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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Dr Martens Freedom Studio, The Roundhouse, Camden Town, London
July 3rd 2008

It’s hot. The Thai food isn’t helping, or maybe it is. But it’s our usual spot before a Roundhouse gig, and as ever it’s largely full of loud, thankfully opinionated, and always entertaining fellow gig-goers, more often than not, as I may have observed before, a male of the species boring a female of the species to death with “did you know that …” musical trivia. Chili
It is slightly different tonight, because the artist is here too. Ron’s sitting quietly and politely with his manager and the gig promoter, doing the obligatory small talk, and kindly chatting to other diners, even taking requests. Most of all, of course, he’s trying not to spill anything puce or pungent on his shirt. There’s a new Ron album on the way, Exit Strategy of the Soul, and tonight he’s playing a one-off solo gig in Dr Martens Freedom Studio inside the Roundhouse, a sort of small bare-bricked Victorian torture chamber. It’s hot, very hot.
It must be a frustrating life, producing album after album of brilliantly-crafted songs – some close to perfection – and yet never hitting the jackpot in terms of recognition, or for that matter, fame and fortune. Travelling the world, playing gigs to broadly the same or similar audiences wherever you go, having to play a great show every night – not easy. So that’s why I simply have the greatest respect for someone like Sexsmith who perseveres with his art come what may – for what it’s worth my spell-checker wants to substitute Sexsmith with Nesmith – ouch.
Ron Sexsmith
Ron’s wearing a smart shirt and jacket – not the one he ate dinner in (“Do you like it, does it look ok?”). But the jacket’s a big mistake – he’s sweating like a waterfall (“I’m really nervous, I mean this is London, right?”) but by the time he realises that he’s stuck – “I can’t take it off know, you wouldn’t want to see that”. But we’re all in the boat – it’s hot. The girl to my right has a small battery operated fan, which gives us occasional respite from the sticky airlessness, and counteracts the intense irritation being generated by the girl on my left. She’s knitting! According to the Guardian (well, how else am I supposed to find out about these things?) there’s some kind of militant knitting movement threatening world stability, with warped knitters casting off convention and needling the establishment, leading to woolly yarns of stitched-up civil disobedience. Whatever. All I know is that it’s bloody irritating, and I can’t help thinking that if I looked out from a stage to see someone knitting a pair of socks while I sang my heart out, I might also find it somewhat disrespectful.
Ron Sexsmith
Thankfully Ron doesn’t seem to notice, and once he’s settled down after a couple of songs he slips into an easy rapport with the audience, chatting about songs, cracking the occasional joke, and even taking requests. It’s a really pleasant atmosphere, just perfect for his songs – which of course range from the cruelly ironic to the heart-rending. Twenty-three songs in all, including a good number from Exit Strategy, such as ‘One last round’, ‘Helpless dream’, ‘Ghost of a chance’, ‘This is how I know’, and a frankly tasteless drink song – ‘Brandy Alexander’ – yuk! To these add a jukebox full of “the hits” old and new, like ‘Words we never use’, ‘Cheap hotel’, ‘Lebanon Tennessee’, ‘Blues in the coffee shop’, ‘Strawberry blonde’ and of course ‘Secret heart’, all before he leaves the stage for a fresh shirt, returning to finish with ‘Gold in them hills’, ‘Hard bargain’ and ‘Sleeping with the angels’. It’s a hard act to beat. It’s easy to underestimate Ron’s guitar playing (although the five guys taking notes beneath his fret board obviously don’t) but solo like this he really stretches himself and pulls out some cute riffs along with his gentle accompaniments. And his singing, always deeply engaging, is soulful beyond belief – he sounds as though he’s been taking lessons at the Stax Music Academy. It’s a wonderful gig, one of those where you feel quite privileged to be in the audience. And Ron even manages to tame the temperature with his soothing words and melodies. Hot stuff. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
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