[Jandek] Jandek in London, 18 October

Richard Rees Jones richard.rees-jones at ntlworld.com
Tue Oct 18 23:18:30 PDT 2005

The venue for this concert was a beautiful church in central London,  
slap bang in the middle of the West End shopping district.  I must  
have walked past the church many times without ever having noticed  
it.   The doors opened at 7 and I arrived at 7.15.  Not long after,  
Rhodri and Angharad Davies (a Welsh brother and sister duo) opened  
the evening with a short set of improvisations for harp and violin.

Jandek wandered onstage soon after 8.15 in dark shirt, trousers and  
hat, carrying his guitar.  He settled down at the front of the  
'stage' - the choir of the church.  Straight away it became apparent  
that this was going to be a solo acoustic set - his first?  The lack  
of electricity and of backing musicians made perfect sense in the  
context of the venue.

Unfortunately, Jandek's seated position, on the same level as the  
floor, meant some pretty severe visibility problems for those of us  
who were downstairs.  I was only four rows back, but still I could  
only catch occasional glimpses of the man through the forest of heads.

Jandek played for just over an hour, I think.  I defy anyone, after  
seeing this show, to say that he can't play guitar.  The guitar here  
was sparkling and bluesy, full of agile descending runs and inspired  
picking.  The voice was uniformly strong and melancholy throughout.   
I'm afraid I can't tell you whether the songs were new or not.  The  
only lines I noted down were the opening "I made a mistake coming  
here today" and the fabulous "I suppose... I've got no clothes/I  
guess... you see me confess".   These last couplets were delivered  
amid a barrage of blocked chord patterns... great fun.

Watching the man sing and play (at least, as far as I could see him),  
I was struck by a strange sense that he was almost like a ghost.   
Naturally, he didn't speak, smile or acknowledge the audience once.   
His movements seemed slow and unreal, as though there was something  
insubstantial about him.

The evening was rounded off in fairly baffling style by a free jazz  
quartet from Finland.  I like free jazz a lot, but this didn't seem  
to be a particularly coherent example of the genre.

Outside, the promoters had made some nice, small screenprinted  
posters for sale, with the Six And Six cover and the date and venue  
of the show.  I bought one, of course.  The first piece of Jandek  
merchandise? :-)

Richard Rees Jones

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