Here is a truly rare concert event for Australian music lovers. Following acclaimed, sold-out performances across the UK, a special evening called “Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake” is on its way to the Sydney Opera House November 11 and the Melbourne Recital Centre November 14 and 15.
Curated by Nick Drake’s original producer, Joe Boyd (at the helm for two of the Drake albums – Five Leaves Left in 1969, and Bryter Layter in 1970), this remarkable concert brings together renowned contemporary singers united by their reverence for the material. It is an unprecedented tribute that honours the work Nick Drake left behind by gathering the collaborators who were involved in those unforgettable original recordings.
The band and string section is led by musical director Kate St John, anchored by double bassist Danny Thompson, who played on many of Drake’s albums, and features the original orchestrations arranged by Robert Kirby in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sadly, Kirby passed away very recently, but not before conducting the string section at the UK’s very first ‘Way To Blue’ concert in May 2009. Now, ‘Way to Blue’ has become a tribute to Kirby as well as Drake.
The special guest artists who will sing and re-interpret Nick Drake’s often hauntingly poetic material include: folk rediscovery Vashti Bunyan, Scritti Politti front-man Green Gartside, psychedelic pop maverick Robyn Hitchcock, stunning Irish singer Lisa Hannigan, American soul powerhouse Krystle Warren, and UK success-story Scott Matthews. Australian artists will be announced shortly.
Performances to date for this very special concert have been nothing short of extraordinary. As the UK’s Telegraph reported, “It features a stellar cast – all of whom revere Drake’s music intensely.” The Times describes one of the concert’s jaw-dropping events like this: “When the truly revelatory moment happened, there wasn’t a soul in the room that didn’t feel it. Over the loud, modal drone of her own harmonium, the Irish singer-songwriter Hannigan led from the front with a version of Black-Eyed Dog that turned Drake’s darkest song into a floor-shakingly macabre jig. If anything could have roused him from his eternal slumber, this was it.”
‘Way to Blue’ Artists in Summary:
Vashti Bunyan‘s 1971 Joe Boyd-produced LP initially found even fewer buyers than Nick Drake’s. But the legend of the deleted record grew, assisted by tapes passed from hand-to-hand in the pre-iTunes era. The eventual reissue – and massive sales – of Just Another Diamond Day in 2000 brought Vashti triumphantly back into the music business, where she is regarded as a spiritual Godmother to the contemporary folk movement in America and Britain.
Green Gartside is the extraordinary voice of ‘80s chart and critic favourite Scritti Politti. 1985’s Cupid and Psyche included three UK top-20 hits, one of which was covered by Miles Davis. After a long silence, he released White Bread Black Beer in 2006 and was nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Irish singer Lisa Hannigan gained her initial prominence through a six-year collaboration as backing vocalist with Damien Rice. Her first solo album, the self released Sea Sew, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2008. Her duet with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol “Some Surprise” was featured on the US TV series Gray’s Anatomy. Lisa’s second album, titled “Passenger” produced by Joe Henry will be released later this year.
Robyn Hitchcock grew up loving the music of ‘60s eccentrics like Drake, Syd Barrett and the Incredible String Band. His career, first as lead singer of The Soft Boys and subsequently as a globetrotting rock troubadour, has shown that it is possible to both pay homage to the Sixties and be fiercely your own man at the same time. His performance in a vacant shop in New York became a Jonathan Demme feature film, Storefront Hitchcock. He and Joe Boyd perform an occasional double-act of music and words called ‘White Bicycles’.
Wolverhampton-based songsmith Scott Matthews is known for utilising an eclectic array of instrumentation from tabla to brass band. His acclaimed debut album Passing Strangersold over 80,000 copies and won him an Ivor Novello best song award for the signature single Elusive. His follow-up album, Elsewhere , features the song 12 Harps, which is a duet with Led Zeppelin Legend, Robert Plant. As well as releasing Live in London in 2010, a complete show recorded at Shepherds Bush Empire, Scott has been fortunate enough to tour with Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Rufus Wainwright, Tori Amos and Robert Plant. Scott has just completed his third album set for release late 2011 titled What the Night Delivers, which includes a guest appearance from the legendary Danny Thompson.
Krystle Warren burst upon English audiences with a show-stealing performance on the Jools Holland Later programme in October 2009 as well as plaudits from Rufus Wainwright and kd lang. She repeated the trick recently at the Barbican’s Jazz Voice concert in the London Jazz Festival. Her original songs and soulful, husky singing brought her to the attention of the Paris-based Because label, home to Manu Chao and Amadou and Mariam, resulting in the release of her album Circles. “We are certainly in the presence of a mighty talent.” Colin Irwin of the BBC.
Musical director Kate St John has served a similar function on many of the most memorable concerts of recent years, including Daughters of Albion, the tribute to Nino Rota, Marianne Faithfull’s recent tour and Twisted Christmas. She was a member of Dream Academy, held down the saxophone chair for years in Van Morrison’s band and has released her own vocal and instrumental albums in collaboration with Roger Eno.
When it comes to British music, no bass player comes close to having the influence of Danny Thompson. A founding member of folk-pop-jazz pioneers Pentangle, Danny played bass on much of Nick’s Five Leaves Left but that is just the tip of his musical iceberg: John Martyn, Sandy Denny, Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin, Sonny Terry, Alexis Korner, Peter Gabriel, Ralph McTell, Chris McGregor, Loreena McKennit, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Marc Bolan, Richard Thompson, Everything But the Girl, Martin Simpson, Robert Plant, Donovan, Tim Buckley, Loudon Wainwright III, Mark Knopfler, Alison Kraus, David Sylvian, Rod Stewart, Bela Fleck, Ronnie Scott, Roy Orbison, Jerry Douglas, Davy Graham, and Eric Bibb are but a few of the legion of singers and musicians indebted to Danny’s immense musicianship and spirit.
Neill MacColl comes from the impeccable pedigree of parents Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl. Not only has he fluently mastered Nick Drake’s guitar tunings and playing, but, he has provided rock-solid support to singers including half-sister Kirsty MacColl, Marianne Faithfull, David Gray and Steve Earle as well as forming the group Liberty Horses with brother Callum.
Zoe Rahman has emerged in recent years as one of Britain’s foremost piano talents. Her own music successfully adds elements of her Bangladeshi heritage, while she brings sparkling originality to her collaborations with Steve Williamson, Clark Tracey and Palestinian singer Reem Kelani.
Martyn Barker was the original drummer with Shriekback and now plays regularly with Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, as well as backing up Billy Bragg, Beth Gibbons and many other singers and instrumentalists.
Guitarist Steve Jones has made a name for himself using technology to produce evolving textured sounds with artists including über-producer Brian Eno and renowned French band AIR. On a more rootsy note in 2010 he toured with Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band, before becoming soundscape-maker for film composer Craig Armstrong.
Nick Drake fans – make sure you are in attendance for what will be
an unforgettable evening of musical magic and mystery.
AUSTRALIAN DATES NOVEMBER 2011
Friday 11 November 2011
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 November 2011
MELBOURNE RECITAL CENTRE
TICKETS ON SALE:
MELB Wed 17 Aug
SYD Mon 22 Aug