Joe Purdy, The Portland Arms, Cambridge, 9th June 2017

Perhaps the events of the previous night gave this Joe Purdy gig an additional frisson – who couldn’t be even more than usually moved by songs asking for – nay, demanding – equality, tolerance and understanding the day after divisiveness and insularity had been so strikingly rejected ? Here, in a small venue behind the main bar of The Portland Arms, was an audience waiting for Joe Purdy to articulate the way that they were feeling – and he didn’t disappoint.

Appearing as a ragamuffin hobo sporting the folk-singers headgear of choice – a battered cap – and clutching a hard-travelled Gibson acoustic Joe Purdy seems to have stepped out of Inside Llewyn Davis, and that his songs could have fitted right into that hallowed Greenwich Village scene just highlights that the civil rights struggle is not yet over – there are steps still to be completed, and some of them are not small. His latest – and totally essential – album Who Will Be Next featured heavily in his ninety minute or so set. And why wouldn’t it when it contains songs as powerful as the title track with its disturbing travel through the USA’s gun culture. From ownership through over-reliance on the gun as an argument settler on to indiscriminate gun massacres and the pathos of accidental deaths when children play with their elders’ “toys”.  There’s the playful innocence of Kristine which paints Purdy as a hapless romantic and there’s the wishful thoughts for a better world that make up New Year’s Eve as well as the honest analysis of racism that is provided by Children of Privilege.  Hard truths told honestly and with unarguable conclusions.

A Joe Purdy concert is not just a political rally – although if it was it’d be the best political rally you could imagine. Deftly mixed in with the heavy topics are sing-alongs like Laura Wilson, where we’d all managed to pick up the multi-line chorus after two runs through. That’s not too hard for a smart Cambridge crowd.  And there’s plenty of self-deprecating humour and some sharp put downs for disruptive audience members. One talkative new drinker earnt “Hey! Shut the fuck up. I mean…thank you for coming along tonight but (mumbles) shut the fuck up.” Engaging, funny, hell of a songwriter, a foot tapping whisky spilling one man band with his guitar and harps. Remind you of someone? Well, I can’t think for you…you’ll have to decide. So get along to one of of the remaining UK tour dates and find out for yourself.  Joe Purdy is a must see – and you can quote us on that.

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

Leave a comment..