There have been lots of gigs lately and we had a particularly good time in London when Jim (Jim Byrne) played at the Blackheath Halls. You always know you are going to have a great night out when, the totally charming and super enthusiastic, Andy Ropek, founder of the fabulous Icarus Club, is your host so we had been looking forward to this gig for quite some time.
Jim played at The Icarus Club, Station Hotel, Hither's Green, last year and was delighted when Andy invited him back to play at Blackheath Halls, especially on the same bill as another Scotsman, Benny Gallagher. I was a huge fan of Gallagher and Lyle and McGuinness Flint and I was really looking forward to seeing Benny perform again.
The other acts included Janette Geri, from Australia, and Richard Llewellyn-Davies, who had also caught Andy's attention at The Icarus Club. Local singer-songwriter, Richard, was up first and got the evening off to a fine start; particularly enjoyable were the numbers he performed from his latest album "I'll Be A Sailor".
Jim, followed, and the crowd responded enthusiastically to his finger pickin' guitar playing and original songs. Kicking off with "The Handle's Broken On My Cup', a favourite from the first CD, he also included some new songs like 'Fancy Wooden Box' - just two weeks old. He could not resist telling some of his Carter Family tales, or singing their tunes, and he had folk joining in with the John Prine classic, 'Faster Than The Speed of Loneliness'. Wonderful song.
It was really great having some London friends along at the show, Mary and Alex and Mary and David, and Jim was delighted to accept their compliments on his performance. He hardly got a chance to sit down at the break, as new fans wanted a wee chat, and better still he sold CDs.
We then settled down to enjoy the rest of the show with Janette Geri performing an unusual mix of soulful jazz and blues. On tour in the UK, Janette is a very assured performer and she entertained us with her fine guitar playing and quirky humour.
Benny Gallagher followed and was rapturously welcomed onto the stage by a sizeable following. He simply wowed the crowd with his fine music, which, of course included huge hits such as 'Breakaway', 'Heart on My Sleeve' and 'I Wanna Stay With You', a favourite of mine. I also enjoyed hearing the lovely song 'Would The Last One Leaving New York Town Please Turn The Lights Down'.
He also entertained us with anecdotes from his long career about the people he has worked with and those who have performed his songs such as Garth Brooks, Don Williams and Simon and Garfunkel. The list is endless and unbelievably impressive and interesting so Benny has plenty of great stories to tell as well as songs to sing.
He was joined on stage by Bob Wood, who did a fine job accompanying Benny on guitar and vocals. He also threw in a few jokes himself and the rapport between the two was tangible. Bob runs the famous Ram Folk Club and it would be great to go there. Who knows we might get to see the pair in action again. I certainly hope so.
It was a very special night, which ended all too soon; although I believe it was way past closing time before we left the building.