Live at Grove Inn on Friday, 20th August 2004
Where Darren Poyzer appears, unusual things happen and people enjoy themselves. Over the weekend of 20-22 August, he even had to forego his own birthday gig back in his Glossop-Manchester-Oldham homeland because he'd been such a success at the 'Arts for Life' Edinburgh Festival that they wanted more.
Many an artist might also have cancelled a little Friday night gig at the Grove in Leeds when it meant a return trip from Edinburgh on the Leeds-emptying first weekend of Whitby Folk Week. But Darren kept faith with his audience and his guest entertainers from Bradford and Manchester, getting the show underway with one of his calm, searching songs before giving the rest of the first half over to his fellow performers. We had three-number turns from singers with their own material and guitars; and a poet who reminded us that poetry is sometimes thoughtful entertainment but can also be useful shouting therapy for the performer. A touching moment came from Steve O'Donoghue, who in mentioning between songs his CD Martha (Firestation Records), spoke for a whole layer of the music game when he said "I told my his wife if I sell a CD this week I'll be able to take our son swimming."
And just before the break, a young mandolin player named James - not that far into his teens - had a quick discussion with his Mum and Dad and took the stage to fire off a set of three sparkling tunes. Applause from all quarters saw him back to his seat where the family were spending their evening, having thought the Grove's Friday folk club was back after its Summer break, and finding themselves in much more wonderful circumstances - getting encouragement from the vast-hearted Darren Poyzer to be part of one of his famous acoustic evenings.
The big heart and the big smile were there in quantity after a short break for excited chatter, and Darren went into a set of 'Julie Rainbow', 'Best Friend', 'Sunday-morning Footballer', 'Brand New Rock'n'Roll' and other favourites in some ways resembling Monday's live webcast from Edinburgh. The resemblance was in the choice of songs, but what a difference in scale: the Festival gig had him on a large stage with plentiful amplification to punch the songs out into the open air; at Leeds we got him in natural acoustic sound with trademark warmth, firmness and tenderness from his guitar and seemingly effortless projection of the distinctive voice that shares those same qualities. I could almost go along with something overheard last year outside the Melborn in Bradford : that he has a voice like a silk purse.
Another vivid expression of Bradford is Patrick Blues, the named support on the night's bill. He occasionally played harmonica while Darren was performing, and was awe-inspiring in other vocal and instrumental ways; at one point behind the keyboard he was the very embodiment of all that is most transcendent about John Shuttleworth, and finally he became one portion of the audience-pleasing trio Shugar & Spyce.
At the close of the show, a robust yell for 'More from't young lad w'it mandolin' was diplomatically fielded by Darren and maturely responded to by James. That was when we found out that with the talent and technique he has the temperament too, as unperturbed by suddenly finding himself on duty again well after11 pm, he went forward with three more good pieces from his Irish/bluegrass repertoire. He and his parents had plenty of after-gig attention, and it was good to hear that The Music Room's stringed instruments specialist Hugh Bradley had showed an interest that led to James having no less a fiddle teacher than Gina le Faux.
Darren Poyzer had once again produced an evening that mattered, with his songs and his own relaxing presence causing good things to happen round him. His work is founded on tough times of various sorts, and free with his entertainment comes a feeling of mellow ongoing aftercare for anyone who's ever had it rough. For more about the guy who knows the magic of mixing warmth with cool and not getting lukewarm, dip your toe in @ www.poyzer.com.