Tower Arts Centre, Winchester, UK, 7th Oct 09 (Review)

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Tower Arts Centre, Winchester, UK, 7th Oct 09 (Review)

Post  Leo on Thu Oct 08, 2009 4:18 am

We arrived at the Centre after 7 which was of course exaggeratedly early. The Tower Arts Centre turned out to be what it says on the tin, with the venue in the floor level of a building with such a feature. Climbing the few steps to the front door and looking through a window I jokingly said to Laura the guy at the front desk looked like Mark, then changed my mind once inside: the bearded guy in the hat staring at a PC was perhaps a look-alike but not really him, with Laura soon asserting it was actually Eitzel as he picked up the phone and quietly spoke in an American accent. As I looked up there was no doubt, unless the look-alike had the right eyebrows too. What followed was quite surreal, Laura and myself the only people in the room (save for a guy sorting some bottles at the little bar inside) with this guy we came to see after travelling a few hours, making a little one day holiday in Winchester but too painfully shy to utter a word, disturbing the man or boring him with some stupid fan questions. With the bar still officially closed we bought a couple of expensive San Miguels and hung around. Some guy arrived and walked straight to the desk, asking Mark if he was selling his own tickets ("No, but thanks for asking"). After asking the guy from the bar about where a pdf he downloaded could have been possibly saved, Mark thanked him profusely and left for backstage. A few more people started showing up and a few curry plates were being handled between the people working at the venue and some musicians. A guy started talking to Laura and enlightening us about Franz Nicolay and The Hold Steady while I was more interested in finding out whether we were up for a standing or a seated show (as the tickets and the website info contradicted each other) and kept looking at the venue in case they’d open. The chatty guy told us the man at the front door "whispered" to him 50 tickets had been sold. We felt sorry for Mark (though we've feared worse fate, it was our running joke the fact that our pre-bought tickets had numbers 13 and 14 written on them!)

We eventually got inside the Tower, the show was a seated one and we sat front row left (behind the piano). The place probably held 120 people and was eventually above half full. A guy whose first name was Owen opened the show playing a plugged acoustic guitar. He was actually fine, more words than chords as he put it but unfortunately I couldn't focus on the former much (I was brewing a cold and the congestion was annoyingly taking over). i reckoned the sound of the venue was very good despite the modest setting.

When Owen finished, I ventured into the loo as the beer had made its quick way down and I was rather desperate. On returning, Mark was behind the same front desk with some merch and CDs. He had changed hat and outfit into what would be his stage clothes. "Klamath" was there. I first passed through and went to the bar for a bottle of water, plucked up some courage ("take courage, take courage!") and asked the man for his new CD. It was in a standard plastic box and so it didn't seem the signed ones in cardboard boxes he mentioned in his blog. I asked if he would sign it for me. "Sure, if you open it up I'll sign it". I handed him a £20 note and he had to go to the bar to break it. When he returned I was still struggling with it. I can't open it, Mark, I said in desperation, while reaching for my ticket for him as a plan B should I stupidly struggle for longer. The damn plastic sleeve finally yielded. He signed the CD and I asked him how the show in Exeter went. (Eitzel: "Oh, you know..." and, I think, he shrugged). My English betrayed me here and I was probably stuttering. "I'm actually from Buenos Aires and a big fan" I said as a sort of apology (should've added "originally", I didn't travel from THAT far for this show!). "Oh, really?", he responded... surely bored! I offered my hand, shook his, and wished him the best for the tour before leaving feeling rather stupid.

It was then time for Franz Nicolay. He played accordion, banjo, guitar and told some stories in-between his songs. I know he's been involved in Mark's new album but I'm sorry to say that his songs didn't seem to be my cup of tea. He certainly tried though, seemed a fine musician and put on a decent show I guess.

Laura rushed to the toilets when Nicolay was over. Turns out the ladies' was closed for some reason and she headed for the disabled facilities. At this time, Mark left the very same toilets and she goes "Oh, you are Mark!" and shook his hand (later telling me she hoped he had washed his hands; I told her I was sure he was a guy who would). Mark addressed her with a "Wait, there's no toilet paper in there! It's quite essential!" to which he disappeared into the gents, then returned with a new loo roll and handed it to her! They shook hands again and she finally entered the toilets.

Showtime. I was wondering how Eitzel would feel about the criminally undersold show. A guy of his talents, after so many years and great records. It could easily be so disheartening. Well, if it was he didn't show it and he proceeded to "pay off" with his show. He and Marc Capelle entered the stage (actually at the same level of the audience) with a glass of red each. Mark also brought a framed banner taken from a wall of The Tower. It was a print with some kid's "poetry" entitled "The End" that Mark claimed had "inspired" him. He then proceeded to read it in full to comic effect, then (typically) claiming he was actually an asshole for making fun of it. The show "proper" started with "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and peaked early on with "Mission Rock Resort". He told the story behind it as he would with many other songs. His voice sounded amazing! I mean, he sounds good enough in the albums but this was like 10 times better. Or perhaps it’s the magic of live performance. He'd bring the mike nearer or place it far away from him but it seemed to me he hardly needed any amplification to fill the room. The crowd was audibly disappointed when he announced he "was not going to show (his) ass tonight". "Decibels And Little Pills" followed, possibly the most “upbeat” things would get.

In no particular order, Mark treated us to great versions of "No Easy Way Down" "Nightwatchman" (+ story) and "Last Harbor". He might have burped (which he actually did, blaming the curry) and I would have been content (I wasn't, particularly!) The funny occurrences continued all over as the man was in great form, like saying he thought he looked like Nick Cave but then he should point more with his finger (as the Australian moustached singer usually does); reckoning the audience might be happy as the show was more than halfway done; or even running from one end of the "stage" to the other, in a parody of what a rock show is usually like when gaining momentum (he then sat down to sing the next number in direct contrast to that). Earlier on, he unnecessarily apologized if some stories, or the people involved in those, were "a bit too gay for some people".

He also did 'Bookstore' ("Myopic Books"): "lived in Chicago for 8 months... Thanks God that's over!" He later complained about 11 people bringing America down and he still had to get your shoes off at the airport. Before starting it, he denigrated his own "Windows on The World", then aborted it after one verse. But for the end of the show he made up and treated us to a full version (stressing his friend Kid's lines and mannerisms). Mark either finished the main set with that one or with "Johnny Mathis' Feet", the announcement of which had a cheer from some punters at the back. Eitzel sang it mostly on one knee, with his setlist on the floor representing his lyrics laid at Mathis' extremities. I managed to snap a picture before he left; being so close I was too self-conscious and also didn't want to spoil the moment with a stupid camera flash on his eyes. But why didn’t I even taped one song with my pocket camera?

There was one song in the set that I don't think was introduced and I didn't recognize. It had lines about "doing this for the rest of my life" and about bringing back his last 20 years or something. I later learnt this is song off Klamath called "I Live in this Place".

For the encore there was a beautiful rendition of "The Thorn In My Side is Gone". I could've gone back to the merch desk, stutter again and maybe asking if he's finally doing his album with Peter Buck or tell him what a great show that was but probably: a) he knew that, b) he'd deny it in self-deprecation and c) it'd be unfair to bore him with such boring fodder. In any case our day was done, time to catch the bus back to the hotel room where a cold bottle of white wine was waiting.

- With thanks and love to Laura for sorting out our tickets and accommodation as an early birthday treat.

- And to Mark for a great show, for just being Mark... And for sorting Laura out with some essential toilet roll!

Mark Eitzel
Tower Arts Centre
Winchester, UK
7th October, 2009

[Except for the first songs and the last one, the running order is approximate]

I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Mission Rock Resort
Decibels And Little Pills
No Easy Way Down
Windows On The World (Aborted)
Last Harbor
Myopic Books
I Live In This Place
Windows On The World
Johnny Mathis’ feet
The Thorn In My Side Is Gone


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it was the 6th, d'oh!

Post  Leo on Thu Oct 08, 2009 4:26 am

Argh… The show was actually on the 6th and I don't think I can amend it up there as a Guest). And excuse any mistakes in the use of English here and there as it isn’t my first language (lame excuse!)


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Re: Tower Arts Centre, Winchester, UK, 7th Oct 09 (Review)

Post  Admin on Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:22 am

Thanks Leo, thats a great review.


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Re: Tower Arts Centre, Winchester, UK, 7th Oct 09 (Review)

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