RICHARD DIGANCE has of course been around for donkey’s yonks, but I’ve never seen him play live before, so I was looking forward to this gig – especially as it was at the Touchline Club, which I like a lot. It was an all seated show as is often the case at this venue, with the chairs arranged around tables. I arrived with my Missus at 8pm, and we were the first ones in as the doors opened. We were directed to table 9 which was directly in front of the sound and lighting desk manned by the club’s promoter DAVE KITTERIDGE and where Mr.Digance himself was also standing. After I had a brief chat with both gentlemen we took our seats and waited for the performance to begin.
The place soon filled up with eager punters – most seats being filled by about 8.30. With RD due on stage at 9pm, it seemed like a long wait; so a support act would have been a good idea to keep the audience amused. A man with a guitar and some funny songs would have been a great warm-up. (Later I thought that I know someone who would have gone down well in this role). This omission would be my only complaint about the evening though.
All this time RD had been chatting to his fans at the bar, but after a brief introduction from Master of Ceremonies Brian Sangwin, the main man stepped on stage and explained that he’d be doing a two-part show with an intermission. The first half would consist of new material (some of which he wanted to try out for the first time – and we would be his guinea-pigs!); and the second would of course consist of some old favourites to sing along to. He also informed us that he doesn’t do encores – at least not at the end of the show. No, he would do a few little encores as and when he felt like it during the evening – and he did!
Mr.Digance kicked off proceedings with the pre-amble to a new song reminiscing about the perceived lack of rainfall during childhood school holidays: ‘Not A Single Rain Drop Fell’ (which incorporated a ditty called ‘Where Do Fish Go When It Floods?’). It was a good start and went down well. (plus, he’s right – I don’t actually remember it raining in school summer holidays either!) This was followed by a cover of DIRE STRAIGHTS’ ‘Local Hero’, before another new one: ‘Poor Poor Jane’ (much to the amusement of a lady of that name in the audience!); and the title track of his new album ‘This Is Great Britain’. This concluded the first half of the evening to great applause.
The half-hour interval saw RD back at the bar chatting. Then the second half began with an old favourite: ‘What’s The Use Of Anything?’ which had everyone singing along. The hilarious song about his rubber girlfriend ‘Shirley’ followed. At half-time, a lady of the audience had apparently asked RD to recite one of his poems: ‘Paul The Crab’. This request was enough to put our man into ad hoc poetry mode; and he duly obliged the lady’s request, and added two of his other odes: ‘Noah’s Ark’; and ‘The World’s Worst Magician’. The breath-taking nostalgic ‘200 Remembers’ had everyone taking a trip down Memory Lane; and the finale was another old favourite the historical: ‘A Thousand Years’. Then in spite of saying that he doesn’t do encores, Brian Sangwin came back on stage and persuaded RD to do his poignant song about a young footballer during the Great War: ‘The Ballad Of Johnny Puller’. Thus the evening ended to great ovation.
I like Digance’s material – and his performance of it. His guitar playing is very good; his lyrics and poems are funny, clever, bizarre, and often nostalgic and thoughtful; and his repartee with the audience is second to none. I also like the way he tailors the show depending on requests received on the night; which means he must have a massive back-catalogue stored in his mind, ready to go at a moment’s notice. And how the hell does he remember all the words? I like the pre-amble that explains every song too. I expected as much, and wasn’t disappointed. At times he is irreverent and xenophobic – the French, Americans, and Scandinavians came in for a slating on more than one occasion each! Certain people in the crowd were picked out for a little ribbing too. Politically correct, he is not – and nor would you expect him to be. But his fans love him for it!
Interesting footnote: I wrongly assumed that because I’ve always liked Digance, that everyone else does too. What’s not to like? This is however apparently not the case. Having told lots of people that I was going to the gig, I received a surprising number of negatives: ‘what are you going to see him for?’; ‘he’s boring’; ‘nothing special’; and best of all: wouldn’t go to see him ‘…without an anaesthetic!’ Fair enough, I suppose – everyone has their likes and dislikes. I know one person present at the gig who only found it ‘mildly amusing’; but there can’t have been many (if any) others with such a luke-warm reaction – otherwise, why would you go? Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Finally, praise must be given to promoter DAVE KITTERIDGE who ‘happy to be lurking in the shadows’ (his words not mine!) did a fine job with the lighting; and STEVE GARRICK on the sound desk too. DK must also get the credit for booking Digance and some other big names at the Touchline Club lately; and in the near future too. Well done DK! …… can I have a free beer now?
Phil The Music Quill