If the late Terry Pratchett had ever visited the Concert Hall at the Lighthouse, Poole, he would have added another character to his books - Death of Music!
On Friday 13th October (it could only be…!), Richard Thompson drew an expectant crowd of fans to see his Acoustic Classics Tour. Support act, folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, commenced proceedings. They played a classy mix of Josienne's own songs and a couple of Fairport classics - Fotheringay and Reynardine. Ben's acoustic guitar work was exquisite: precise, technically complex but a perfect accompaniment to Josienne's powerful and evocative lyrics…
I think! If only we were able to hear the lyrics properly. Was it her microphone, the pa., the sound engineers, her microphone technique, or was she being sabotaged to make the main act look good? (Sorry to be cynical, but it has happened before! - not with Richard, I hasten to add).
Not tonight! On comes Richard Thompson - it was the same problem! Typically classy guitar work and a song-list that stretched back to old favourites (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight; Waltzing for Dreamers), Fairport classics (Who Knows Where the Time Goes) and more recent songs. But we still couldn't hear the lyrics properly!
Now admittedly a Poole audience can be a difficult one to engage with - they often seem too embarrassed to sing along - but Richard appeared to be rather frustrated when he attempted to get people to join in the choruses, with little effect. Actually Richard, they couldn't hear the lyrics that well, so, if they didn't know the words they couldn't sing. It just compounded their natural reticence!
But it almost certainly wasn't the microphone or the pa. that was the problem - it was the Lighthouse Concert Hall acoustics. How do I know? Well I have seen numerous acts there over the years - rock bands (the Who, Jethro Tull ), jazz and funk (Snarky Puppy, Pat Metheny, Spatial AKA), and singers (Joan Armatrading, Taj Mahal) - no matter what the genre or instrumentation, the problem is the same. Somewhere between the stage and the audience lies an audio black-hole - sound enters it from the pa. never to emerge again as other than a muffled echo. It is not the fault of the performers, who invariably give their all; it's the (expletive) building! Despite spending millions of pounds on at least 2 major refurbishments, the Lighthouse appears to consider its prime performance space to be adequate for musical performances, and to require no further investment. To my ears, that is not the case - and the venue continues to provide a dis-service to performers and audience alike.
Richard, Josienne, Ben - it was a great gig - apologies for the venue!
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