“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
This (now, somewhat clichéd) sentiment by author Professor William W. Purkey is personified in the bold Eddi Reader. Whether waltzing with an imaginary dance partner or bowing a magic fiddle, she inhabits each song, feeling each line and melody with her entire being. She seems to get lost in the sound and, as an audience member, it’s a pleasure to witness.
Stopping off at the RNCM to promote her new album, the set mainly comprised new songs – each with a wee story all of its own. No stranger to acting (Eddi played the lead in John Byrne’s 1990 series Your Cheatin’ Heart) the inbetweeny chatty bits were a delight, peppered with charming family anecdotes, background to the creative process behind the new album and other stories from her past (she does a mean Amy Winehouse impersonation by the way). It’s one step away from stand-up.
Accompanied by a superb band (featuring long-time collaborator Boo Hewerdine), she mined a couple of tunes from her Fairground Attraction days, with a brisk and sunny version of The Moon Is Mine, and the still-wonderful Perfect, but the majority of the set is from the new one, Vagabond. And it is sprinkled with some absolute crackers.
The lighthearted Back the Dogs has some cheeky little moments which echo early Fairground Attraction stuff. A welcome surprise was Macushla (My Darling), a belter from the much-missed Michael Marra, the Bard of Dundee. The stunning In Ma Ain Country just made me long for Scotland.
Favourites from her Robert Burns album Charlie is My Darlin’ and Willie Stewart got the crowd going but it was one of the lesser known tunes which summed up the gig. Leezie Lindsay (it featured only on later extended versions of the Burns album) was the first real sing-along of the evening. A beautiful tune, it was made all the more special by Eddi doffing her hat to two of our most revered musical treasures by including a couple of lines each of Dirty Old Town (Ewan McColl) and Ask (The Smiths). Nice touch.
However, the real highlight of the night for me was an impromptu rendition of Moon River – Eddi in character as a half-cut auntie holding court in her Glasgow tenement front room, whisky in hand, fag on the go. Even as she threw lines away, staggering around, in character to the last, the sound she made was sublime. That voice now rings out like bells, richer and more tuneful than ever. It’s a comforting and joyful sound – a sound which makes you feel welcome.
And that was the beauty of the gig. It was as if Eddi had opened the door to her Glasgow flat, thrust a wee nippy sweetie* into our hand and invited us all in for a sing-song. Gallus**.
Review and photos by Chris Payne
What: Eddi Reader
Where: RNCM, Manchester
When: touring until November 30, 2013
More info: www.eddireader.co.uk, http://rncm.ac.uk/