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The Graham Parker Duo ~ 2016 April 13 ~ Iron Horse Music Hall ~ Northampton, MA

... by Joanne Corsano ...

Graham Parker, vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, kazoo; Brinsley Schwarz, electric guitar, backing vocals

Set List

Watch the Moon Come Down - Silly Thing - Stop Crying About the Rain - Fool's Gold - Lunatic Fringe - Turned Up Too Late - You're Not Where You Think You Are - When the Lights Go Down - Stick To Me - Flying Into London - Snowgun - Under the Mask of Happiness - New York Shuffle - Don't Ask Me Questions ... encore ... My Life In Movieland {kazoo} - White Honey - Hold Back the Night {The Trammps}


Brinsley Schwartz, Graham Parker
Brinsley Schwartz, Graham Parker
click thumbnail to see a photo gallery of the concert

Graham Parker has spent the last three years recording and touring with his original band, The Rumour, with whom he parted ways some two and a half decades ago. This era of his career has seen a few new twists and some well deserved recognition. There was a well-received documentary movie, Don't Ask Me Questions. There was an appearance in a dreadful Hollywood movie, This Is Forty, the only redeeming feature of which, in fact, is GP's appearance. There were two excellent albums recorded with The Rumour, Three Chords Good and Mystery Glue. There were several tours with The Rumour, to the delight of many of GP's older fans who loved the early part of his career before he and The Rumour parted ways, some of whom have reacquainted themselves with Graham Parker as a result of this reunion with his original band.

The Rumour kerfuffle has settled down, but Geep retained the services of The Rumour guitarist, Brinsley Schwartz, for a duo format tour. I have seen Geep in a duo format with Mike Gent (of The Figgs) a number of times, and at its best the duo show format can include the best features of both a band show and a solo show. It can rock a little harder than a solo show while allowing the time and flexibility for Geep to entertain the audience with his witty banter.

The show tonight, despite Brinsley's brilliant guitar playing, did not rock particularly hard. The songs were selected almost exclusively from the softer side of GP's catalog, and even some of the harder songs were played rather soft. The intention was to provide a contrast to the shows with The Rumour that have kept Geep busy these last three years. With Graham playing just acoustic guitar all evening, the show did not have the built in tempo changes that occur when he switches from acoustic to electric, as he normally does in a solo show. It was a pleasure to hear some of the earlier songs in an acoustic format, songs like "Stick To Me" and "New York Shuffle." Another song that featured a different musical twist was the waltz-tempo "Fool's Gold." Although Geep implied this was a new idea, as long ago as 2006 he was playing this song in a waltz tempo; see my review of the Jan. 21, 2006 show at the Towne Crier.

Graham wore an olive green t-shirt, brown blazer, grey trousers, and dark glasses (darker than some that he used to wear in the solo shows); he removed these glasses once while looking in the audience for an answer to a question. Brinsley wore a dark blue shirt with a Hawaiian pattern. Brinsley played an electric Gibson while Graham played the acoustic Gibson he normally uses in the solo shows, along with harmonica on one song, the opening number "Watch the Moon Come Down," which GP often uses to open solo shows, and kazoo on one song, the tongue in cheek "My Life In Movieland" (from the latest album, Mystery Glue).

Graham did not banter all that much with the audience, but he did tell one tale that sounded more like a Brian Porker short story than something that really happened. But hey, maybe it was the gospel truth! According to Geep, he has a devoted fan in France who wrote a book about being a Graham Parker fan, and this fan booked GP to do gigs with him where the fan would read from his book and Graham would perform songs. Since this person was booking a lot of shows for Graham (in France, of course), GP asked if there was anything in particular the fan would like him to play. Yes, of course. The fan had a made-in-China cassette, with nothing written on it, that featured a GP song he'd never heard elsewhere. Turned out it was "When the Lights Go Down," a GP song featured in a Rick Springfield movie. What I might call an ultimate obscurity! Geep went to Youtube to relearn the song, and discovered it was an '80s monstrosity with all the musical evils of that decade: unnecessarily doubled guitar parts, overblown drums. But since he has been playing it in his own personal Tour-de-France, he has added it to his set lists on this side of the pond. It wasn't a bad song at all!

The duo finished up their 17-song set with the r&b toe-tapper "Hold Back the Night," GP's brilliant cover of the song by The Trammps.

The show was opened by My Darling Clementine, an English husband-and-wife country duo with style.

Concert Going Partner and I enjoyed the chance to rub elbows with two of the friends we made during the years we were attending many GP shows, as well as Northampton legends Tommy Shea and Ray Mason.

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