Kennedy have played with Nanci Griffith on and off for twenty years and know her stuff better than pretty much anybody. I adored their renditions of her songs. Maura had said they were planning to do some of her lesser known material, so I had expected not to know some of the songs - but I was very familiar with all of them. I must know Nanci's back catalogue better than I had realised!

 Among the most memorable performances was Love Wore a Halo, which they entered into with such gusto, it was brilliant. You just wanted to sing along! They also did I Wish It Would Rain, which I love - if I remember correctly it was the first Nanci song I learned by heart, when I was about six.

 They did Love at the Five and Dime - I had been half-hoping for the whole anecdote ("One of my greatest fascinations in life...") but they plunged straight into the song and did a lovely job. I was also glad to hear Lone Star State of Mind and There's a Light Beyond These Woods, both Nanci classics in my view.

 Certainly the highlight of the set for me was Gulf Coast Highway, which Maura and Pete did as a duet. It has always been a Nanci favourite for me; I think its simplicity made it easy for my childhood self to understand and sing along to. Maura and Pete's version has to be one of the nicest I have ever heard, if not THE nicest - maybe even better, dare I say it, than the original.

 Edwina arrived and performed It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go - not my favourite Nanci song, but Edwina's voice is gorgeous and I was inspired to listen to more of her music.

 Finally, all five performers sang Ford Econoline with all the energy and passion it deserves. Ah, the memories! I used to love this song! This evening really was a trip down memory lane for me.

 The encore was Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, and I was so glad they did it - and that they'd done Across the Great Divide earlier in the set. Why? These two songs were performed by The Kennedys with Nanci Griffith and Frank Christian on Jools Holland twenty years ago and the videos are available on YouTube.

 Seeing Nanci's one-time backing band do these songs themselves was, for me, something really special - the whole thing has come full-circle. I told Maura as much after the show and I also bought their album Get It Right.

 I will do a proper write-up of the album when I have time, but for now I'll just content myself with saying that the song Get It Right is mesmerising, and for a while after first hearing it I just sat and played it again and again and again. Amazing.

 I had my photo taken with Pete and Maura - I'm building up quite an archive of them - and with Edwina Hayes who turned out to be as lovely as her voice. She's certainly someone I'll keep an eye out for in the future.

 Overall, a fantastic night out that was even better than I had imagined it would be. The Kennedys are wonderful musicians and such sweet, friendly people. It's safe to say I will be coming to every Kennedys UK gig that I possibly can for a very long time.

 Thanks for reading,

 Liz x

 PS: If you are a Kennedys fan or want to learn more about them, you may enjoy my 2013 interview with them and my write-up of their album Closer Than You Know.

Songs: Jasmine - The Kennedys - 2006
Across the Great Divide - Nanci Griffith - 1993
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness - Nanci Griffith - 1993


  1. Hi
    great blog entry,
    excellent concert, really enjoyed it.
    mam x

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