All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 128 – The Anchoress, Wednesday, June 15, 2016, Bush Hall

My first time seeing the Anchoress, and a bit of an odd night.

My DICE screenshot – a kind of 21st century ticket stub

I have to be honest about this gig. I went to it thinking that it might be the first time I heard Paul Draper sing since 2001. Given that he had co-produced the Anchoress’s recent album “Confessions of a Romance Novelist”, and featured on the spendidly dysfunctional duet “You And Only You”, it seemed reasonable to expect that he might make an appearance – and indeed, recent social media posts from Catherine had strongly hinted that Paul was going to turn up for a rendition of that song. And much as I admire Catherine’s dark, rich voice and aptitude for a compelling melody, my few months of familiarity for her oeuvre could never compete with my decades-old love for Paul and Mansun.

So, given that Paul failed to appear at this gig, I think I can be forgiven for the slightly deflated report I gave in my diary, despite the excellence of the Anchoress’s performance. It had, in fact, been a bit of a trial even getting to the venue that evening. From my diary:

‘It was an odd kind of night, really. Tube chaos meant I didn’t get there ‘til just after doors when I’d planned to be a bit early. There was a bit of a queue still there, and it was 100% blokey middleaged blokes. I did not really feel amongst my people (but then, when do I?) A couple of people went in, but then we were stopped and a minute later, Catherine walked in with a small entourage of two. Shortly afterwards the queue moved again and I was in.’

Making my way into the venue, I was somewhat perplexed by the unorthodox nature of the gigging space I found myself in: ‘a large room with a small stage and a piano at one end, with about thirty chairs set up in front. No barrier, and the chairs were mostly taken, I wondered if they were reserved or just for anyone, and a bit perplexed by it all. I wandered back out to the loo, then to the merch stall to grab the Anchoress CD.’

Then it was time to find my spot in the crowd, and watch the support set.

‘I positioned myself between the two halves of the back row of chairs and watched the support violinist Fiona Brice who was very good with her moody doomy tunes. In the short interval between her set and Catherine’s I took a few steps forwards so I was more or less between the first and second rows of seats, and with no one stood in front of me I can at least say I was down the front!’

My hope for an appearance from Draper was dashed fairly soon into the Anchoress’s set. ‘Catherine came on in a funky head dress and willowy wedding dress and commenced the album run through. She sounded great though there were some feedback gremlins in the mix. But when Catherine took to the grand piano for a solo rendition of “You And Only You”, I had to concede, we were in a Draper-free zone.’

It was a great performance of an album that I’d taken a little while to warm to. But, given the deflation of my hopes to see Paul, and the fact that I’d been battling a flare-up of some of my health issues, this gig does not go down as one of my all time favourites. ‘So it was all great, I’m enjoying the album a lot more now and she’s a consummate live performer. But the venue was a bit crap, really. And even though I’ve been feeling much better today, I did feel very achy and creaky after an hour of standing.’

I was determined to make the most of the night, so I queued up afterwards and got a pic and an autograph from Catherine. ‘I said it’d been a great show and congratulated her on getting to support the Manics at the upcoming Eden Project show. “Oh don’t remind me!” she said, and asked if I’d be there. I said I’d like to but not sure if able to, due to doing a PhD at UCL. This seemed to perk her interest, as she herself has done the same thing, and she asked me to message her and tell her all about it.’

Much cheered by this encounter I headed towards the exit, when the oddness of the evening resumed in the shape of a random bloke.

‘So then I was off out! but not before being stopped by an Odd Bloke who wanted to know how I got to hear of the Anchoress, and come to this gig, even though I’d only bought the CD there, had he been watching me the whole evening? I chatted politely for a bit before making a swift “gotta catch my train, bye!” escape. Weird audience though, so many blokes, and ladies only really in couples.’

What with my weary state of health, general unease in the crowd and disappointment at the lack of an appearance from Paul Draper, this gig is overall not one of my favourites of my life. None of that is the fault of the Anchoress, of course, who put on an excellent performance despite the sound mix issues and general air of attending a gig in a school assembly hall. And luckily, I would see her again before the end of the year, in a much better mood and at a much better venue.

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