James Yorkston - Paradiso, Amsterdam - 8/05/05

Attempts were gamely made by Mr Y to play Mother Sky by Can  but, 30 seconds in, this mighty project dissolved in a fit of laughter.



Six o clock in the afternoon is not the most felicitous time for either watching or, indeed, playing a gig. It felt weird, walking into the empty Paradiso and trudging into the upstairs room which was, at that stage, populated only by the bar staff. "Gawd, is there going to be anybody – apart from ourselves – watching this gig?" Eighteen more brave souls eventually joined us, shuffling nervously around, coughing quietly and generally behaving as if they were about to sit for the first exam of the school year. Well...


To be fair to the Paradiso, I must have been the only person aware that James Yorkston would be playing. The pre-publicity surrounding the gig seemed to be non-existent, which is a crying shame,because James Yorkston gigs are absolute cast-iron certainties when it comes to having a good time. And this one was no exception.


"Look, seeing as there are only twenty of you, I'll play what you want; any requests?" The audience at this stage were quite happy for Mr Yorkston to set the mood, which he did quite brilliantly, conjuring up magical versions of Edward, Heron, Hermitage and Ship Wreckers from the last album Just Beyond the River. Suddenly, you found yourself on some windswept and forbidding coast rather than in an empty venue. Yorkston's music has always contained a strong autobiographical element, making his songs mini adventures to be participated in and it was a relief to relax and be swept away from that empty upstairs room for an hour or so.


The audience clapped as loudly as politeness dictates in these situations; (Ever heard of anyone cheering enthusiastically in a venue populated by only twenty people? No, neither have I.) The first request; for Banjo #1 was, (much to the pleader's embarrassment) turned down; "Honestly, I would if I could, but I've only got my guitar". Attempts were gamely made by Mr Y to play Mother Sky by Can, but, 30 seconds in, this mighty project dissolved in a fit of laughter.


It didn't matter, we were all happy enough. Mr Y wasn't allowed to leave till he had performed two encores, which is some measure of the quality of the gig he played. Then it was off into the evening, still plenty of time remaining for dinner and drinks.


On reflection, I have to say that this gig will rank as one of the highlights of the year; due solely to the determination and perseverance shown by the good Mr Yorkston in pulling us out of our initial discomfort. For once I won't lay into you lot for not being there, you probably didn't know, or have just found out now by reading this review.


All I would say is keep your eyes peeled next time, because you missed a treat.


Words : Richard Foster

Photograph : Damian Leslie