Live Q & A Session
The Hospital Club, London
22 December 2014
A gathering of fans young, old and in between assembles on a chilly Winter evening in London’s Covent Garden district, with the Club providing a warm and comfortable home for the evening. Of course, fans of Stewart can have become just that through different projects – The Tourists days, Eurythmics naturally, later work with the likes of Dylan, Superheavy with Jagger and Damien Marley, A R Rahman and Joss Stone. He also knows the Funkadelic crew, which makes him a legend in my world straight away! The man knows everyone it seems, but retains a laidback, steady and measured approach. Sometimes Martini-fuelled but always interesting and above, all adventurous. Dave is not one to stand still, he has a bit of a butterfly mind-set at times and during the Q and A arranged here tonight veers off on tangents to tell additional stories, somehow finding his way back to what passes for the thread of the narrative. He peppers the show with songs that he either plays live or locates after struggles on his iTunes account. These include a mellow groove guitar cut with Jagger, recorded in the Caribbean and sounding like an out-take from The Rolling Stones ‘Some Girls’ album And – to the crowd’s delight – a recent cut with Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer on which the music sounds like Grace Jones but the vocal is warm, rather curious but fascinating at the same time…
Generously he makes time to feature the young female guitar player Carmen Vandenberg on a two-guitar blues schtick with straight tuning and slide weaving together. Also an a capella take of the Eurythmics classic ‘When The Day Goes Down’ by Dave’s daughter Kaya (14) which has an ancient voice purring out of a very young frame. Martin Longstaff of The Lake Poets is asked to play a song. You get the idea. it was a loose unstructured kind of a set and all the better for it. Stewart doesn’t need more than a couple of guitars, a mike and a bunch of listeners to put on a performance and whilst there is no lecturing or anything approaching that, Dave’s artistic philosophy seems to emerge. In a nutshell, it’s great hanging out and creating with the world musical alumni BUT everyone is new on the block once and may need a little exposure. Given his feel and love for roots music of all kinds, Stewart could be viewed as a kind of anti-Cowell, prepared to let creative people be themselves and able to enhance or distil what they are doing. I think his gift is the ability to envisage possibilities from what is initially presented to him. If you remember the vibrant production work of, say, Jimmy Miller with the Stones or Traffic, or Mitchell Froom’s with Crowded House, S Vega etc then this is what we are talking about. Facilitation or even alchemy. Things happen around Dave Stewart, and not by accident.
The lengthy chat covered a youthful Stewart recording a song and calling the local radio station in Sunderland to sing it down the phone, adopting an eccentric dress style in a somewhat hostile and fearful environment, travels to London, playing in bands, recording, collaborations…a rainbow of subjects but all part of the creative world he inhabits. He is lucky to have the time and money to indulge his trips to far-flung locales to record or play – but you can say that he has earned the privilege. He did discover a major musician in the young Joanne Shaw Taylor, for which I am personally very grateful. In fact his love of the blues tends to get buried in his glossier productions which embrace much electronica, but it’s there – in the same way that Chris Rea has that elemental feel. When I first met Rea, he didn’t believe that as so-called serious writer /player I had seen all his tours, leading me to state my regard for his writing and evident penchant for Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. You can never hide what inspires you – and he certainly couldn’t. In Dave Stewart’s case, early exposure to the strange Chris Blackwell / island label stable opened his mind and left its mark and all the better for it, too. One hope he never loses that streak of hippiedom that fuels his creativity. Nurture those sparks, say I
(FOOTNOTE : after the session I spoke briefly with Stewart about his fantastic MudBone album starring Funkadelic / Bootsy singer Gary ‘MudBone’ Cooper..he feels it was probably
‘ahead of its time ‘ – but it remains one of my favourite blues creations of this millennium thus far and is worth tracking down – PS)