Bob Corn & Port of Call – Leiden International Student Common Room ,Leiden 9/5/11

We started with the ideals of Gilded Youth and end with the accumulated experience of an Older Head.

These WoTNxt / SUB071 huiskamer concerts never ceased to amaze. From being in a room with stuffed foxes, we moved to the Leiden University international students’ common room.  Entering a beautifully appointed, clean and sunny room, full of cushions and hangings (most un-student like, given my experiences of - albeit 20+ years – vintage), Incendiary took a pew and waited for to Port of Call (known to his mother as Pieter Van Vliet) to take the stage.

Port of Call is a nice, clean-cut lad whose songs have something of Jeff Buckley about them. And the music he makes is very accessible indeed. It's music on the front foot, music that is created to engage with an audience, especially if that audience is young and ardent. Van Vliet’s vibe is romantic, passionate, and very much that of a troubadour: falling in and out of love, and displaying a range of emotions through song.  It’s mercurial stuff; the vocal delivery – depending on a song’s subject - goes from tremulous whisper to screaming and bawling. There are other physical manifestations of ardent youth: he even skips a bit during some of the more up-tempo tracks... Still, however questionable it all looks when read in this review, the whole show is convincing when witnessed live, primarily because he can play quite a bit. There’s no difficulty in bashing out lyrical and fairly complex passages on acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by a harmonica and (at one point) a mate knocking out a rhythm on a coffee table.  A set ends and there’s enthusiastic applause from his young cohorts.

A pause, and with the set of Bob Corn a marked contrast ensues:  as metaphorical as physical. We started with the ideals of Gilded Youth and end with the accumulated experience of an Older Head. On the one hand ideals and ambitions and yearning gave way to observations, the passionate “expressionist” strumming to quiet almost minimalist finger picking, on another, the humour is cranked up a level. Bob Corn tells good stories: his bemused delivery is engaging and one that puts the audience at ease. He’s happy to be the clown, albeit a clown who pokes gentle fun at things in his life. And the joke’s always on him at some point. Songs (and stories) involve his travelling through Portugal and Spain, looking at Rainbows and a cover of an American band who he really likes. As usual the set ends on a song about wings (one where he asks the crowd what the local patois is for the word, "wings"), and a brief foray through the audience whilst singing the track. It’s great stuff and the set is presented in a masterful manner.

A great evening, and let’s hope for more of the same over summer.