The Scottish definition of the word “acoustic” differs noticeably from our own.
Even though we’d explained the concept of a Soirée de Poche quite well, they arrived with electric guitars and amps, and every intention to use them. We repeatedly asked them to turn down the volume–during soundcheck then during the soirée–but they didn’t. At any rate, it was futile: the voice of Neil Pennycook is sufficiently powerful to cover all of the crashing, smashing percussion in the world. So, we let him sing loud, and we let his acolytes play loud too. Even the cellist was going at it, riffing almost violently on his instrument (it was Pete Harvey, who plays in The Leg, which I think explains a lot).
We also knew, after a Take Away Show with them, that Meursault’s songs were malleable and that they were necessarily going to experiment with their set, playing some tunes with a relaxed air, as if exclusively in the company of friends, seated around a campfire in an old cabin in the woods. And as if by magic, there was this moment of calm, a bit outside of time itself, on a bridge traversing the Canal Saint-Martin, only disturbed by the regular beeping of a parked scooter’s alarm. Neil thought it was funny; he adapted his performance to the circumstances. He also used the occasion to revisit a few old songs, to try out some unedited and above all loud tunes, and to play raw, drawn-out versions of the singles off his last album Something For the Weakened (he replaced the string quartet on the recording). Among the night’s other songs, he did a very beautiful, very intense and stripped-down version of his “William Henry Miller” (reversing the “Part II” and “Part I”).
Once our fears of waking the whole neighborhood had dissipated, there were smiles, and then laughs…and in the end a lot of happy people.
It was the first Soirée de Poche dedicated to a Scottish band…and it held its promises.