Glenn & Chris – 31 July 2011 – live at Greenwich Summer Sessions

Glenn & Chris – 31 July 2011 – live at Greenwich Summer Sessions

Brilliant photos from Nicky Armstrong – thanks Nicky!

Songs In The Key of London 2011

Review: This Is London

The prospect of an ill-wind or unseasonable monsoon means outdoor concerts are a gamble.

After two years though, the odds are beginning to stack up in favour of the Greenwich Summer Sessions, already looking like the summer staple the near-gig-desert that is south London needs.

The sumptuous grounds of Elizabeth I’s presumed birthplace made for an idyllic setting.

The sightlines were fine and while those who frequented Somerset House’s Summer Series will attest that sound is not always pristine under the stars, it was here.

You certainly wouldn’t have performed major surgery on the lavatory floors, but there were enough of them. For last night’s climax of the 2011 season, the weather held and there was a quirkiness to Songs In The Key Of London, curated by the avuncular uncle that is Deptford and Squeeze’s Chris Difford.

The ramshackle gist was simple: a cornucopia of singers from feisty folkie Chris Wood (“you haven’t got a clue who I am, have you?”) to Ali Campbell matched with some songs about London (or not, as the case often was). There was even Nerina Pallot telling us she only takes off her dress for her husband, “and then only when he’s taken the bins out”.

Those who have long-wondered what Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street might sound like if reggaefied need wonder no more after ex-UB40 singer Campbell’s version. Some may sneer, but it was a summery delight. Meanwhile, Clare Teal may have offered the evening’s nadir with a version of James Brown’s I Feel Good which evoked only bad feelings, but she brought joyful swing to both The Clash’s apocalyptic London Calling and Lily Allen’s Smile, before an ensemble (minus Campbell) Waterloo Sunset finale. The Greenwich Summer Sessions return next year: same place, slightly different, Olympics-accommodating time. This one will grow and grow

Review: Greenwich Summer Sessions – Nick Rutherford – Monday, August 1, 2011 – The Docklands

A promising and eclectic line-up, including Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, The Noisettes, Status Quo and The Pogues, was booked to perform at the week-long mini-festival in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College months ago.

Then, on July 23, singer Amy Winehouse died, meaning Wednesday’s headliner, her musical collaborator Mark Ronson, threw out his set list and instead gave an impromptu tribute to his friend.

He was in a sombre mood, dressed in black, as he opened his set with an acoustic duet of Valerie with Dave McCabe, who wrote the song.

But as the evening went on his mood seemed to lift and he was happy to remember his friend, finishing a mid-gig DJ set with arguably Winehouse’s best-known song and anthem, Rehab. “I just wanted to hear that,” he said. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, singing along, we wanted to hear it too.

He spoke of attending Winehouse’s funeral the day before and how the rabbi said “a person’s life should be measured by their deeds and not by their years”.

“That was the best thing I heard,” he said. “She made brilliant music – more than I will will make in my entire life. The genius of that woman and what we shared is pretty … special.”

His own material was “pretty special” too with the crowd going wild for Oh My God and Stop Me with various members of his band The Business International on singing duty.

But it was the Winehouse moments that really stood out. Charlie Walker of The Rumble Strips joined the band to sing his version of Back To Black – which Ronson admitted Winehouse preferred to her own.

As a finale Ronson invited two of her backing singers, her bass player and drummer on stage to play Valerie again, this time with the audience singing the lead vocals.

“Thank you for turning what could have been a … morbid Wednesday into a wonderful evening for us,” he said.

It was pretty wonderful for us too.

South London’s answer to Simon and Garfunkel, Turin Brakes opened proceedings on Friday, supporting main act Squeeze. The indie-folk-rock band have four albums out now, including the most recent Outbursts, but they wisely chose to concentrate on the first two, The Optimist and Ether Song, from their most commercial period, taking us on an aural trip back to the early noughties.

Local heroes Squeeze kept us entertained with their poppy rock and pithy lyrics with tracks including Slap and Tickle and Black Coffee In Bed but saved some of their best-loved tunes until the end including the joyous Cool For Cats.

Theirs was a mainly older crowd but we did spot a teenager in the audience singing along to songs that came out years before he was born.

“I’m here with my Dad,” he explained. “He introduced Squeeze to me and now they are my favourite band.”

Squeeze’s Chris Difford was back at the Old Royal Naval College last night to close the festival with Songs In The Key Of London.

This was a real “musos gig” with musicians – some famous, some not so well known – coming together to perform songs about the capital.

Highlights included Chris Wood’s Hollow Point, about Jean Charles de Menezes who was shot by police marksmen as a suspected terrorist in 2005, Clare Teal’s take on Lily Allen’s LDN and Pee Wee Ellis’s jazz version of London’s Burning.

UB40’s Ali Campbell dedicated Kingston Town to Amy Winehouse and the finale saw around 20 musicians on the stage to perform The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset.

Promoter Peter Conway confirmed plans are already underway for a third series of Summer Sessions next year.

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