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Music Graham Parker, Union Chapel London/Touring

Acoustic set lacks essence of a great body of work

OFTEN an “unplugged” session by an artist reveals an extra dimension to their music, stripping it down to essential components and revealing hitherto unconsidered depths.

Not so, it seems, with Graham Parker. Solo, with only an acoustic or electric guitar as accompaniment, he stands somewhat naked in the spotlight, unable to reinterpret his work in a way that does it full justice.

Few of the 19 songs he delivers to an attentive and supportive audience sound as good as the originals and, more disconcertingly, many of them — even classics such as Howlin’ Wind and White Honey — feel as if they have lost their very essence.

Perhaps the man and his music are just not suited to this mode of delivery and certainly his recently released 40th-anniversary acoustic version of the 1979 album Squeezing out Sparks seems to confirm that.

Nonetheless, Parker is able to conjure up enough experienced stagecraft — including the use of a kazoo on Stick to the Plan and Bathtub Gin — to keep the full house on his side.

Passion Is No Ordinary Word and Every Saturday Nite are particularly well received and, although the quality of the lo-fi experience disappoints, it's easy enough to appreciate the enduring sharpness of his lyrics, the clarity of his delivery and the reassuring sound of that distinctive voice.

Nothing is broken, nothing needs fixing. At the age of 69, Parker’s legacy as an intriguing songwriter and stimulating performer is safe.

It’s just that he really needs a band behind him.

Touring nationally until December 7, details: grahamparker.net

 

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