There’s only one way forward

Martin and James – Brel, Glasgow; November 11th 2011

We’re going round in circles
But I’ve heard too much
Now I’m hanging up
I can’t see straight
I’m too far away from you

Is it fitting to quote such a sad song when writing about such an amazing concert? Considering the emotional rollercoaster this night brought with it I’d say it is. This gig made me happy and sad, laugh and almost cry. I felt pure joy and underlying melancholia as well as every emotion in-between and I loved every bit of it. My vocabulary does not contain enough words do describe the magic of it, but I’ll try.

I like seeing bands play on their home turf and when Martin and James announced a gig in Glasgow, I instantly thought about going, but then wasn’t sure. After the concert in Rot an der Rot was over, however, I just had to go and see them again and this was the only chance left this year.

After a trip that started at 3 a.m. and took me via Amsterdam to Glasgow and walking around the city for half the day, I arrived at the Brel, to see where they would be playing. It was like a winter garden, really small with a glass roof. I have no idea how many people fit in there, but not a whole lot. I got to sit there for a while until they kicked me out and closed for soundcheck. Luckily, the guys arrived before that happened. James greeted me with “You are joking. You came all the way here for us?” I nodded, what was there to say? We chatted briefly and I finally gave them the CD with the pictures I had promised back in May.

When they let us in again they had replaced the tables with a few rows of chairs. 6 or 7 rows if I recall correctly with 3 to 4 chairs each. In the back there was standing room, about the same size as the sitting space in front. Possibly the smallest venue I have ever been in. The front row was so close to the stage, being there felt like sitting on the stage, but I still did. I like being close. The place filled up quickly and as far as I could tell everyone but me was family or friends. I knew this was going to be a gig with few fans, but I hadn’t expected that. Luckily, I didn’t get a chance to feel out of place, because everyone made me feel welcome and those who chatted with me were really nice and very patient regarding my troubles understanding their Scottish accents. 😀

Soon it was showtime. First up was the lovely Maeve O’Boyle. Her singing fit well as warm up for the guys and I enjoyed her set very much. I only remember the following songs, but she played a few more: Taxi, Brothers in Arms (not the Dire Straits song, but her very own), All my sins
Would have loved to buy her CD, but she was already gone after the gig.

A short break and then it was time for the guys. There was hardly any space left in the room, all the seats taken and every other place to sit down as well, with lots of people standing in the back. Martin and James came on stage and were warmly received by the crowd. It was clear they were among friends.

From the very first notes the gig was special. Their usual shyness almost disappeared, I don’t think I have ever seen them this relaxed and comfortable on stage (and it’s not as if they are overly nervous at other gigs). They were on fire right from the beginning of the gig, totally into it. James talked more than usual (and with a stronger accent too ;)) and Martin belted out the songs like there was no tomorrow. It was as strong performance and it certainly looked like they were enjoying every second of it.

The audience was much into it too, yet it all felt as if they were playing in someone’s living room. Everyone was having drinks, there was a lot of chatter going on when there were breaks, but everyone listened intently during the songs. The crowd loved it, cheering them on and laughing with them. I can’t remember all of the things James or Martin said, but most of it made me laugh. At one point James said something about Germans that I do not remember, then looked at me going “No offence”. I just laughed. He also pointed me out to the crowd joking that I was the only one in the room wearing a Martin and James T-Shirt and they should learn a lesson from me. 😀

Whenever I looked around I saw only happy faces. All songs lead to much cheering and James even got everyone to clap along to ‘I have to fall’, because “all the audiences in Europe do that.” The biggest surprise for me was ‘Walk away’ which I had never heard before. Martin explained how they had remembered it driving home from France two weeks ago. I have forgotten the details already, but somehow his story ended with a comment yelled from the room and everyone cracking up.

The entire gig felt light-hearted and so positive. I lost all concept of space and time, just living in the moment and enjoying every note, smiling, singing along. They had just finished ‘All over the News’ when Martin said they had been signaled that 10 p.m. was the curfew, “but we have a ton of songs left to play.”

They played three more. For the second time ‘Love’s not a fight’ brought me close to tears. It is such a beautifully sad song. A surprising ‘You’re a window’ made me smile again and ‘One way forward’ ended it all. The time passed in the blink of an eye and it felt as if they hadn’t played long at all. That’s what all the best concerts feel like and I would not have wanted to miss this one for the world.

The night ended for me with a lot of friendly chatting, before we were asked to leave the room. I had feared I might feel like an intruder, because I was the only “outsider”, but everyone made me feel like I belonged. It was wonderful. I said goodbye and left, walking back to my hotel in the rain, feeling elated.

I have seen many concerts in the last twenty years and there were quite a few I have described as wonderful or amazing. A number of these concerts are dear do me for a variety of reasons, but only very few are so special that I know I won’t forget them for the rest of my life. This concert was one of those.

Setlist

She’s light guiding
Turn it up
Maybe it’ time
Wheels
Live Wires
Crashing into Love
I have to fall
I was blind
Walk away
Wrong Directions
You’re alive
Little bits of Light
All over the News
Love’s not a Fight
You’re a Window
One Way forward

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