MARTIN SIMPSON - The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - 25 October 2021

Tue, 02/01/2022 - 11:25
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As we tentatively come out of the restrictions that COVID has imposed upon us, the most eagerly anticipated thing for many is the return of live music, albeit still with significant protection measures. This occasion saw the welcome return of Martin Simpson to the capital. The support for the evening, admirably presented by Evie Waddell with Katie Allen, set the scene for a cracking night of entertainment. From the first song, Andy Barnes’ The Last Leviathan, incorporating British Sign Language and even step dancing, we knew we were in for a great show (Martin Simpson himself said that this rendition turned him into a jabbering wreck).

When Martin Simpson took to the stage to a rousing welcome, we were treated to a sublime set from the master of acoustic guitar technique, with material ranging from Lyle Lovett (Family Reserve) via John Prine (Angel From Montgomery) to Jackson C Frank (Blues Run The Game). We were even treated to a ‘Simpsonised’ Heartbreak Hotel. There was also the obligatory swing by Dylan (Buckets Of Rain).  The traditional Cherry Tree Carol (Child 54) was here a spellbinding rendition of the apocryphal bible tale imagining Joseph’s reaction when finding out his betrothed Mary is pregnant with Jesus. You couldn’t make it up, although some person obviously did. Martin’s cover of Robin Williamson’s October Song (with associated Mary Stewart anecdotes) was entrancing.  And Martin Simpson is probably the only person I can think of who can make the act of tuning his instrument appear like an artistic statement.  His passion for environmental issues is summed up in his own Ridgeway song, and climaxed in his encore, dedicated to Chris Packham.

I fully appreciate that not everyone is yet comfortable with attending live events in significant numbers, although each ‘available’ seat in the circumstances was occupied at The Traverse. This whole series of events run by Soundhouse at The Traverse, including the support acts as well as the headliners, has been filmed, so those who, for whatever reason, could not attend, can watch these shows and hopefully have the same enjoyment as we did when they become available. I, for one, would heartily recommend that you watch this performance, as it was a perfect way to spend an evening.

Grem Devlin