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Jimmy Webb - (With support from Ashley Campbell and Thor Jenson), Cadogan Hall, London. 27/5/2022

  by Dastardly

published: 21 / 6 / 2022

Jimmy Webb  - (With support from Ashley Campbell and Thor Jenson), Cadogan Hall, London. 27/5/2022


Dastardly watches a captivating performance by Jimmy Webb proving he’s as skilled a raconteur as he is songsmith.

A weed growing beside the road and then attaching itself to a fence by a farmer’s field. It’s not immediately the stuff of wonder, is it?.. I mean, weeds? Really? Who writes songs about weeds? Well. it turns out it’s the same guy who writes songs about missing cake recipes and telephone cable engineers and within a few seconds of hearing Ashley Campbell singing Jimmy Webb’s ‘Careless Weed’ tonight a small door opens and a bit of the magic essence that’s brought us all to this concert hall seeps out. It’s not always the big things, Jimmy’s saying. Roses are great, yes but think about the weeds as well.. cos they’re like us, we’re all here together, all trying to dodge the farmer’s hoe. Having Glen Campbell’s daughter Ashley and singing partner Thor Jensen open tonight really makes it feel like a family occasion. As you might expect Glen’s daughter can sing a bit and she manages to pierce both ‘Gentle on My Mind’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with her sweet, richly pointed voice. She and Thor also break the stark classical concert hall vibe and make us forget the space around the island that is Jimmy’s big black grand piano. And now he’s seated at it. Smart in a grey suit he pulls the stool into position and starts playing ‘The Highwayman’. Much like ‘Careless Weed’ the power hidden within ‘The Highwayman’ isn’t immediately obvious – until you realise that somehow within the confines of a vaguely historical song narrative Jimmy has managed to bend infinity just enough to catch the light and give us all a glimpse. It’s breathtaking. The only slight concern is how do you go up from here?? No problem, Jimmy’s lockdown reading has obviously included Stephen Hawking as soon we’re defying physics and soaring over Galveston with its last dying notes clinking on the high keys and then catching a ride in the “beautiful balloon” in the breezy ‘Up, Up and Away’. Every song has its story and Jimmy is in talkative mode tonight. He seems genuinely thrilled to be here – as are we – and keen to dissolve the last couple of years in the smoke trails of the Cadogan Hall spaceship. Eh? Sorry I was momentarily back in the fourth verse of ‘The Highwayman’. We learn about the trumpet-scarred mark around Louis Armstrong’s lips and the encouragement to “keep at it" the jazz legend gave to the young songwriter. Then Frank Sinatra is leaning over the piano and asking him “Do you carry the Big Torch?”. ‘Didn’t We’ was the reply.. and for the record he reckons Frank’s torch was called ‘Ava’. Next, Richard Harris appears, instigating night shifts at an Irish whiskey distillery and then we’re in stitches as Jimmy wonders how, when all the cosmic 60’s ‘substance-assisted’ songwriters were singing about vestal virgins, chrome horses and siamese cats perched on diplomat’s shoulders, he managed to get saddled forever with just one cake.. left out in the rain!! The big black piano gets a thorough work out with some emotional playing on tracks like ‘If These Walls Could Speak’ then other times rolling like the sea on ‘MacArthur Park’ and morse coding out that hypnotic high phrase on ‘Wichita Lineman’. There’s room for a new song too and shout outs to everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Queen. Even Kanye turns up at one point – high up in the sky in the earpiece of some music exec’s phone agreeing to make good on a slice of uncredited Webb magic. And yet for all the stars that have populated Jimmy Webb’s universe he reveals that he too was not exempt from his share of green grass yearning. Back in the mid to late sixties while working with the old guard of Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli his heart was secretly wishing there was a ‘Webb’ answering the question that was ushering in the new future legends, the question that began ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and..’. In a strange way it’s kind of comforting to know that. To know that maybe even the mighty rose was sneaking a glance at the weed.

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Jimmy Webb  - (With support from Ashley Campbell and Thor Jenson), Cadogan Hall, London. 27/5/2022

Jimmy Webb  - (With support from Ashley Campbell and Thor Jenson), Cadogan Hall, London. 27/5/2022

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