Gregory Porter, 15 May 2016, Munich Philharmonie

Gregory PorterHere we go again. Friday evening watching Later with Jools Holland on BBC TV, next in front of the very same artist two weeks later. This time, Gregory Porter and his band playing in Munich.

Gregory porter is billed as a jazz artist, but I suspect in order to sell out large venues – which he does as effortlessly as he sings – he probably needed to do a bit of cross-over. We did a bit of homework by listening to his album, “Take me to the Alley” a few times. And then we were ready.

The first thing to say is that the Philharmonie in Munich is not a great venue for amplified music. For one song he sang 20160515_200755unsupported and there was no problem hearing – we were up in the heavens (having come late to the ticket-buying party). The second thing to note is that for this tour at least, Porter is accompanied by a fabulous band (Albert Chop Crawford on piano; Tivon Pennicott with alto sax; Emanuel Harrold on drums and Aaron James on double bass), each of whom is given a slot to demonstrate their individual talents. So much so that Harrold himself is the last man on the stage after the concert. Almost reluctant to give up his drum kit. Third, this was an audience that did not seem to want to listen – far too keen to cheer at inappropriate moments and seemingly oblivious to the subtlety – or not – of Porter’s lyrics. More of which below.

So what of Porter’s set? Three albums – two definitively jazz and the latest – balanced with other complementary tunes that he makes his own (Papa was a Rolling Stone, for example). Take me to the Alley is a fantastic song. It is more of a canvas on which he lays his singing prowess and his social conscience. Alleys are often insalubrious and the people to be found there down on their luck. Porter himself has no privileged background, so one gets the sense that his empathy is real and genuine. The offer to “relax in my garden” has a reassuring congruence to it.

There is also a darker side. I remember many years ago when singles charts were important to me, hearing for the firstLou_Rawls_1995 time Lou Rawls’ timeless classic, You’ll never find another love like mine. For many years I did not listen to the lyric closely enough to understand that it just might be about infidelity. Rawls’ voice just pushed the listener away from that possibility (though the intonation becomes more and more bitter as the song progresses). Why else would his ‘Baby’ contemplate leaving?

Porter with his song Don’t be a fool is more explicit on the topic. The scenario here is that he admits to being an adulterer, asks for forgiveness, trust and to fall in love again. I have to say that as a song it makes me feel uncomfortable. I cannot think that trust can somehow, through a song, be magically re-established.

It is not a great point to finish on. Porter is a consummate artist – the two hours glided past. Maybe I should have just cheered like everyone around me and not tried to listen too hard?

Next week we are off to see Tortoise. Watch this space!


1 comment so far

  1. […] once, the recommendation for this gig did not come from Jools Holland, rather Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 6 Music. Maconie choreographs an alternative music show on […]

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