Delusions of grandeur

Now I know you’d all seen the billboards, and the TV ads, and the website promotions. So I must confess when you didn’t turn up to support me at my first solo gig I was more than a little disappointed in you. What do you mean you didn’t know, what do you mean it was too far to travel. Call yourselves friends…

So yeah, I’m just back from the café the church here runs, and I played my forty minutes and managed not to get booed off the stage. An achievement in itself. The church runs this café about once a month or so, when they provide some food and coffee and music and it’s free for people just to come along and enjoy the night. There’s nothing especially Christian or religious about it, but it’s a group of Christians enjoying music and giving glory to GOD in that. All things to GOD’s glory. And it’s a cool way to get non-church people involved in the church (in whatever little way) without the fear of what they think church might mean.

And they asked me to play at it. Which was perhaps the first in a series of errors. The second being – I said yes. Now I know I can play the guitar, I’m happy and confident in that. But singing is another thing. I can make a sort of joyful noise unto the LORD and can do a breathy norn irish accent thingy but it’s not exactly singing. And I’ve sang before but always with a group of people singing with me, and usually louder than me.

Now I had these delusions of grandeur that in fact my whole direction in life was clouded by this medicine malarkey and my shy ways (!) had prevented me from seeing my true talent as an international singer/songwriter and it would be first Napier Vinyard church and then the world. I have delusions and fantasies like this all the time. I only occasionally end up laughing at myself.

I figured, I’m 15 000 miles from home, where better to try this. No one really knows me so if I make a tit of myself then I don’t need to worry about it too much. So for the past few weeks I’ve been battering away at the guitar in the flat and trying to hit notes of songs that I shouldn’t really be singing at all. My neighbours must love me. And it didn’t really daunt me too much till the past couple of days when I realised I’d have to get up in front of people and sing into a microphone.

My heart started to pound and it felt like my bowels needed to move or open or emigrate or whatever (see last blog). This was a bad idea, was there no way I could get out of it? I figured I could just get up and play the guitar and not sing and get away with it.

I’d invited one of the guys I work with, (rejoicing in the name of Jethro) and his girlfriend along too. I was gonna invite others too but I give Jethro a lift to work every day so I knew he’d have to say nice things about me.

However, 8.30pm comes and goes and no sign of Jethro. And he didn’t know where to go and I was waiting for a phone call, but then my time comes and I’m up on the wee stage arranging my microphone for the guitar (it’s got no pick up) and my voice. I realised I would have to answer the phone mid-way through a song to give him directions. I managed to make a joke about this over the microphone and I got a laugh and I felt a bit less nervous. Though no one can make out if I’m speaking English or not so it may just have been a sympathy laugh. I kind of hoped he would ring during the song, cause then I could make another joke out of it and look cool. In the end he found his own way here.

I start with Mr Brightside by the Killers. Based on the well known ‘acoustic players’ principle of play a usually very loud and up beat song quite quietly and you’re bound to be on to a winner. I started singing into the mic and my voice sounds all thready and out of tune. I realised then that that’s what my voice actually sounds like. I have two options. Well I probably had lots of options but the two I was thinking about were a) stop and run away, and b) keep going and pretend no ones noticed. I find b) a good option in most situations, frequently in medicine. Moving on…

I found it easier to sing with my eyes closed, not cause it made me look like I was really into the song but because when I closed my eyes I couldn’t see the people and I didn’t feel as scared. It was either that or imagine them in their underwear and I had enough distractions already.

Next, I sing It must be love by madness. It went well, by which I mean no one walked out. I then sang I will follow you into the dark (death cab for cutie), which was one I could actually sing as well as I could. Unfortunately the monitor then started hissing at me, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t just my voice. Kind of distracting.

By that stage I’d kind of gotten past a lot of the nerves and I began to enjoy it. For completeness – I played – Crazy Bird (Iain Archer), Freewheel (Duke Special), a new song I wrote (which I half-inched bits from a Jose Gonzales cover of a Kylie Minogue song) and finished with Heartbeats (Jose Gonzales again).

And so I got away with it, cause they were mostly Christians and they’re mostly nice and secondly I’m Irish and everyone loves the Irish and they have no idea what I say to them when I talk anyhow.

So the world tour is on hold, as I have too many lives to save, and it’s more about the music anyhow or any other clichés I can throw in there. I’m aware that I can be a different person here than I would be at home. I have the options to be whoever I want, and present myself as whoever I may choose to be (see the blog – ‘Pablo’, back in june or so).

For all people know here I could play in pubs and cafes all the time – well apart from the fact that I’m not particularly good at it and they would wonder who would let me play there… and the thing about singing songs by Duke Special and Iain Archer is that no one will have ever heard them before and people will presume that they’re yours without having to pretend that they’re yours. Makes it easy to develop a persona of the ‘wonderfully enigmatic irishman’ (the term that has been floating about in my head for years), with deep mysteries of melancholy hidden below the surface. This has been my spectacularly unsuccessful tactic of wooing women for years.

This would be all well and good if I didn’t have a conscience, and perhaps even a smidgen of common sense and most importantly of all, a legion (well maybe not a legion… bad term…) of friends, family and acquaintances who know me too well and better than myself, who have enough sense to laugh at me when I’m taking myself too seriously to laugh at myself.


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December 2006
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