On Sunday I went to see June Tabor. Upon arrival, for some reason the whole building smelt of tuna fish. Battling through this I headed for the decagonal Hall Two and took to my seat...which was third row, centre. Not bad for the princely sum of £6.75 (Dolly could think about taking a leaf out of Ms Tabor's book...she is charging £60-whatever per ticket, £70-something if you factor in the booking fee. Like she needs the money! I don't care how much it costs "to look this cheap"!).
As soon as I sat down I felt that first wave of sleep hit me. You know when you are so tired that you feel a bit 'out of body'? Cue even more fidgeting than usual in an effort to avoid having to resort to getting matchsticks out to prop open the old eyelids!
When Ms Tabor took to the stage, she was wearing what appeared to be a shapeless black galabiyah, with a black Japanese silk jacket on top. A strange combo...but I was not there for the fashion show. However, coupled with this dark ensemble, for the first half of the show she was lit with a pale blue, which gave her a rather odd deathly pallor.
The band on stage with her was comprised of Andy, Tim and Mark (she only mentioned their surnames once, which I missed due to applause, but from a bit of a scout round the internet, I believe them to have been Andy Cutting, who I seem to recall seeing with Kate Rusby in the past, Tim Harries, and Mark Emerson) and accordion, double bass and violin/viola. Emerson, the violinist and viola player also doubled up on piano in places (on an amazing Steinway)...although not at the same time as playing his fiddles...that would just be silly!
As for Tabor's 'sound' - well, it is very British. Think folk in the tradition of Anne Briggs. For international bods perhaps not familiar with Briggs, think along the lines of Joan Baez or perhaps a slightly more sombre Nanci Griffith. She has a lovely, resonant alto voice and a great deal of confidence on stage. She captures the emotion of the songs she sings admirably. This meant that there was a lot of 'acting' through the songs live which, for me, was a bit OTT and distracting ("Too much acting" as Ally Welles from The League Of Gentlemen would say). The facial expressions, overly considered emphasis and melodramatic phrasing were just a bit of a turn off when seeing them in the flesh, to be honest.
Don't get me wrong, Tabor has an undeniably lovely voice, and I did warm into it all a little by the end of the evening, but there was just something a little too...studied? practised? aware?...about it all. The exception to this, for me, was her fantastic rendition of Woody Guthrie's Deportees, which was an incredibly moving version in which she vehemently spat out the initial consonant sound of the titular word. The high point of the show.
Another song worth mentioning was her cover of Save The Last Dance, with which she, appropriately, closed proceedings. She also told us the story behind the song, which I didn't know before. It goes like this: Doc Pomus, disabled by polio, penned it for his wife, who loved to dance. He was unable to dance with her, so would sit and watch her dancing with other men,
"But don't forget who's taking you home and in whose arms you're gonna be. Darling, save the last dance for me."
All in all an enjoyable evening, and no complaints for £6.75...but, nevertheless, I did come away with mixed feelings about the performance.
If you like June Tabor and for some reason are not familiar with the albums below, go and get yourself a copy NOW!Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come
Karen Dalton - It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You Best
Shelagh McDonald - Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
Judee Sill - Judee Sill