Findlay Napier hit his hometown in the midst of an extensive tour promoting his current release and drew in a packed crowd tonight. He’s flying solo on this tour but the lack of his VIP Band didn’t hinder what was a happy homecoming, Napier on top form, ebullient, and the crowd, all seemingly well versed in the material, all too happy to be honorary VIPs’ for the night, coached on the choruses of several songs by the persuasive singer.
He’s a hard worker, two 45 minute sets with a brief interval, the bulk of the material garnered from his album and EP project, Very Important Persons. For those who don’t know, Napier, in partnership with Boo Hewerdine has crafted a set of songs that can be described as potted biographies of several characters, some famous, some less so. That description however fails to capture the art and craft of the songs, the subjects a springboard for Napier’s reflections on life, his observations and couthy wit. There was no sense of tonight being an aural equivalent of Madame Tussaud’s with Napier wheeling out one famous character after another. Although he’s quite open about his original research tool being Wikipedia he has been living with these characters for the past two years and in a sense they could now be considered family. This was apparent early in the set on the moving Hedy Lamarr, a beautiful song which focuses on Lamarr’s enforced contribution to the war effort as a pin up girl and starlet, her undeniable scientific skills cast aside.
There were several such moments throughout the night, Napier able to deliver his songs in a tender, almost frail manner. Princess Rosanna Drowned In The Clyde was a perfect obituary for an unknown victim of an unknown act, the song itself inspired by some graffiti Napier happened upon while Show Folk was an evocative sepia stained tale that conjured up images of flickering newsreel. There was celebration also, The Man who Sold New York was a vigorous performance, the bare faced cheek of con man George C Parker (who sold NY landmarks to unsuspecting tourists) given a boisterous run through while the folky singalong of After The Last Bell Rings (surely a folk pub standard in the making) captured late night revelries.
Aside from the VIP material there was a good helping from his back catalogue that provided mirth and merriment aplenty along with a reminder that Napier was winning folk awards back in the mid noughties with his band Back Of The Moon. One For The Ditch is a classic drinking song that recalls The Dubliners and Gerry Rafferty and tonight the audience were well in tune singing along with some gusto. Napier delved into his bag of memories for songs such as George, a song that Phil Lynott might have written were he raised in Granton On Spey. He’s Just A Sweetie, a flat sharing song of student lust and loss was preceded by a hilarious account of Napier’s own flat sharing days which included the presence of a bus stop in the hall, purloined on a drunken outing, a logical step up from a traffic cone.
The songs poured out, Napier was full of fun, perhaps making use of the stand up comedy routine he’s recently explored. He encored with a fine Mickey take on the “art” of encoring before his excellent delivery of the traditional A Wee Drappie O’t transforming the Glad Cafe into a Howf for a precious short time. He ended with a roaring version of Rab Noake’s Open All Night, a song he professed to be his favourite before pointing out he plays it at every show. The esteemed Mr. Noakes, in the audience tonight, wasn’t available for comment but the crowd did love it.
You can read an interview with Findlay here