Live Solo

A couple of days ago I got back from another stay in Japan, where I did one show in Osaka (the first time I’d been there for many years) and another four day stint in Tokyo, this time in two different places. During these sets I played a total of 64 different songs, covering the whole span of my career.

The audience in Japan is incredibly attentive and the nature of shows done in small (often jazz) clubs presents special challenges, if you care to accept them. I’ve found my visits over the last few years particularly stimulating, both in themselves and in terms of the wider perspective of my ongoing touring.

For my visit there in 2007, with the VdGG story continuing to unfold in surprising but always emphatically electric fashion, I’d made the specific request that the shows take place only in places with grand pianos. I didn’t even take a guitar with me.  It was the first time I’d done a solo set for some time and I thought that if I concentrated only on keyboard songs I’d inevitably ramp up the number of songs in the live catalogue considerably. Although I’m more than happy to play electric pianos in the band and, indeed, in solo concerts I also felt that the use of (the favourite) acoustic instruments would also push me into more interesting, possibly extreme, performances.

Since then I’ve tried to add more and more material to my setlists with each succeeding solo tour with the result that I can now call on over ninety tunes, although in many cases I *will* need to have lyrics and notes in front of me in order to stay on track, or to get back on track as and when I fall off!  In any event, stable performances are not really the desired result – I’m actually more interested in versions which skitter a little bit out of control rather than in “correct” ones. Naturally, there’s no such thing as a definitive version; or at least, I’ve no desire for one. I’d rather face up to each song as it comes up on the – constantly changing – setlists and treat it as feels right on the night.

When I went back to Tokyo in 2010, once again to do a run of four shows, it seemed an interesting idea to announce themes for each night in advance.  The first was “What if there were no piano?” and, obviously, I played only guitar songs. (Actually, on a couple of occasions in the past pianos have been so far out of tune or mechanically wrecked that I’ve had to go down this route.) In the second – “What if I forgot my guitar?” – I played only piano songs . (Since I’ve sometimes broken a string on the very first guitar number in a set I’ve had some accidental experience of this, naturally, as well as the run of 2007 shows previously mentioned.)

All of which brings me to say that the next release on Fie! is now about to come out (on October 10th, in fact). A double, live, it’s called “Pno, Gtr, Vox” and is a representation of these two sets. The performances are taken from shows in the UK in 2010 as well as the Japanese ones and follow the original running order, though some songs have been taken out in order to bring the timing down to just over 70 minutes on each CD.

It is, then, something of a summation of this period of live solo work (running in parallel with the ongoing VdGG stuff). As such it will also stand as an ongoing representation of the kind of thing I do, the kind of thing I aim for, onstage. As I’ve said, no version is or can be definitive…but these are certainly authentic.

Final, shameless, plug. Now available on pre-order (and will be available after the release date, of course) from But you knew that, didn’t you?