Edwyn Collins – Edinburgh Queen’s Hall – 21st April 2008

‘I want to take the pleasure with the pain’ he wrote and sang. For so long we thought that it might only be the pain Edwyn would get. But on this night he took his pleasure and we took ours.


 

‘What can I do /But learn to laugh at myself’ sang Edwyn Collins on Falling and Laughing way back in 1980. Here he was again, having had to learn to laugh, to speak and to sing once more. The brain haemorrhages and subsequent MRSA that nearly robbed him of his life in 2005 also robbed him of his voice. The scars of those troubled times are still evident – Collins walks with a stick and spent the set (his first on Scottish soil since his recovery) seated on an amp. His speaking voice too bears witness to his hospitalisation, it is as unsteady as his gait and he has to beat out the syllables of his words with a hand on his leg. His singing voice is, however, a thing of miracles (as indeed is the man himself). He has regained that strange almost adenoidal, yet completely bewitching croon.

 

We are treated to a suite of songs from throughout his career. The majority of the crowd were probably waiting to hear the Orange Juice classics, but it was the new album that shone early in the set. Title track Home Again was a particular highlight ‘I’m home again, hardly certain of my role again’ he sang and whilst the first part of that sentence was undoubtedly true, there most surely be no doubt that he has re-found his role and his reason. The song is a perfect microcosm of the gig; both moving and warm, tear-jerking and life-affirming.

 

These days he can’t play guitar and so we got a supplementary Scottish music legend, his good friend Roddy Frame. Frame, whose immaculate guitar work drove the set, is resplendent in a suit and remains so annoyingly good-looking as to spark rumours that there is an oil-painting in his loft wearing his years for him. The obvious pleasure that Collins derives from the warmth of the crowd and the pleasure that Frame gets from seeing Collins’ pleasure was a joy to behold.

 

That the set contained both Rip It Up and the gargantuan hit A Girl Like You and that neither was the highlight tells you all you need to know about the gig. The very best was saved for the encore. The three songs that formed the coda of this magical gig began with a new and, as yet, unrecorded song I’m Searching For The Truth, performed with only Frame’s acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Sparse and beautiful it brought a genuine tear to the eye (just like in Holiday Hymn – ed) – the more so that, unlike the strangely prophetic songs on Home Again, it was written after his brush with death.

 

This was followed by the magnificent Blue Boy, sounding as fresh as the day it was first recorded. ‘He just listens to the words being sung’ came the lyrics and I was, caught in a perfect moment in a gig of perfect moments. He rounded out the evening with Don’t Shilly-Shally, the song with which he launched his solo career. Earlier in the evening one of the enthusiastic crowd had proclaimed ‘Edwyn, you’ve still got it’ and the way he dispatched another of his inch-perfect pop songs it was clear that he did indeed still have ‘it’.

 

‘I want to take the pleasure with the pain’ he wrote and sang. For so long we thought that it might only be the pain Edwyn would get. But on this night he took his pleasure and we took ours.

 

Words: Rover