Friday, April 23, 2010

Patrick Duff @ The Hare & Hounds, Thursday 22nd April 2010

Back in the 90’s Strangelove achieved a reasonable degree of success with a few top 40 singles and major tour slots with Suede, Radiohead and the Manics. They deserved to be bigger in my humble opinion, mainly down to their enigmatic lead singer Patrick Duff. It’s probably just as well that they weren't though, as Patrick decided to jack it all in, seemingly becoming disillusioned with the whole sex, drugs and rock n’roll business. He is, however, already responsible for two of my favourite live moments of all time:

(1) At a Strangelove gig in Nottingham in the late 90's he threw down his mic mid song, leapt into the crowd and carried on singing as he weaved his way amongst us, his voice somehow carrying across the entire room as clear as a bell.

(2) As a solo performer he played a gig at the Bar Academy a few years back (March 2006 in fact) which attracted about 12 of us. After putting his heart and soul into the gig he came back out for the traditional encore and, rather than staying on stage, he invited us all to sit in the middle of the room together and introduce ourselves to him before he played a handful of covers (including the theme tune to Postman Pat). I don’t know why this touched me so much but, years later, it still does.

Fast forward a few years and Patrick’s back in Birmingham to promote his new album, The Mad Straight Road. Would we get more than 12 people this time...? Yes. Would he make it three in a row and blow me way again? What do you think? Coming on stage at around 9pm (no support band, but Mr Bones and the Dreamers did a fine job as DJ’s) to a version of ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ (not sure which one) Patrick approached a huge gong on the right of the stage. He banged it. I’m not sure what sort of gong it was but it rang out for a good few seconds. The noise subsided. He banged it again. Then waited. Then again. The over and over again...furiously, the noise became thunderous. And then silence. No more mention was made of the gong, nor was it used again, but, if it was done to gain our attention, it worked. You could hear a pin drop. He began with a song called ‘Dead Man Singing’, summoning up the spirits of Brecht, Brel and Berlin, Cave, Cohen and Cash. Staring out, glassy eyed, singing words that clearly meant the world to him (you really don’t get that with too many singers) it was an emotional overture to a show that was just a privilege to be part of.

I know a little of Patrick’s recent life and times and he gave us bit more of a flavour tonight. Clearly he’s been (and is going) through an extended period of reflection over the meaning of life, love and success. ‘I spent a while wandering through the woods’ he confessed, reflecting on the aftermath of Strangelove’s split. Then he went off to South Africa to spend time with an 80 year old woman (Madosini Manqina) who'd just been ‘discovered’ and was playing WOMAD. She awoke his true love for music again and they ending up playing together (he even lived in her village for a while). Then he came back to the UK and...well...spent some years in his bedroom, just writing songs. And what songs they are. Lyrically rich and emotionally charged, but somehow retaining a catchiness that most artists would give their right arm for, he held each and every one of us spellbound for 90 minutes. And I don’t use that word lightly. The voice is as strong and incredibly powerful as ever, the guitar playing, simple but beautifully structured and the modesty and the immense gratitude he showed to us for turning up was vastly disproportionate to the pleasure we had in watching him. I ain’t gonna give a breakdown of all the songs he played (no one but Patrick could do them justice). Just go and buy the album...I’m not sure where from...I’m sure someone will tell us. But on top of ‘Dead Man Singing’ you can listen to two of the other standouts from last night’s set on his MySpace page, ‘Three Little Monkeys’ (which last night featured rather fine trumpet noises from Patrick) and ‘Poor Old John’ (inspired by Patrick’s discovery that his great grandfather had been educated in a ditch school in Ireland...literally a ditch...which the kids sat in), featuring Patrick’s best Nick Cave-esque vocals.

Patrick’s tours (and indeed any live performance) seem to be increasingly rare and precious things these days. Tonight he acknowledged the help and support of a guy called ‘Rob’ (one of Mr Bones and the Dreamers) for getting him “out of Bristol and his comfort zone” so who knows when, or indeed if, I’ll get the chance to see him again? If this was the last time however it's a great memory to have. Whilst some might measure success in terms of record sales and column inches, sponsorship deals and chat show appearances, surely success as an artist boils down to just one thing – the ability to truly connect with another being through your words and music. If that’s the measure that really counts (and I’m convinced it is) last night Patrick achieved more than most.


Patrick said...

Thankyou very much. Love Patrick x

Patrick said...

thank you very much. Love Patrick x

The Baron said...

My pleasure Patrick! I came to see your next show at the Hare and Hounds too. Every bit as good.

Would be wonderful to see you up here again soon. Really hope everything's well with you. All the best. D x