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Edwyn Collins + Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations – Gorilla, Manchester – Review

Edwyn Collins + Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations – Gorilla, Manchester – Review

Edwyn Collins with support from Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations
Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth Street, Manchester, M1 5WW

Back in 2015 I saw Edwyn Collins and his wife/manager Grace Maxwell being interviewed by Dave Haslam (talk about 3 legends!) about his music and of course his double-cerebral haemorrhage in 2005 that affected his speech and movement on 1 side. Something that would have ended the music career of many, but Edwyn is a fighter! Having chatted to him briefly afterwards about Edinburgh and stuff, it was clear that he’s also a lovely gentleman.

After the talk he performed 3 songs and hinted he may do some live shows at some point, which was an exciting prospect.

4 years later and the announcement came that we’d all been waiting for – not only did he have a brilliant new album out, Badbea, but there was also a tour in September.

I excitedly checked the calendar, hoping the night of his gig at Liverpool Arts Club was free – sods law, an important family doo, typical! Fortunately, he was playing the following night at the other end of the M62 (or since I don’t drive, a trip on Northern Rail away!)

Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations

I believe there were 3 acts on the Liverpool bill, with Seatbelts providing additional support. There was just 1 support act tonight – Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations.

I really wanted to like them – I believe Edwyn Collins chose them personally, they’ve recorded at his studio, and his keyboardists/saxophonist produced their album.

Gabi Garbutt is a great performer, the band were good, and the songs lively and catchy, yet I just couldn’t really get into them.

This song for example, to my ears sounds like a mix of Arctic Monkeys, Kate Nash and Lilly Allen – depending on where you are on the musical map, could be a good thing, but just isn’t for me.

The good news for Gaby is that the new bands I like tend to play to half empty small rooms, whilst people I don’t get at all, like Jake Bugg for example, become absolutely massive! I wish them well!

Edwyn Collins

Growing up in Edinburgh, particularly in the 70s and 80s, the music scene seemed almost entirely London-centric, so there was a genuine sense of excitement when Scotland had it’s own record label with postcard records, with amazing original sounding artists such as Aztec Camera and of course Orange Juice. The label was short-lived and before long the artists had to sign to major labels, but their influence lived on.

In the lead up to tonight’s gig, I wondered what kind of set he would play. Given his health, nobody could blame him if he’d chose to perform a relatively short set, maybe from the current album. Most people in his position wouldn’t perform live at all after all. But I was amazed when I saw the set-list, a career-spanning set of 19 songs, from early Orange Juice to the current album!

He made the odd mistake in between song banter, announcing his son William on the song before the one where he actually came out for example, calling himself an idiot in his charming, self-deprecating way.

William Collins, Edwyn’s Son joins him on stage

The songs themselves however were perfect! You couldn’t ask for any better even if he was in perfect health. It’s mind blowing that he was able to put on such a great show when in less than perfect health. Although there were times where he was clearly struggling, he looked a lot more relaxed than on this performance for BBC Scotland earlier in the year:

He started the set sitting down, but from “Shilly Shally” he chose to stand up for the remainder of the set, occasionally waving about his walking stick defiantly as it to say “this condition won’t get the better of me”!

There was a huge amount of love for him in the room, as the audience shouted “Edywn, Edwyn”, which was a delight to experience.

Against the odds, Edwyn has come a long way since 2005, tonight was proof if any were needed that he’s still very much on top of his game, and I hope will continue to delight audiences for many, many years to come.

A legend and an inspiration to us all!

Words + Pictures by John W. King
Also appears in Live Music Pix

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