Let’s Get Lyrical – A Lyrical Deathmatch – Cargo vs Chemikal Underground with Emma Pollock, Alan Bissett, Lord Cutglass, Doug Johnstone, Ryan van Winkle, Rodge Glass, Kirsten Innes and A.L. Kennedy

Sunday night’s Let’s Get Lyrical show at the Caves in Edinburgh offered ex-Delgados Emma Pollock and Alun Woodward (in his Lord Cut-Glass persona) a rare opportunity to share the same stage. Given that the chance to catch either former bandmate doesn’t present itself very often these days, this was pretty much unmissable. Or at least should have been. More on that later.

Throughout the evening a raft of writers also performed but let’s start with the musicians, because they were the main draw for myself and Mrs MPT. Whilst the sets were short, at half an hour each, it was every bit as good as you would imagine.

His Lordship was the first full musical act of the evening and once again, despite an 8 piece set-up, the sound of the band in full flight was nothing short of magnificent.

Over the course of his half hour on stage Mr Woodward demonstrated exactly why it is so unfathomable that the Lord Cut-Glass LP seems to be so under-valued. It’s undoubtedly his best collection of songs in years.

Even though some of my favourites from the record such as ‘Holy Fuck’ and ‘Even Jesus Couldn’t Love You’ weren’t played it was still a brilliant show with the highlight undoubtedly being a fragile take on ‘A Pulse’. But everything else was pretty smart too since it’s one of the few LPs in recent years that I can honestly say that I like every song on the record.

The only non-LP number was the set closer, the jaunty rarity ‘Maybe’, a great pop song which absolutely deserves a wider release.

The evening was closed by a robust performance from Ms Pollock which showcased the best of her ‘Law of Large Numbers’ LP

The record has such a live feel to it that the songs were pretty much made to be played live and there’s a whole raft of great songs on it, most of which were played. The highliht though was probably a stunning version of ‘Paper & Glue’ from her debut.

Despite being summonsed to the stage 5 minutes early by hostess A.L. Kennedy, Emma was relaxed throughout and in a very chatty mood.  She definitely entered into the spirit of ‘Let’s Get Lyrical’ by  discussing the change in her approach to lyrics over the years – from Pavement inspired ‘if it sounds cool, it doesn’t need to mean anything’ to more recent songs with particular themes such as the JFK Jnr inspired ‘Hug The Harbour’.

If the bands were great, it’s fair to say that the writers held up their end of the bargain too. Alan Bissett was sandwiched in between the two former Delgados and had to cut his set due to the show over-running. But his short time on stage, singing the praises of Bono no less (with predictable audience scepticism) was hugely entertaining.

As mentioned above the evening was hosted by A.L. Kennedy and, whilst she had her own slot in the middle of the show with an entertaining reading from her unfinished novel, her between-acts links were all performances in their own right (including a tale about a visit to Montreal referred to in yesterday’s post).

Elsewhere there were poems from Kirstin Innes and Ryan van Winkle and book readings from Rodge Glass and Doug Johnstone. The latter two though also cheated the overall words v music concept slightly by including some music in theoir performances, Glass performing one of van Winkle’s poems to music (with a short spoken word section in the middle from the author) and Johnstone performing two of his own songs (and a snatch of a Sparklehorse tune).

All in all it was a terrific, if lengthy, evening and the only mystery was why so few people were there.

Was it down to the fact that Pollock and Woodward, without question two of Scotland’s best songwriters of the last couple of decades, are so familiar now that they are taken for granted? Or is it because their lack of a touring profile means that they are slipping under a lot of people’s radar?

Or maybe because no-one knew quite what to expect from the hybrid event such that only the most dedicated readers and music fans ventured out on a Sunday night?

I honestly don’t know the answer but I do know that the losers were definitely those who stayed away.

Hear some of what you missed here.

I have some photos of the performances – for what they’re worth they’re here.

Look out tomorrow for a special interview.

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