Friday, 7 June 2013

What If You; Hi again, Joshua.


Joshua Radin. The beautiful whiskey-drinking songwriting hat-wearing man who has, without even knowing, been the soundtrack to the hardest and best times of my life. I've seen him perform live four times now, the night before last (Tuesday 4th June) being the fourth and most wonderful time. His voice has the power to hush an entire room, his lyrics spell out our own troubles and triumphs, and his words ring so true. The immense care he takes in every song he writes, records, then performs, can be heard and seen when he's on stage. I've been seeing him live every year since 2010, and now the idea of a year without attending one of his gigs seems almost insane and impossible.

Having taken my then-boyfriend (Brighton, 2010) and parents to his gigs before (Shepherds Bush, 2011/Camden, 2012), I thought this time I'd take my little sister. I just love sharing the experience of Joshua live with those closest to me; Joshua is one of the few things I desperately want to share, which is great because usually I stick my headphones in and keep my favourite bands a secret from everyone. My sister and I met up (along with the parents) in London; Islington to be specific, getting off at Angel station and walking to Union Chapel, a beautiful old church now used almost exclusively for acoustic gigs.
   It was beautiful. A traditional English church, although more rounded than others I've been into. Usually a church is a narrow long building with an aisle, sets of pews either side and an altar right at one end, and of course a high ceiling and stained glass windows. Union Chapel was more of an octagonal shape if anything, the altar/stage was wide and featured a pulpit right behind where the mics and amps were plugged in. Upstairs, there was a bar area (no drinks allowed in the chapel itself, however!) and more seating on a balcony/mezzanine kind of thing. It was chilly, intimate, and charged with energy. Sitting on pews, squashed in amongst fellow fans of all ages (although mostly in couples, Joshua's music is definitely couple-friendly), watching the sun go down through stained glass windows surrounding us, one in particular right above the stage looming large and intimidatingly beautiful. This was the best place I've ever been to for a gig. It bypassed Concorde 2 (under the pier in Brighton) easily, and just about topped KOKO Camden, Joshua's port of call last year. What was even more lovely, is that Joshua himself made no secret of how much he loved the venue.




"It's so quiet... I can hear my thoughts!"

I seem to have a more intense emotional reaction every time I see Joshua Radin. He starts singing, just a few feet away from me, and I feel something very rare, something honest and real. It's not a fangirl crush, by any means, it's a respect for him and a love purely because he is able to write what's in my heart and what I need to hear.
He came out shy and reserved as always, to shouts, screams and echoing applause that bounced off the walls of the chapel until it rose to such a level we could barely hear ourselves think anything else. Then, silence. 'What If You'. Joshua's face is a picture of humble concentration, of dedication and peace, as he sings this song from his very first album. My eyes are filled instantly with hot, happy tears. Something catches in the back of my throat.

"What if you, spoke those words today?"

Something I love that Joshua does live, more so than any other artists I've seen, is his variation in pitch, rhythm and tempo, his changing up of his music just for the benefit of those seeing him that night. 'When We're Together', a pretty upbeat and sunny-sounding song off his new album 'Wax Wings', is slowed down and super-quiet. The melancholy self-confessed sad song 'One Of Those Days', one of my old favourites from the 'Simple Times' era, is played louder and builds to a mighty conclusion. 'You Got What I Need', his 'baby-making song' that he wrote for his friends (who now have a baby girl, all thanks to the song of course) starts slow 'n' simple and becomes more sincere and urgent. He makes his more acoustic songs slightly more full-bodied, and tones his bigger ones down. He mixes his new with his old. Why? I like to think it's so we as an audience get to experience the music as we haven't before; all those times listening to the albums at home were in no way like what we're seeing now, and that's perfect. Who wants to go and see an artist, if they're just going to play their latest album track-by-track, in perfect keeping with the recording? Mixing it up and surprising us is what Joshua does best. That, and making us cry. No, just me? Okay then.


You are lovely tonight.

I met Joshua Radin in September 2012. I paid extra on top of my ticket, which was a birthday present, to go to the venue (KOKO Camden) early to see Joshua rehearse, and have a 'meet and greet' with him. There were maybe ten of us, all female of course plus one girl's (very understanding) boyfriend, and we all got to shake his hand, have a chat, get some photos and generally soak up his undeniably understated charismatic presence. I didn't think twice when the opportunity to meet him arose; money is no object where Joshua is concerned. Buying his albums and paying for tickets has put me further into my overdraft on more than one occasion, and I regret nothing. It was worth every minus figure on my bank balance.
So, this time, Joshua mentioned while he was between songs that he'd be around after the show to meet "hopefully everyone" and thank us for coming. He loves the 'intimate gig' - and to be honest I could never see him playing a large London theatre, let alone an arena - because he has a chance to get to know his audience and make a connection.
He was true to his word. After the show, he and the two members of My Name Is You (who may just be my new favourite band) stood and signed and posed and smiled for what must have been ages. My sister and I very subtly fought our way to the front, and that's when my hands began to shake uncontrollably. Just like they did when I met Frank Warren, John & Hank Green, and Joshua the first time, of course. Just like they do when I meet people who are important to me.

My second encounter with this magical man consisted of him laughing slightly at me saying too loudly "my hands are shaking!", me extending a (trembling) hand, saying "Hey, I'm Grace, I've actually met you before..." at the same time as him saying "Hey, you look familiar..." I introduced him to my sister, she grinned like nothing I've ever seen before, we had photos taken and he wished us well. We left with our parents and skipped back to Angel, dizzy with happiness and on a high from the night; the best night of my life, easily. So thank you Joshua, for giving me yet another unforgettable experience; for making me cry the second you appeared and strummed the first chord, for offering me your hand to shake and putting an arm around my waist, for making music that has been making my life better for the best part of my life. A thousand thank yous.

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