I’m ashamed to say that even having lived in Sallins nearly all my life, I had no idea that McAuley Place in Naas was housing Naas Arts & Culture Centre. We’ll have to chalk that one up to a senior moment and move on however as there’s some live music to talk about, namely that of Freddie White who landed into Naas last Saturday for one of his trademark classy gigs.
The setting of Naas Arts and Culture Centre is perfect for a gig like Freddie’s, housed in an old chapel on the grounds with eighty to a hundred people at the absolute most nestled in to hear some quality entertainment. There are more than echoes of the famous Church of St James featured in RTE’s Other Voices and that’s no bad thing. It has been just over a year since Freddie was last on these shores and when I spoke to him last year he suggested that maybe he had come back too soon. Well a near full house on Saturday night would suggest that frequency isn’t an issue Freddie and even with it being my third gig of his to see in a year the show was fresh and just as entertaining as you expect from the man.
One noticeable difference in Naas to previous Freddie gigs I’ve been to is how he seemed to be on a mission to clear through some of his bigger hits early on, aside from Martha of course. Tenderness On The Block, Gypsy Moth and Marie all greeted us before the interval and personally I believe it is a move for the better. There’s few, if any, songs Freddie does that I would say are inferior to others; but certainly the likes of the aforementioned bunch are amongst those that you can just tentatively feel the audience waiting to hear. Particularly when the crowd begins shouting for Martha, no matter how inevitable it is that we will hear it, things can get a little wearisome. So kudos on that front Freddie as it allowed us to take in fully the wealth of new songs, both from his recent Better Days album and some even more recent than that.
It has taken White a while to get around to full time songwriting but we are all the better for it that he finally has. As can be heard in songs like Black Is The Colour (not the one you’re thinking of!), he has a way with spinning lyrical themes on their head that sits nicely in with the work of his hero Randy Newman, more of that please. As a Tom Waits fan it was Martha first led me to White’s music but I have to say, after hearing it live three times now, his superb cover of Grapefruit Moon from the same Closing Time album is quickly taking pride of place as my favourite of his covers. That and the closer on Saturday, the excellent Jamie Cullum number Gran Torino which Freddie of course makes entirely his own.
Freddie will be playing the Mill Theatre in Dundrum on June 6th and tickets are still available, as well as other dates around Ireland across May and June, all info can be found on freddiewhite.com. For all looking to appreciate some great music by a great musician it’s an absolute must.