lundi, septembre 06, 2004

Edwyn Collins

Edwyn Collins live. The Venue, Edinburgh

James Smart. Monday September 6, 2004. The Guardian

"I'm going back to my roots," announces Edwyn Collins. Tonight's one-off from the Scottish pop iconoclast is certainly simple. First he sits and sings and plays guitar; later he stands up to do the same, consulting his notepad for the set list. As a sort of final set piece, he is joined by a long-haired man named Andy, who mumbles a country song and plays lead guitar.

Collins is on beaming form: he stops songs to deliver anecdotes, offer a member of the audience 50p to safeguard his plectrum, knock the Libertines, tap-dance and sip other people's drinks. "It tastes Russian," he muses. "Must be Russian water."

It's an intimate and supremely likable showcase, as if your favourite rock god had decided to play a set from his bar stool. Collins, of course, never quite made it as a megastar, although he raided the top 10 both as a part of funky new wave outfit Orange Juice (with Rip It Up) and as a solo artist (with the briefly ubiquitous A Girl Like You).

He plays songs from both careers tonight. A touching Low Expectations, a sparky Gorgeous George and a sweetly resigned Consolation Prize illustrate a career that has been scattered with brilliance, his guitar slow-dancing beneath a voice that veers between gentle croon and deadpan mutter.

Incredibly, given the simplicity of the set-up, there are technical problems all night. Collins's guitar occasionally drops from the mix, and Andy's eventually packs up entirely. Such trouble seems emblematic of Collins's stop/start career and, fittingly, he carries on regardless. "I can't think which songs to do now we've only got one guitar," he announces affably. "So it's all fucked."

In such circumstances, A Girl Like You sounds less like carefully honed pop and more like a sensitive epic, full of ruffled beauty. When he encores with Orange Juice classic What Presence?!, the answer, plainly, is more than most acts could dream of.