a fuzzy Simon Armitage, signing books, to ghosts in the machine!
On Tuesday I went to Leeds to see Richard Hawley; on Friday I saw and heard Simon Armitage, in Wakefield.
Richard Hawley was awesome. He played a lot of songs from his new CD, 'Standing at the Sky's Edge', which I've been listening to avidly, for weeks now. It really mixes his trademark 'crooning', with something more psychedelic, and guitar-based. There are lots of drones in the music, which I dearly love, and nature references within the song's lyrics.
Also a lot of....quiet....then LOUD....sections; where Hawley's voice is soft, and the main focus of the song. Then there is a shift to loud, rocking guitar-based sounds. His lyrics too, are subtle, and don't always go where one immediately expects. He eschews cliche...which is always delightful.
The stage set, too, deserves a mention. He had trees, standing behind the band, appropriate in view of the subject matter of the new songs, and the way he referenced the natural world.
I presume the trees were in pots of some kind; and they had magically maintained their green-ness, and leaves. During the show, they were light-drenched in hallucinogenic colours, like stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals.
I was struck by the connection, as the Gothic cathedrals have columns, with carved greenery and leaves, marching down aisles, creating a forest of stone. The ceilings are intertwining branches of stone, supporting the roof, and impressing the viewer even more strongly of the outer world of nature, brought inside the religious buildings.
My feeling of being inside a cathedral, was emphasised even more, by the fact that Hawley had a music stand beside him...in case he forgot his lyrics? It looked like a church lectern! The world according to Rev Richard Hawley! Mmmmm!
Simon Armitage was appearing in Wakefield as part of Wakefield's first Literary Festival. He did his reading at Westgate Chapel, which accommodates a bigger audience than the Orangery. Simon was reading from his book which documents his walk (from North to South; against prevailing weather and wisdom!) along the Pennine Way. He was humorous; serious; interesting; profound; just what you want and expect of a poet!
He was asked if he'd listened to music on his mammoth walk, as he's well known as a massive music fan. He replied that he deliberately didn't take his iPod, as he wanted to immerse himself in the experience of the walk, and get away from those things we use everyday that can distract us from the world around us.
He did say that he'd been in a pub, on one section of the walk, and put some music on the jukebox, and it sounded almost physical. That he felt as if he could have reached out and touched it. That it was hallucinatory.
Such is the power of music. It can create synaesthesia within us.
Simon Armitage's gig, then, connects to Richard Hawley's. The connection of their experiences of music; and the power of both music, and the natural world. When I experience these connections, I am lifted, and my soul is fed.