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James Marsters in concert

Heard & seen: Friday, April 29th
Where: Carling Academy, N1 Centre, Islington (London)
Support band: yes

There is an old adage that says that if you can't say anything nice, it's better to say nothing at all -- and I've thought about keeping schtumm; but then, too many of you knew I was going...

How best to describe the experience that was James Marsters in concert last Friday? I can be brief and capture my review in two words exactly, and those words would be: entirely forgettable. But that would perhaps be too brief and unbalanced.

Technically, I suppose JM is well able to play the guitar and sing a bit (and since I can't do either, I have to give him credit for this at least); but his musical offerings lack the elusive quality that makes me prick up my ears and recognise a true musician. His songs are okay-ish (I'm sure he'd agree he's not the greatest lyricist in the world), but kind of formulaic and none of them sound particularly inspired or engaging or even the slightest bit interesting...'bland and unremarkable' is how I would describe them.

He drew a good crowd, though -- the Carling Academy was filled to capacity with an uncritical audience of mainly squealing fangirls (and their mothers and grandmothers!), who unfortunately kept screaming for him to take his shirt off; a request he declined by joking it was half-off already -- but the fact that it was made, vociferously and repeatedly, shows that whatever they may have let themselves be overheard as saying while queueing to get into the venue, few were actually serious about supporting him in his musical aspirations.

And if I'm totally honest, I'd have to say that neither was I -- having already had a taste of what he was like in Ghost of the Robot last year (twice!), and having heard downloads of his Civilized Man-album prior to going to England, I must admit my expectations weren't high; and I viewed the gig mainly as an opportunity for a night out with calove and bogwitch -- which ensured that I enjoyed myself nonetheless, although mainly through playing I Spy while waiting for the support band to go on stage. Which they did, eventually. They weren't bad, either -- nothing out of the ordinary, but solid in their genre and endeavour. The singer admitted they had never played to such a large audience before and would we mind if they took a photograph to show to her mum? That ensured her the audience's goodwill and for most of their time on stage, the fangirls behaved, only losing their patience after having had to sit/stand through an interminable song about a man called Frank who refused treatment after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, happy to be reunited with his wife of 52 years who'd died before him (in real life, the singer explained, she was a doctor in a hospital).

JM came on after another long-ish wait, in a shirt open to the navel, and opened with -I think it was- Every Man Thinks That God Is On His Side...although it might have been For What I Need, all his songs sound a bit same-y to me. He talked about breaking the E-string on his guitar earlier and how that's not supposed to happen ever, and said it was good to be in London again, wished someone a happy birthday when they asked for it, and seemed comfortable enough on stage to fluff his way through a song he'd just written without too much embarrassment or apology. I was at the back, propping up the bar, catching glances of his performance in the mirror; but frankly, much more interested in and amused by the antics of the young bartender whose first ever night at the Carling it was, and who needed my help remembering the prices of drinks and where to find the bottle opener.

The gig lasted some 40-45 minutes, after which we wasted no time hanging about: bogwitch had to get back to her place and calove and I to our respective hotels. It wasn't the worst gig I've ever been, but I've seen and heard enough now to know that I will never ever go to a JM musical extravaganza again. The theatrical thing at Hallow'een, though? Most likely.

Comments

( 15 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
evenstar_estel
May. 3rd, 2005 09:36 am (UTC)
Funny, everyone's saying Carling wasn't so great, but that all the others, especially Coventry and St. James were really good.
gamiila
May. 3rd, 2005 10:39 am (UTC)
I suppose JM's music might come across better in a smaller venue, even though the PA system in the Carling was really good and couldn't be faulted.

But most of what I've written is subjective, down to me. I like JM as an actor; as a musician, I'm not convinced he really has what it takes.

Also, of course, I'd just been to four superb</i> performances by CoRo before going to see James, and therefore, kind of spoilt. ;-)
evenstar_estel
May. 4th, 2005 07:23 am (UTC)
I still rather see James on his worst day than CoRo. They just don't do it for me. But that's just meI think James is at a 4 out of 10 on his development as a singer/songwriter/musician - which means he's got a long way to go and I think he's got the potential to be really excellent. I happen to think he's pretty good already. Songs like Civilized Man prove it to me at any rate.

When I think of man and acoustic guitar the ones that come to mind are Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Jeff Martin, Damien Rice, Greg McPherson and oldies like Neil Young. I'm sure there's dozens more. I'd like to see James join their ranks and I'd say it's not ridiculous or impossible a notion.
gamiila
May. 4th, 2005 09:07 am (UTC)
Spoken like a true fan! ;-)
(Anonymous)
May. 4th, 2005 10:02 am (UTC)
That's a bit passive aggressive, isn't it?

Marishka
gamiila
May. 4th, 2005 10:30 am (UTC)
Is it? 's Not meant to be...hence the smiley.
desdemonaspace
May. 3rd, 2005 10:31 am (UTC)
Oh, dear. I'd go, if only once just to see him for once. (I'd be the grandmother you referred to in the audience!)

*looks on bright side* At least you got to see Cass and Boggy.
gamiila
May. 3rd, 2005 10:49 am (UTC)
I'd go, if only once just to see him for once.

Oh yes, I agree you'd have to go once, if you ever got the chance; just to satisfy your curiosity...and who knows, you might even like it better than I did.

At least you got to see Cass and Boggy

Now that was definitely of the good!
sanda56
May. 3rd, 2005 10:34 am (UTC)
Seemed like a well-balanced report to me. I'm just soooo glad I didn't go!

Wonder why nobody's burnt that shirt? He was forced to buy a decent pair of jeans early on in the tour, you know. *nods*

Still, at least you got to help the new bar-man! ;)
gamiila
May. 3rd, 2005 10:52 am (UTC)
Wonder why nobody's burnt that shirt?

I don't know. I got the impression you'd have to pry it off him with a crowbar...or that could have just been his reaction to the fangirl shout-outs.

Still, at least you got to help the new bar-man!

And got free beer out of it, so I wasn't not complaining!
sanda56
May. 3rd, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
Free Beer! :D
gamiila
May. 3rd, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)
Truly, the highlight of the evening! ;-)
sanda56
May. 3rd, 2005 02:39 pm (UTC)
LOL! Poor James. *g*
bogwitch
May. 3rd, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'd blotted out Frank. ::shivers::
gamiila
May. 3rd, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC)
Wish I could...
( 15 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )

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