Pop: Nanci Griffith / The Crickets Waterfront Hall, Belfast
Wednesday 07 May 1997
It's a fine line between indulgence and inspiration, but to judge from not only the set list but particularly Griffith's own most curious performance tonight it's also a fine line between the gentle, reflective and, yes, nostalgic poignancy of her songwriting style at its best and the kind of nostalgia that garishly screams "welcome back to the sounds of the Fifties!".
Whether she was just exhilarated at playing on the same stage as The Crickets or excited at being back in Ireland, whose audiences effectively launched her career into the mainstream 10 or so years back, or perhaps just a little tipsy, this was the night that 2,500-odd people saw a different Nanci Griffith. Leaping around the stage, punching the air, going off on quasi-religious and certainly inscrutable tangents in her introductions and hitting harmonics on her guitar at every opportunity, was this a woman who had been watching too many Pete Townshend videos? None of her behaviour was especially outrageous in itself, just very peculiar coming from this particular artist and slightly detrimental to establishing the right ambience around the more delicate songs that we know and love her for. I mean, we'd be similarly unnerved if Pete Townshend spent an evening not doing this sort of thing.
Dispensing a handful of old faves throughout, including the still spine- chilling anthem "It's a Hard Life", a stark exposure of poverty and bigotry written in Belfast nine years earlier, she managed to include no less than 10 of the 14 songs from the fine new album Blue Roses from the Moons. "St Teresa of Avila", co-written with old friend Mary Margaret (who turns up with Nanci as often as Peggy Sue does with The Crickets), was outstanding - a beautiful if impressionistic piece of writing. A storming assault on Sonny Curtis's "I Fought the Law" was another high spot. Led by Curtis himself, The Crickets duetted with Griffith and her band and turned in their own superb set - a series of literally two-minute pop classics, a few from their current album and a steady stream of hilarious banter and self-deprecating remarks. Unlike Griffith, The Crickets played to their strengths, took the audience with them all the way and didn't try to be anything other than themselves. But Nanci was clearly having fun, and who are we to deny her the right to do so?
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