…Well, back home again to be precise. Last year I packed my bags and waved goodbye to the homestead for six weeks. You can read about that tour on my MySpace blog (March 2007). About half way through I started getting really depressed and homesick. This year, what with my work at New Writing Partnership and an ever increasing desire to have something resembling a normal existence, I’ve spread my Poet & Man gigs throughout the year. I did the first two this week.
I started in my home town of Norwich. We had a really big audience, about 150, I think, which was significantly higher than last year, and easily the highest paying audience I’ve played this show to. I had four support acts in Patrick Lappin, John Osborne, Dockers MC and Yanny Mac, who also compered. Despite a horrible bout of stage nerves I stood at the back for first half and watched them all perform. John O was his usual fantastic self, I really like his poem about a Shepherdess, he wrote it when we were on a writer’s retreat in May, but Wednesday night was the first time it really came alive for me on stage. John is in serious danger of becoming my favourite poet, poor fella. Patrick Lappin, Paddy to me, was on top form also. He’s not been doing it long but he’s really getting good, watch out for him at Latitude this year. Dockers MC is my main support for the tour. It’s always great watching her perform, and I’m liking the new stuff too. Finally, Yanny, who’s one of my closest mates (all of this lot are in fact, nepotism don’t come into it tho ;-)) was a great compere and it was particularly exciting to hear his new ‘Domestic Goddess’ material. That’s developing into a really great show.
So thank-you guys, you made it a fantastic evening. So great in fact that I sat up in the dressing room during the break thinking, “this is their crowd, they don’t want to see me.” Which is clearly stupid as they had come to see me. It’s a weird feeling that. Sure, I’ve had an element of it all my performing career, but it’s only when you start doing solo tours that the pressure really mounts. The knowledge that people have come out the house and paid their money to watch you is very powerful. It makes me very scared and very confident at the same time. It’s strange, I feel like it’s a pay-off for all my hard work, but then I feel like I’m a fraud, that it’s all been a big con and that I won’t be able to live up to it. I guess this is very standard performer anxiety, but I had it bad on Wednesday.
I was about 80% pleased with my performance. I think it would be safe to say people enjoyed themselves, I didn’t lose them, and I keep them laughing rather than yawning. In fact the show ran to 75 minutes, so they must have been enjoying themselves to let me go on that long. However, it was this that made me feel slightly uneasy. I think the danger with a home crowd is that you’ll be self-indulgent, and I was a bit, but hopefully not too much.
Afterwards, Chris Gribble, my boss at New Writing Partnership and all round good guy, was really complimentary about the show, which really made my day, there are few people’s opinions I value more.
We moved on St Albans, or rather, Dockers, Paddy and I did. It was a very different kind of gig. The Norwich Arts Centre is a is big old church that gets used by bands like Kaito and Bearsuit (and in former days The Manic Street Preachers and Oasis). The Maltings Arts Theatre is a studio theatre and feels very much like one. It’s actually better suited to this kind of show, but I guess doesn’t have the same buzz as my home venue.
The best thing about The Maltings is the fantastic staff. Programmer Angela has been hugely supportive to me over the last 2 years. I’ve been there four times since 2006 and we’ve built up an audience. WE started with 12 people for Poetry Boyband in 06 and on Friday we had 52. This is very heartening.
Dockers and Paddy did good things in the first half before I took to the stage for my rambles. Again I was only 80% happy with my performance. I think I am waffling too much, and link 7 and the following poem (about Central Trains) felt really flat. If there is anyone reading this who was at the gig – any idea why this was? What I am I doing wrong? Does that poem just not work any more? If not I might change it to Sex Butler, which although I performed it badly on Friday (I did it as warm up for Dockers and Paddy) I think will be a good live piece.
Anyway, two down, 16 to go. I’m not totally gutted. I think the show is solid and there are no bits (except maybe link 7) that need to go. I’m not getting too fatigued half way through, which is good. I guess I just need to settle into it again. In the interviews I did this week I have been telling people how I am looking forward to ‘getting to know the show again.’ I’ve been thinking about it as if it were a person, with a personality that I am keen to uncover more of. I think, however, that I might have been looking too hard into the show and not spending enough time getting acquainted with the audience. I haven’t felt totally comfortable with them yet, and perhaps that has shown.