|Bleu/Jim Boggia - London, The Borderline - 23rd October 2010|
|Written by Russ P|
|Thursday, 04 November 2010 05:00|
My accomplice and I are talking tonight about the pitfalls of acoustic gigs that are too frequently blighted by morons who talk over the bands. Case in point for my friend was a Mike Doughty (ex-Soul Coughing) gig in New York where a nearby tit had paid $25 for the pleasure of pitting himself against Doughty. Moron in the red corner talking about work vs Doughty in the blue corner TRYING TO ACTUALLY DO HIS JOB. Well, first act on tonight - Jim Boggia - is one performer that doesn't have this kind of problem. From the off the audience is with him carried along by only his acoustic guitar and his voice. I haven't seen or heard Boggia before tonight and I'm impressed by his vocals on his opening number, 'Annie Also Ran', which I place somewhere inbetween Don Henley and soft-cornered Bryan Adams - leaning more to the Henley side if truth be told. Boggia medleys into Thunderclap Newman's 'Something In The Air' - a song that I wasn't even aware that I knew until I heard Jim play it.
Jim pays a flying visit to both his last album and his first album with the songs 'Listening To NRBQ' and 'Several Thousand' respectively. Jim's pièce de résistance, in my opinion, is his song 'That's Not Why I Hate New York'. He's quick to downplay the negativity of the title by pointing out that the repeated lyric is "NOT". And it's precisely those lyrics wrapped around the real central core of the song that makes this such a wonderful and memorable song. It brings to mind the glory days of the singer-songwriters of the 70s - James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel and especially Joni Mitchell - where every chord, every word, every song seemed to matter and every inch of the song was crafted and raised for an important purpose. And 'That's Not Why I Hate New York', I'm in no doubt, is going to be, or already is, a key song for Jim Boggia.
Jim is travelling light this evening with only an acoustic guitar in tow but he's managed to acquire a ukulele tonight. After becoming obsessed with the ukelele about a year ago he delights the audience with an impressively dextrous arrangement of 'Over The Rainbow' before merging Garland with Springsteen and a trip down 'Thunder Road' where Boggia sings the unlikely lyrics "Well I got this ukulele and I learned how to make it talk".
Tonight all the bands are mixing it up, getting up close and personal with one another and so it is that headliner Tracy Bonham, her band and Bleu join Boggia onstage for 'No Way Out'. The audience have no idea that the band playing on stage have had scant rehearsal for this performance and why would they? It's a great performance. Tracy, on violin, is giving it a real gypsy slant à la Stéphane Grappelli and Anne-Maarten van Heuvelen on double bass completes the illusion of a jazz quintet.
With a change of jacket Bleu comes to the stage for the second time and this time it's very personal. Starting off with a reimagining of 'No Such Thing As Love' from last year's 'A Watched Pot' album Bleu summons up a host of angelic backing vocals from the array of pedals at his feet and adds a naked beat set against a simple guitar figure. The touch of a button cuts the backing to reveal Bleu, his guitar and his falsetto but, by the second verse, Bleu is belting it strong and hard letting out the power: "Call me a cynic, call me a liar". I'm positive he's going to break his voice any minute. He makes us wait for the next chorus as he holds a note like a drowning man holding onto his last breath and keeps it going for 8-bars - and he still has enough air in the tank to sing the next few words before he has to draw breath again.
In abbreviating Bleu's next song 'I'll Know It When I See It' to Ikiwisi I thought that I was perhaps making up a new Japanese word or at least the name of a new children's TV show but no - it's an acronym already in current usage. Nevermind, it's all geek to me. Anyway, as Sooty surely once said, "IKIWISI let's gets busy". It's an upbeat song with a relentless techno four-on-the-floor downbeat that sadly sets my teeth on edge - sorry - just one of my many phobias - pantomime horses are another.
As if in acknowledgement Bleu takes the volume down a notch and steps away from the mic for his next song. Taken from his new album 'Four', 'In Love With My Lover' is a natural song choice as it translates onto the stage more or less as it appears on the new record. The venue falls quiet and Bleu, amplified or not, can be heard just the same. And what do you know? Bleu loves his held notes and whips off another 8-bar rocket on the middle-8.
Another eerie reinterpretation from the new album follows with 'How Blue' - a song evocative at once of both George Harrison and John Lennon's solo material. The Lennon vocal sound is present with a little slap back echo sung into an old-fashioned 55S-style rock and roll microphone for good measure. And the changes keep on coming as Bleu follows on with a delicate rendition of 'Come 'n Go' giving it a different flavour from the highly polished album version.
Next up brings big smiles to the mouths of the Bleu fans gathered here tonight as he takes an unexpected detour and plays a bare necessities version of 'I Won't Go Hollywood' which proves to be one of the highlights of the night. The audience goes absolutely nuts for it - clapping along, singing along and the applause just keeps on going.
The larger touring troupe slowly starts to assemble as Bleu is joined onstage by Tracy Bonham who provides violin for Bleu's atmospheric 'Ya Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar'. Tracy swaps over to percussion as Jim Boggia returns to the stage to share guitar and vocals on Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature' co-written by none other than Toto's Steve Porcaro.
While Tracy and Jim disappear off stage Bleu disappears into the crowd with his new toy. Literally. It's a second-hand kid's cassette player with microphone bought for less than the price of a Snickers bar. Much to the crowd's delight and amusement he cues up 'What Kinda Man Am I?' on the cassette player and roams around the venue taking it to the people and, in the process, succeeds in turning a throwaway karaoke toy in a viable retro sampler.
Back on stage to explosive applause Bleu starts to pack his things away while the crowd pleads for more. Bleu, in this his first visit to the UK, is genuinely flattered but a strict curfew means that to play for longer would eat into Tracy Bonham's set and, conveniently, I have a strict curfew too. If I don't make it back to the station I'll be eating from litter bins and sleeping with the hobos. I exit stage left while Bleu exits stage right. Let's hope our paths cross some other day.
Photo Kudos Russ P