Musical Mondays (5) – Review of Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby Live

On my holiday in London last week I had this conversation about twice a day, on average:

Them: What are you doing later this week?
Me: Well, I’m seeing Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby on Friday.
Them: Oh. (Pause) Never heard of them.

So I’ll assume for the purposes of this review that you know nothing about either artist. Wreckless Eric was one of the original signings of Stiff Records and is the dictionary definition of a cult artist. His most famous song is Whole Wide World, a great pop song that was used in the film Stranger than Fiction. Amy Rigby is my favourite female songwriter, having produced a string of cracking albums that you can find on Spotify (start with the compilation 18 Again). Now the pair are married, have made one album of originals and one of covers that has just been released, and live in France when they are not touring.

The bulk of their live show at the Lexington in London mainly consisted of songs from the two albums they made together. Songs like Here Comes My Ship, Another Drive-in Saturday, Bobblehead Doll and their cover of I Still Miss Someone made me listen to Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby again yesterday (check it out on Spotify). Having never really got into it, seeing the songs live made me want to listen to their album again, and I really enjoyed it. Their voices gel surprisingly well, considering they are very different: I love Amy Rigby’s voice, which is powerful but with a hint of frailty, whereas Wreckless Eric sounds like Billy Bragg has been gargling with broken glass. The drum loops take some getting used to, but they are used well. One problem in the live show was that Eric sings much louder than Amy Rigby, and sometimes overshadowed her when they sang together, but this is one minor gripe in an excellent show.

Both seemed happy to be in London rather than in Hyde, where they had been earlier in the week. Neither went into much detail, but this is what Amy wrote on her blog about it:

The promoter called and said the pub had been broken into the night before. He jokingly said maybe that would bring more people out, so they could get a look at the crime scene. We should have known right there it was going to be a tough night. From the barbed wire and old tires around the junkyard entrance next door, to the dogshit scattered across the astro-turfed pub “garden”, to the load-in up a wet metal fire escape because the police were busy dusting the inside stairs for fingerprints, to the leftover scraps of astroturf covering the surface of the stage, to the panicky soundman, to the greasy yet sticky surface of everything in the place – it was hard not to feel depressed. You know you’re in trouble when you look to the resident heckler for affirmation.

The upstairs room at the Lexington was packed, and – naturally –  I was the youngest in the room by about twenty years. The woman in front of me had obviously been dragged their by her husband, who kept shooting her nervous glances to see if she was enjoying it. I’m not sure she was: she only applauded three times, during three of Amy Rigby’s songs (interestingly enough). They were Are We Ever Going to Have Sex Again, Don’t Ever Change and the opening track to Amy’s last solo album, Like Rasputin. All are wonderful songs in very different ways, so perhaps we should just admire her taste. Here’s them both playing Don’t Ever Change:

I knew very little of Wreckless Eric’s solo stuff – he’s one of the few major artists on Stiff Records whose stuff I haven’t got. On the strength of the show, I bought his albums from Stiff. No doubt the others will be accumulated soon. Reconnez Cherie has been in my head since he played it on Friday. This is their version, and posted here is the original:

The pair seem happy, relaxed and obviously have a good chemistry on stage – thankfully, or you’d fear for their marriage. This was two of the best songwriters you’ve never heard of playing together in a relaxed, joyful atmosphere. What more could you ask for?

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