Archive for the ‘Jimmy Webb’ Category

Jimmy Webb Lyric Theatre Hammersmith London 21st May 2005

Jimmy Webb Lyric Theatre Hammersmith London 21st May 2005
jimmywebbtixI’d fancied seeing Jimmy Webb for many years. “MacArthur Park” is one of my favourite songs. There is something about it that sets it apart from all of the other songs of the late ’60s; it has an epic, timeless nature. The twists and turns of the enigmatic storyline, the dramatic melody changes, the lush orchestration, the hints of psychedelia, the pathos of Harris’ vocal, all add up to a masterpiece. I still play my old scratched vinyl 45. In fact, I subscribe to the view that Webb is a genius, and that as a young man he created some of the best pop songs ever written. For example, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is the third most performed song in the past 50 years. Until recently his visits to the UK were few and far between, so when we saw concert advertised at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, Marie and I decided to go. The Lyric is a tiny theatre and was full of Webb fans from all over Europe. Jimmy sat alone with a grand piano, telling great stories and playing highlights from his back catalogue and tracks from his (then) latest album “Twilight of the Renegades”.
“Webb’s music has never fitted into a single category: it somehow spans pop, country, musical theatre and vaudeville. Here, he linked his pieces together with some well-polished yarn-spinning, like the one about driving around Ireland [on a big drinking spree] with the actor Richard Harris (who recorded Webb’s “MacArthur Park” and “Didn’t We”), or [in introducing “Highwayman”] the time he ended up on stage at Farm Aid, impersonating Johnny Cash alongside Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. “I wish they hadn’t invented computers,” said Webb “They’re puttin’ us out of business.” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was an odyssey of heartache, with Webb’s repeated right-hand trill mimicking the ringing of an unanswered phone. “Wichita Lineman” evoked the endless horizons of the American midwest. For an encore, Webb attempted the epic folly that is MacArthur Park – “Believe me, it’s an adventure” – and made an astonishingly good job of it. He could have played for twice as long and nobody would have left.” (extract taken form The Guardian review of the time, 2005).
Webb’s singing was interesting to say the least. He put his own interpretation on the songs, periodically throwing his head back as if to somehow squeeze out the high notes. His piano playing was exquisite and added a further dimension to “MacArthur Park”. We had seats in the front row of the balcony, looking down on the stage. The guy next to us had travelled from Ireland for the show, and was shouting requests to Jimmy, talking to him as if he knew him. It was that sort of concert, a gathering of fans and friends who had come to savour the delights of a clutch of songs that a young guy wrote in the ’60s and ’70s, and that told us stories and painted pictures the like of which we had never seen before.
Jimmy Webb has toured the UK more regularly in recent years, playing concerts locally. I greatly enjoyed the concert at the Lyric, yet for some reason, I haven’t thus far felt the need to go and see him again. Rather, I have wished to keep my memories of that night in London, and of watching and hearing him sing “MacArthur Park” in particular.
Setlist: Crying in My Sleep; Highwayman; Galveston; Spanish Radio; No Signs of Age; Belmont Avenue; P.F. Sloan; How Quickly; By the Time I Get to Phoenix; Didn’t We; Wichita Lineman; Golden Girl
Encore: MacArthur Park; Adios

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