My partner and I have both lost our dads within the last twelve months, and my lovely cousin recently died way before his time. Death and dying, with all it entails, has become a focus, and I have become a grumpy old git!
I’ve always avoided social occasions. I love people individually, but struggle with the noise of large gatherings where multiple conversations are competing in volume. I also love music, but listen to it through headphones, or alone in the car. That way, I can enjoy it without forcing other people to listen.
When I saw tickets were on sale for “Death Songbook” by Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, and Paraorchestra, I decided to make the effort to go to some event other than a funeral. For me, Brett Anderson is next best to Bowie, and the theme seemed fitting.
So, I did what I always do when I’m going anywhere new … studied Google Maps for the route to Cardiff, fretted about where to park and what time to set off, and dreamed up all manner of things that could possibly go wrong.
Of course, I got there far too early. Wales Millennium Centre was the venue. There was a band playing in the foyer. They might have been good but the sound was so loud it was distorted, so it was difficult to know.
The ‘Death Songbook’ was a seated event. I’d booked a ticket at the end of a row so I would be rubbing shoulders with only one stranger, and was delighted that the seat in front of me was unoccupied, so I had a really good view of the stage.
A Welsh male voice choir did a half-hour performance before the main event. They were good and well received – but the grumpy old git in me became irked by people coming in to find their seats, then squeezing back past again to go and get drinks or whatever. If one more arse gets thrust in my face! It must have been off-putting for the performers, as well as annoying for the rest of the audience who didn’t feel the need to wander around the place. It did settle down though, once we’d cheered them off and the main act took to the stage.
Brett was mesmerising and passionate as ever in his delivery. Some singers appear awkward if they’re not nursing a guitar because they don’t know what to do with their hands. Brett either moves spontaneously, blending with the music, or else he stands still, without feeling the need to jiggle around.
I realised I was watching with a stupidly happy smile and a few tears, but it didn’t matter because the lights were down. Then, the giant who’d booked the seat in front of me turned up, and I watched the rest by leaning awkwardly into the aisle, looking over his shoulder and giving thanks that I’d got a seat at the end of a row.
The setlist included plenty of songs written by Brett, including Suede’s “He’s Dead”, where Adrian Utley (Portishead guitarist) performed a brilliant electric guitar solo. I call it a ‘solo’ but the rest of the orchestra were playing like mad – the string section really going for it. The cello and violins were rocking!
The highlight for me was Brett’s version of Jacques Brel’s “My Death”, accompanied by Adrian on guitar. I had been looking forward to this one, and knew it wouldn’t sound like a Bowie imitation. Halfway through his stunning rendition, I realised my stupid mind was no longer enjoying the moment. For me, this was the climax, and therefore an indication we were getting close to home time. I started mithering about where the car was, and reminding myself to do all my fussing around (swapping jacket for fleece, setting satnav for home etc) before paying at the meter, just in case I was only allowed five minutes to get out of the carpark once I’d paid. Then I got cross with myself for not fully focussing on the bit I’d been mostly looking forward to!
That was yesterday evening. I took photos of Cardiff Bay. It’s not exactly the ‘seaside’ I’ve been craving. That would require crashing waves and cliffs. Although, if I zoom into this photo, I think I can see a distant lighthouse 😊