Last night I went to see Vin Garbutt at The Sage, Gateshead. It cost me the princely sum of £3.50! Not bad to see two acts (support came in the form of Jez Lowe) in a beautiful venue methinks. This was the third time I have seen Vin live - my first as a child dragged along by my mother (I think she had a spare ticket or something) - and he never fails to impress.
The title of this blog is a line he came out with during this recent gig, and a prime example of his inter-song witticisms. This, unbeknownst to me beforehand, was his 60th birthday concert and so, as he took to the stage, he was greeted by most of the audience singing Happy Birthday.
So, I hear most of you ask, who on earth is Vin Garbutt? Well, he is a folk singer from Middlesbrough. Born in South Bank (still Middlesbrough, not London!), he became a professional musician aged 21 and has been slogging away ever since. He tours the world each year and sells out gigs across the globe...the one last night included.
Yet most people never seem to have even heard his name. Unless they are particularly into folk music...Vin is a big name, probably one of the biggest, on the British folk scene. He even won the Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2001. And he is a proper shaggy-haired, penny whistle-playing folkster; this is trad folk (yet not just trad songs...most of the songs are written by Mr Garbutt himself). These are songs about real people's lives and hardships, which tackle the big issues out there, such as asylum-seeking, working for pennies, nature (and its destruction), and coal and potash mining.
The lyrics are intelligent and thought-provoking, as well as humorous in places. My favourites on this occasion were from Land Of Three Rivers ("In the land of three rivers I'm longing to be/Where the Tyne, Wear and Tees meet the North's rolling sea") and Punjabi Girl ("I never thought I'd fall for someone from another world/Until I met and fell in love with a dark Punjabi girl").
As someone who comes from my home town (which, although recently voted the worst place in Britain by Location, Location, Location, I am very fond of and nostalgic about. It does have its merits - beautiful countryside and seaside towns nearby, friendly people etc. But I digress...this is not the intended topic of this blog post!) and sings about it proudly, I always find the 'local' lyrical references particularly poignant. The first of the above quoted lyrics exemplifies the pride people feel in this region...their region; affinity with it really means something to people of the North East (despite what the otherwise lovely Kirstie Allsopp might have to say). It is a region that is truly in our hearts.
Punjabi Girl I found really quite touching as, despite being lovely, warm people, the folk of Middlesbrough are not a people I consider to be (obviously I generalise hugely) especially open-minded in their cultural beliefs. This song, therefore, evoked for me the sentiment of someone overcoming the preconceptions he had previously held...sadly, in the song, their families were not able to do this, but love still reigned :o) I seriously struggled not to cry on several occasions during the gig.
I laughed too. As I said previously, Vin is a very witty and likeable man. The one that made me laugh the most was:
"...my current cd. I'm one of very few artists to sell flavoured cds"
This obviously works best aloud due to the homonyms, but I'm sure you can imagine.
There was also a great cover of the song Teesbay by Bob Fortune, which evokes an image of a city on the sea, made up of boats and liners...a city that is always in flux, but always alive with sparkling lights.
He's an excellent live act and I will definitely go to see him again in the future (and hope that he sings my favourite song of his, If I Had A Son, which he didn't on this occasion). Perhaps, however, as a friend I bumped into observed, this was not the best venue for him. The Sage is absolutely stunning, but there just isn't that proper folk club sing-along atmosphere...it feels too formal.
Try to catch him and see what you think...I seriously doubt you'll come away unimpressed (or even without a cd in your hand - I never seem to! This time it was his latest Persona...Grata). And no excuses about where you live...this man has played everywhere!
Vin's MySpace (I can't believe he has a MySpace profile! Check out the song Philippino Maid on there)
And a (sometimes quite cheesy) video to give you a better idea of who he is: