Sunday, 13 April 2014

Harvey Andrews - Glad To Be Grey


Another weekend, another concert ... and another long drive and another late night. I wonder why this CFS flare-up is taking so long to clear! Yesterday was Within Temptation and Delain at Wembley - booked ages ago and postponed from January, so not really to be helped. Last Saturday was Harvey Andrews at Portishead.

Harvey Andrews is a singer-songwriter who was a major influence on my teenage self. I had a friend who played the guitar and had Andrews' Writer Of Songs album on constant repeat as he gradually learnt the guitar accompaniment, for what seemed like months. Angry songs, happy songs, sad songs: songs that told stories, often songs that took an unusual point of view.

There's a song about one of the students shot at Ohio Kent State University by the local national guard; a song about a British soldier in Ireland (see the link); a song about an early morning 'knock on the door' in any of the many totalitarian countries which go in for that sort of thing; a song about a bitter and angry gossip, questioning how she got that way (see the video at the bottom of the page); a song about a teacher who put his hand on a young girl's knee.

As I say, Harvey Andrews was a major influence; he retired a few years back, and now only does the occasional charity concert in the area he lives, around Shrewsbury. So for him to be as far south as Portishead is an unmissable treat (actually he'd been in Thame the previous weekend, but even I'm not that daft).

These charity concerts, under the banner Glad To Be Grey, are advertised as  “A celebration of maturity, with songs, stories, humour (and the occasional rant)”, which is an accurate enough description. Harvey Andrews gigs always included a fair amount of chat and stories mixed in with the songs (see the video at the top for a typical example). Now there is a bit more reminiscence, and a couple of stories from his autobiography replace a couple of songs, but he remains consummately entertaining and a fantastic singer (the very first song, I thought his voice did show slight signs of age, but after that it warmed up and was as good as ever).

At Portishead he sang a mixture of songs old and new, told stories, and played his guitar. The sound was good, and the atmosphere brilliant. A lot of people there had never heard of him before (they were there for the fund-raiser) but I think everyone enjoyed themselves enormously, singing along with the chorus songs, listening to the music, joining in the nostalgia (it was a church-organised event, so the average age was older than me), and laughing at his humour. Harvey and his wife, Wendy, were friendly and approachable as ever after the show, and I was able to pick up a fresh copy of Writer Of Songs to replace the old vinyl one I cleared out when we moved house.

All in all an excellent gig, long may he continue.

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