There are all sorts of reasons to celebrate why an Ivor Novello award-winning musician and record producer is playing the Hebden Bridge Trades Club.It’s something of a coup (another one) for the pint-sized but perfectly formed set-up that narrowly missed out on the NME’s Small Venue of the Year award last year. And it’s something of a triumph that, after his double brain haemorrhage in 2005, Edwyn Collins is not only touring to promote his sixth solo album since 1994’s seminal Gorgeous George, but also that it’s one of his best yet.
Collins takes the stage with the aid of a silver-topped cane, installs himself behind the mic, and his band take us right back to the beginning in 1980. As opening lines to debut singles go, “You must think me very naïve” is a bit of a corker and the heads of the crowd are bobbing instantly to Orange Juice’s Falling and Laughing.
They love it. I love it. Make Me Feel Again off Gorgeous George is lapped up before Edwyn smiles asks the crowd with a smile “Remember Orange Juice?”
There’s a cheer in response. The question is left hanging in the air until, with superb comic timing, he adds “I don’t…only kidding!”
The sheer warmth and humour emanating from the stage is worth the admission price on its own. At the age of 53, Collins’ story of recovering from a stroke which left him unable to walk, talk, read or write is an amazing one, perhaps told better elsewhere.
His speech is still a little slurred, and he still can’t use his right hand, but when he sings his voice sounds clear, rich and resonant. Early Orange Juice numbers like What Presence?! and Ghost of a Chance are interspersed with punk-infused soulful wonderfulness from the new album Understated. The LP’s title track in particular roars and thunders along.
It has to be said that he’s assembled a cracking band. James Walbournc and ex-Rockingbird Andy Hackett on guitars, Carywn Ellis on bass and keyboards, Collins’ son Will on bass and backing vocals…drummer Liam Hutton and Walbourne emerge with particular credit. “Nice one, James,” says Edwyn to his guitarist, not without reason.
Some of the crowd get in a request by singing the “wooaah woooah” introduction to Orange Juice’s early single Felicity which is gently rebuffed from the stage. “James [Kirk] wrote that one. I don’t know it!”
But Orange Juice fans – and looking at the audience, I’d say a fair few of them were around back in the day – are pretty well-catered for. Notwithstanding that omission (my own personal favourite, I Can’t Help Myself, doesn’t get an airing either), Dying Day satisfies the hardcore before the newer soul-influenced solo material gets everyone shuffling and nodding heads appreciatively, and dancing breaks out down the front.
Too Bad (That’s Sad), the lead track from Understated is introduced as “a little bit Motown” and – like 2010’s Losing Sleep it shines and stomps along, as does current single Dilemna which I have to say is one of the best records Edwyn Collins has ever come up with.
The show roars to a climax with Orange Juice’s biggest hit: Rip It Up made it to number eight in the charts back in 1983, and features quite possibly the squashiest bassline ever. And a personal milestone for me – I grew up in the ’80s and wasn’t of gig-going age until the ’90s, so this is the first time I’ve witnessed a saxophone solo played live. Hats off to James Walbourne.
And as you’d expect by this stage of the proceedings, A Girl Like You lifts the entire room off its feet – Collins sings the last line, raises his cane in appreciation and triumph, and carefully navigates his way off stage to an ovation as Walbourne, Hackett and co finish off the proceedings.
Much yelling and stomping brings an acoustic beginning to the encore. The title track from his 2007 album Home Again is introduced as “a quiet song…so shush for that” – but the respect he’s earned from his audience makes the request almost unnecessary and Down The Line from Understated sits well as the sequel to it. “I had a stroke you know…poor me!” quips Collins, ironically. Nothing about his attitude could be further from the truth. Orange Juice’s Blue Boy and early solo single Don’t Shilly Shally leave us uplifted as the silver-topped cane is raised in triumph once more.
I had a bicycle accident last year, and struggled for months to overcome the after-effects of the minor head injury that resulted from it. It pales into insignificance compared to what Edwyn Collins has been through and come back from. To see him back on form and performing like this, and to understand how he has responded so brilliantly to overcome his circumstances, is an inspiration that will stay with me for a very long time.
He’s playing the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool on Saturday April 20th. Tickets are still available. What are you waiting for?
Review by Drew Savage
What: Edwyn Collins
Where: Hebden Bridge Trades Club, April 14, 2013
More info: http://thetradesclub.com/