Closing Time at The Sugar Club, 6th of September 2013
Having the entire repertoires of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen to choose from for this show “Closing Time” means the members of Srón and Orchard Road have a difficult task ahead before they take to the stage. For one thing the three men they have chosen to cover for this show are not only three of our age’s most elusive and mythological musical personalities, but they are arguably the top three most revealing, poetic and emotional lyricists since sound-waves were first applied to wax. It would be folly to try and replicate Waits’ beatnik bohemianism or Cohen’s lyrical eroticism so something different here is essential.
Before the set begins the three male vocalists of Srón take the stage with some acappella renditions of some non-program songs including Springsteen’s Working Life. When the entire band takes to the stage we have drums, keyboards, bongos, accordion, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass and all of the non-drummers sing lead at some point during the night. The set is segregated into Dylan, then Waits then Cohen. First up is a Hendrix-style version of All Along The Watchtower followed by an upbeat She Belongs To Me and the singer on these two songs, funnily enough considering the three song-writers whose names furnish the poster outside, sounds a bit like Neil Young. The sound they hit feels like a kind of wedding band interpretation which works better for the country song I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight but the following songs continue this kind of arrangement, with a tinny hi-hat and a bouncy bass-line, mostly to the detriment of the songs.
That is until Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. It’s performed in the style of and old rock ‘n’ roll ballad somewhere between Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly and miraculously it works very well. It cuts off the ironic acidity in the lyrics but adds something different which is exactly what these kinds of shows should aim to do. They follow this up with a brilliant gospel-style version of My Back Pages, heavily influenced by The Byrds’ cover of the song but also different enough from that to be considered a great success.
The Waits stuff reaches neither the lows nor the heights of the Dylan, which is typical for these difficult songs. Usually on the man’s own albums you have to listen to them at least ten times before you start to enjoy them. The focus is mostly on the more conventional songs of his early period with an appearance from I Don’t Wanna Grow Up being the only from the post-‘Rain Dogs’ days. In the Waits section the absence of a definite band-leader becomes an issue. As conventional as Waits’ early ballads were, he always performed them with a jazzy impulse, one that seems to take him over at random moments. Here the songs are played with a strict rhythm to keep the music together. It doesn’t allow for experimentation and the conventional songs are played… conventionally, but Grapefruit Moon and Mr. Siegel, both performed after the interval and closing the Waits section, are highlights.
The Cohen section noticeably changes the band’s sound with the organ and accordion keeping a waltz through many of the songs. The three female singers perform a very good version of If It Be Your Will which is followed by the full-band’s return with a lively interpretation of Boogie Street. But after this the long Cohen songs they’ve decided to play cause the set to drag slightly. This may be due to the decision to divide the set up by song-writer rather than by the mood of the individual song. However despite the odd bit of shakiness from time to time and the song interpretations only occasionally doing something truly inventive it is a good night of music without much brilliance but with plenty of gusto.
Closing Time Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary