Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t expect Gavin Friday to read my blog. Hmmm, but maybe Caroline does, on his behalf. So, I don’t think his superb performance at Crossing Border 2011 in Antwerp was intended as an answer to my warm call for him to return to the stage as “vibrant performer”. I launched that call at the end of my thoughts on his new album catholic , that I considered as quite reticent, held-back and enigmatic.
And, I admit, it’s also a bit cheap to pretend he wouldn’t have done it without my request as we just know Gav sweats, lives and breathes his personae on stage like only Jacques Brel did long before him.
We started our evening by missing Gavin’s interview by our favorite music journalist, Bart Steenhaut. Our dinner, just outside of the Bourla theater at Le Coup Vert in the city was just too good. And, well, mr. Steenhaut had published an interview with Gav the same day so we guessed there weren’t too much revelations that we didn’t know of yet.
After the sounding of the church bells, Gavin and his band started of quite surprisingly with the Virgin Prunes classic Caucasian Walk, driven by bass drum and a slightly reworked bass guitar line and the soft-loud sound explosions (Hérésy style) and Gavin’s evolved singing over it. Great how Gaving revived the song by combining his younger anger with his mysterious whispering and falsetto. I know you can’t have it all, but it was too bad that Dik wasn’t there, as he was at the Irish Electric Picnic concert.
The band continued with Where’d Ya Go? Gone which was a bit louder and more focused on the teasing side of the song than I had experienced it on the album. The next song, the mostly piano-driven Apologia, gave the audience, me and my wife including, the shivers down our spines as it became clear that Gavin was adventuring through his complete solo works. Just a penny for the poor I ask. It was just a little moment of relative silence as Gavin then fiercely bursted into the translated Brel cover Next, also from his solo debut (and recently re-published) Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves. Including military behavior in his shiny suit. Great suit by the way, made him look even sharper than he physically already clearly was.
With Caruso Gavin not only turned the place into a late-nite disco drinking bar that’s so typical for the atmosphere on the Shag Tobacco album but he certainly proved not being one of those ‘pissy popstars’. And we now know it was his uncle Paddy that disturbed his mind at 11 by introducing the young Fionan to this early Italian opera star. After Perfume, with Gavin smelling sex in the venue (like in the song, one of the top songs on catholic for me), he brought us, to my complete exaltation, The King of Trash, not only because he thereby drew from the Adam ‘n’ Eve album but also played one of my all-time favorites. Rex Mortuus Est. After Rags to Riches, Gavin showed his guts by singing the difficult, fragile and very falsetto A Song That Hurts. During the next Able it struck me how great the evening was turning out. The quality of Able, gigantically opening catholic for me, was easily matched by all other catholic material on the concert. Angel did not only end the regular gig but also (finally) showed us the big -no, gigantic- mirrorball sending us back to the disco place.
Luckily the band returned for an encore of Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves, the Oscar Wilde based song from the same titled album, to send us then home with the uplifting message that It’s All Ahead Of You.
It was a great night enjoying Gavin giving the best of himself in his performance, demonstrating what makes him so outstanding and unique; the cabaret-esk clown, an enchanting seducer, a weary drunk or fierce postpunk lad (no women’s dresses or pig heads needed anymore) supported by a subtle, loud or melodic (appropriate as needed) band re-enforced by a warm-hearted cello. The atmosphere went from impressing rage to intensified mantra chants, always enthusiast, always entertaining. Gavin revealed himself once again as an amazing artist chosing work from his amazing catalogue, all fresher than ever, and much into dancing and fooling around that night.
Only the mirror ball shone more that night. But that was a really, really big mirror ball.