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Walking on the spot

Most people will have heard Walking In Memphis, the 1991 multi-Grammy award song by American Marc Cohn, a 59 year old, twice divorced, singer-songwriter. I know I have, but until this week – my problem rather than anyone else’s, I admit – neither his name nor his connection to said ditty had ever featured on my radar.

Here is a link to the video for the original version, courtesy of – YOUTUBE

Let me explain.

On Monday a call revealed that my brother was returning to the Union Chapel last night in Highbury for a gig by said Mr Cohn.

I mentioned this in passing to a lady of my acquaintance who promptly dissolved into a pool of female adoration/lust on the floor.

She had been a devotee of his music for over two decades and could not only recite a list of all his albums and not a few other songs by heart.

Thus it was I found myself making a trip back up the Victoria tube line to Highbury and last night’s concert.

I cannot be but honest.

Mr Cohn, accompanied by his exceptional percussionist Joe Bonadio, duly played a 90-minute set to a 80%-full audience of his British fans who similarly knew every one of his most well-known songs and, around me in the stalls before its commencement, were eagerly swapping tales of his previous gigs they’d attended and how deeply they’d affected their lives and relationships.

Mr Cohn remains a tall, well-preserved, gent possessed of a pronounced facility on the grand piano and the amplified acoustic guitar he occasionally took to, together with a fine, self-deprecating and often humorous line in between-song patter.

The fact that over the past twenty years he had transmogrified from a floppy-haired cool dude into a bald and grey-bearded slightly-less cool middle-ager was an initial source of dismay to one female member of the audience as she sang along word-perfectly with every tune whilst occasionally leaning over to tell me which album they had originally appeared upon.

In summary.

For your reporter Marc Cohn presented much as it had said on the tin – or rather, as I had expected. Without doubt a talented musician and clubbable guy with a pleasant voice and a facility for coming up with a serviceable melody, I nevertheless left the building as I had arrived: an agnostic.

Don’t misread me. Last night’s expedition was not only a worthwhile expedition and personal manner of spending an evening but it also afforded me exposure to the wares of an accomplished purveyor of a type of music I suspect I would otherwise have spent my entire life without.

Furthermore, all around me were people – mostly aged 45-plus it has to be said – for whom the combination of artiste and a very special venue had provided a temporary deep enjoyment and sense of occasion.

One cannot mock that.

But that’s the irony of music and musical sensibility.

Whether you’re a Mensa-level intellect or basically thick and tone deaf (as I am), your ability to respond to different types of creative ‘voice and instrument’ endeavours is essentially determined by instincts and influences that cannot be described or necessarily understood. It’s an eternal case of ‘each to their own’.

Marc Cohn has had an eventful career – on last night’s evidence, still a long way from its conclusion – and during his time has enhanced (and will enrich) the lives of millions of people around the world by his efforts. I wish him – and them – well.

It’s just that his genre of music, for all its quality, doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Last night I succumbed to a slight general sense that – once I’d heard his first three or four very-well performed songs – I’d heard them all.

Sorry, chaps – but that’s how it is.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts