There are times when it's really obvious that I don't know my way round the Internet very well. I guess I can offer up the excuse that for the first seven years I had access to a personal computer, I was using a dial up modem connection which meant on a good day I was operating at about 43kps. For those of you who've never been stuck down there in low speed land what it means is that your options for activities on line are limited. For instance you're not going to watch any streamed video unless you don't mind it stopping every few seconds to buffer as you can't download the information fast enough to play it continuously.
So even though I've been using high speed since the beginning of this year, it's only been recently that I've started shedding the old behaviours and taken to watching clips of concerts that show up on places like You Tube. What I didn't know was that there are sites like Fabchannel where they broadcast entire concerts online. I found out about them when I was trolling through Hyena Records' blog looking to see which, if any, of my reviews of their people they had linked up to, and I came across a link to a concert that one of my new favourite performers, Gryason Capps, had given at the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam.
Grayson Capps had really blown me away the first time I heard any of his music, and continued to do so after I heard his recent release, Rott 'N' Roll. Then in August I had the chance to spend some time with Grayson on the phone for an interview and that only confirmed all the good opinions I had formed about him. You know how it is, sometimes a person might come across a certain way on record, but then when you talk to them you find out it was only artifice and they aren't anything like what you hoped. Well that's not the case with Grayson Capps, what you hear on the records is pretty much what you get when you talk to him.
The opportunity of seeing even a recording of him performing was too good to pass up, so I decided to check out Fabchannel's offering. It wasn't going to cost anything except some time, and if, like some of the feeds I've seen on other video sites, the sound or the picture quality sucked I could always turn it off without feeling like I'd wasted anything. Well I don't know who these people are over at Fabchannel, but, in this case anyway, the quality of the sound and video was better than many concerts I've seen on DVDs offered for sale. Even when I blew up their embedded player to fit my full screen the picture quality stayed almost as crisp as it was in the smaller version and the sound was crystal clear.
The concert was filmed in May of this year, and, in a bit of a surprise, Grayson was performing by himself without his band. Over the course of about one hundred and ten minutes, Grayson sings twenty-five songs and regales the audience with stories about people he's known and some of the places he's been. Some of his songs tell versions of the stories that he's just told us, versions that take us inside the story so that instead of being an observer, all of a sudden we're sitting in that bar with him and Bobby Long on a Saturday afternoon in Alabama.
Watching Grayson Capps perform is almost like attending an old fashioned revival meeting. He's a commanding presence on stage, and not just because he's a big man, but because of the force of his personality. Whether he's telling a story, singing, reciting, or leading the audience in a sing a long, he exudes a life force that has to be seen to be believed. He sings with a voice that sounds like its been carved from the wood of a tree that's been around as long as the Tennessee Mountains he sings about in his song "Arrowhead". Yet for every rough hewn song about some strange and tragic character who has crossed his path, there's an equal number of songs that express his joy and wonder at the world.
You get the impression watching Grayson that's there's always a great big laugh just waiting to burst out, even when he's at his most serious. It's like he can be serious if he has to, and knows there are times when it's important, but there is so much about life to enjoy that he can't hold it in for very long. In the song "A Love Song For Bobby Long" he talks about a character who was a friend of Grayson's dad when he was a kid. At one point he compares Bobby to Zorba, the character played by Anthony Quinn in the movie Zorba The Greek who teaches a young English school teacher how to enjoy life to its fullest. You get the feeling that Grayson received similar lessons and took them to heart as he pours all of himself into all of the songs he performs that evening on stage at the Paradiso.
The set list pretty much covers his entire career as a solo performer, with songs from all three of his recordings, plus a couple of covers including a version of the traditional Scottish ballad "Barbara Allen" and the Tom T. Hall song "Fox On The Run". He alternates between playing an old battered Gibson acoustic, and a wooden resonator for when he switches to playing slide guitar. Interestingly enough he doesn't use a pick-up on either instrument, so he stays seated for most of the concert. However, unlike a lot of folk who stay seated while playing, you never get bored watching Grayson. He's got to be one of the most animated people I've seen. Even when just playing an instrumental on his guitar, his whole body is involved, from his toes tapping out the beat to his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as his fingers strum, slap, and pick at the strings or fly over the fret board.
After having listened to a few of Grayson Capps' discs and talking to him on the phone for about an hour or so in August, I'd thought I had begun to get to know a little about him and his music. However, watching him perform, and seeing how the music brings him to life and how he brings life to the music, I realized that to really appreciate Grayson Capps you have to see him. He is such an integral part of his music; his personality, his zest for life, and, most of all, his spirit, that just listening to his songs on the CDs you'll never fully experience him or his music.
Which means if you're like me and live in some small city where the chances of Grayson showing up to give a concert are minimal (people only stop in my town to give concerts because the wheels on their bus fall off while travelling between Toronto and Montreal) your best bet is to find a good recording of him in concert. Thankfully not only is there one available, it's also amazingly enough free.
Fabchannel's recording of Grayson Capps live at the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam, is not only free, it's professionally produced and recorded. Not only are the sound and video of excellent quality, the actual camera work is superb as five cameras were used and captured wonderful footage of all aspects of the performance. I guess the only drawback is that you won't be able to burn concerts like this onto a disc of your own to watch on an external machine, as they are broadcast through a flash player like the one embedded into this article.
If you've never had the chance to see Grayson Capps live, and want to, this concert should tide you over until you get the chance to do so in person, it really is the next best thing.