Sunday, 7 November 2010

michelle shocked roadworks 2010

Michelle Shocked
The first time I saw Michelle Shocked live was at the Alvin Ailey in New York, as part of a John Lennon tribute evening. It was late in the year and shoppers were carrying fir trees to deck their apartments. I'd already got a large stash of Michelle's CDs by that time and have looked out for her occasional (rare?) visits to the UK.

Then a couple of years ago she played at Union Chapel and we somehow managed to be in the first row or two and last night we repeated it at a venue where we enjoyed another captivating two and a half hours in her company.

This time I think Michelle has visited Edinburgh, Bristol and will go to the London O2 Academy and - where we saw her - the West End Centre, Aldershot. Not a venue on my usual radar and one we initially struggled to find, but an interesting intimate venue and an excellent gathering.

Usually I'd call it a performance, but that implies something to be watched, whilst Michelle is strong on 'nowness' and involvement. She walked amongst the participants, encouraged singing on some and flicked into narratives around the songs.

There's already a huge back-catalogue of her songs and she mixed a few from the campfire and short sharp shocked days with a celebration of the Arkansas Traveler album from about twenty years ago. It was one of those sets where every number sounded fresh and strong with Michelle and the band breathing energy into every note.

Michelle told us of what she described as her five year road trip and of a new project: an album around famous women and we heard an early version of one of the new tracks. The small band of fiddle, banjo and Irish bouzouki were excellent and everyone played with flowing, adaptive ease.

There were discussions of politics, philosophy and the edges of theology, mixed with messages of happiness, love and hope. We grinned our way through the whole concert and the band including Michelle even jammed their way through the interval.

A sublime evening.

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