Review: Ben Watt, The Greystones

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Ben Watt is a patient man. Thirty one years after his first solo album, he’s finally got around to producing another. And for artist and audience, it has been worth the wait.

Watt can claim to have been busy in the interim though. A lengthy career with long-term private and professional partner Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl; a life-threatening illness; writing books; work as a DJ, dance obsessive and music presenter.

After a few tentative live dates last year, Watt is now having a proper run at returning to the stage.

And he has an ace in the hole, playing with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.

The songs are sparse, taut affairs, augmented by the brittle arrangements of voice and two instruments, whether guitar-guitar or guitar-piano.

Butler plays brilliantly, weaving an intricate path between melody and lyrics, while understanding the necessity of space. He certainly acknowldges that less is more.

Watt’s lyrics are angular cameos of life, snapshots that offer the fleeting imagary of a random photograph album.

He performs some very early material, from more than thirty years ago, such as North Marine Drive, the title track of that first solo LP. There’s a song from a distant collaboration with Robert Wyatt, Watt telling how, as a precocious teenager, he blagged an audience with the man of cult status.

“I went round to his house. He had Charlie Mingus records, the Communist manifesto... and soya milk. It was a proper bohemian lifestyle.”

Wyatt’s ability to not play by the rules obviously rubbed off.