Topic: Bernard Butler

Gosforth Civic Theatre; 23rd June 2024

Shoes cleaned, check. Shirt ironed, check. vest tucked into socks, check. I'm not usually this fastidious, but I was going to Gosforth last night.

The reason, finally, planets aligned and I was heading to catch up with a guitarist I've admired for quite some time; Bernard Butler, one of the most influential to have arisen in the 1990s. I have to admit, I never really "got" Suede, it was to solo work he did on Neneh Cherry's Woman single (1996) that spun the top of my head. Since then, he has released a brace of solo albums, a brace with Soul singer David McAlmont and a body of work of collaborations and genre-hopping production that I'd compare to Mick Ronson.

So, on stage, Bernard Butler is quite the talker, and with a 35 year history, he's got plenty of funny stories, though not in a "funny thing happened on the way" kind of thing, but in wry observances and questions people don't ask (what if the signs for Hadrian's Wall just point to some remote pub?), and as far as Newcastle and the surrounding area, he's clearly knows and loves the area - though not quite enough to move here....

However, it's the music that counts, and he's on the road with his 3rd solo album, Good Grief, his first "solo" since 1998, but don't let that fool you. Sure, the music starts with 3 acoustic number from this, very much in the Bert Jansch style. And then the acoustic is changed for the signature Gibson ES-355TD SV (with Bisby vibrato tailpiece) and we're off through a career spanning selection, swapping occassionally for a deeper, hollow-bodied Gibson; taking in the collaboration with David McAlmont (though has to be said, vocally, he's no David McAlmont); the early solo albums we're touched and a couple of numbers from 2022's For All Our Days That Tear The Heart album with Jessie Buckley (and a fount of anecdotes there...). Even the Suede days got a nod in the 100 minute performance.

In short, not quite the show I was expecting; the man solo rather than fronting a band. I was thrown a little, the stage at the start being dominated by a keyboard set-up that turned out was for the support artist, Mezanmi,(Fran O'Hanlon) who was a southing treat to the ears. However, while the music did most of the talking, Bernard Butler was a revelation that's I'd highly recommend.

Set list (approx): -
Preaching to the Choir
Deep Emotions
People Move On
Camber Sands
Living the Dream
Shallow the Water
(Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler song)
20 Years A-Growing
(Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler song)
London Snow
Pretty D
Not Alone

When life gives you lemons; don't make lemonade.
Give back the lemons.  Why were the lemons free?  What's wrong with the lemons?
Do Not trust the lemons...