Stripped naked, but fully clothed - in Rasen’s Festival Hall

Keith James  EMN-180216-234423001
Keith James EMN-180216-234423001

Concert review by Terry Brighton

Keith James, one of the most popular artists performing in Britain today, appeared in concert at the Festival Hall on Friday, February 2.

His ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ tour has proved so successful that this was concert number 381.

Market Rasen added almost 100 fans to the 100,000 who have seen him perform in Britain and throughout Europe.

Before the concert, James had said it would be “naked and sensual”. The audience was relieved when he walked onto the stage fully clothed.

He explained: “Each song is stripped down to its basics, as Cohen wrote it, to speak to our hearts like a lover.”

Leonard Cohen died on 7 November 2016.

His poetic lyrics and deep, gravelly voice won him a worldwide following. His songs are about the joys of love, the sadness of loss, and the mess we sometimes make of our lives.

James performed many of Cohen’s best-loved songs, including Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Hallelujah. When he invited the audience to join in with the chorus of Hallelujah, the Festival Hall filled with the sound of Market Rasen at its best.

The timbre of his voice caught the depth of Cohen’s late-night, whiskey-and-tobacco-smoke voice. Yet James is more emotional and expressive, losing the effect of Cohen’s flat delivery but remaining true to Cohen’s style – keep it personal.

His emotions showed most strongly as he sang, Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. He explained that the love of his life left him for a man called Mark. Mark was a Leonard Cohen fan, and at every concert James expects to find him in the audience. Thankfully Mark was not present that evening.

James said the Festival Hall was “a wonderful venue to visit”. He was so impressed by the reception in Market Rasen that he “hoped to come back soon”.

“We were delighted at the turnout for Keith James,” commented Nicola Marshall, appointed by Market Rasen Town Council to promote activities in the Festival Hall. “It was a brilliant start toa tremendous line-up of live music this year.”