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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, October 20, 2002
    Incredible all right
    Today a straightforward Sunday - service, home, hone sermon, service, preach sermon, home. Still living on yesterday's glories, sorry that yesterday's blog had such a contrary conclusion, wishing it'd just remained a reverie on Rooney, re-watching the game twice (once before breakfast, once after lunch), and also glowing about another highlight of the past 24 hours - seeing The Incredible String Band at The Neptune last night.

    Paul and I could not believe it - once again we seemed the youngest people in a 'rock' concert audience. And the Band, back on tour after 27 years, seemed truly and almost magically ancient. Looking like the sorts of viziers, merlins, gnomes, jesters their songs conjure, when wizened old Robin Williamson, Mike Heron and Clive Palmer shambled onto stage it was a worry they'd make it through. All but Williamson sat down and stayed static; all spent the evening looking for their reading glasses and shuffling papers on their music stands. Poor old Clive kept taking what we assumed were essential 'comfort breaks' between songs, shuffling in that sideways way of a man badly needing a hip-op. Bringing a whole new interpretation to the expression rock and roll.

    ÒThe Incredible String Band were an inspiration and a sign.Ó said Robert Plant in 1979. They were out of the picture by then and I suspect that even though in their heyday they were championed by the Beatles, Stones, Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan and Donovan nevertheless they were always a bit peripheral. Their music's an amalgum of folk whimsy, committed British traditional, epic poetic, singalong blues and (probably the defining mood) chemically-induced daftness. But - what quality. What beauty. All of which, combined, means - what a wonder to see them last night.
      What a wonder to see them - still alive after doing all those drugs;

      What a wonder to see them - still fantastically creative;

      What a wonder to see them - still, by their evident generosity towards each other and understanding onstage, loving performing these gems, loving introducing new ones;

      What a wonder to see them - not bothered that they looked and perhaps felt so aged, instead trusting the music to carry them and the audience into worlds of light, energy, joy.
    Four old men and Williamson's missus (Birkenhead-Asian-born Bina) put on a most unconventional 'gig', and a real unexpected treat for us. But I guess that's probably what they always did, even back in the sixties. Even back then, when their legs could still hold them up for more than five minutes at a time, I'd guess they were just as laid-back and wonderful as they proved last night.
      Listen to the song of life.
      Its rainbow's end won't hold you.
      Its crimson shapes and purple sounds,
      Softly will enfold you.

      It gurgles through the timeless glade,
      In quartertones of lightning.
      No policy is up for sale,
      In case the truth be frightening.

      You know what you could be.
      Tell me my friend,
      Why you worry all the time
      What you should be.