Reviews 2007

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Anthony John Clarke
Trevor Durden 14th September 2007
The nights are turning somewhat chilly; the Rugby World Cup on the television and it was Bromyard Folk Festival. It is therefore a wonderful testament to the man that The Woodman was full to bursting point for the appearance of Anthony John Clarke.

Following a smorgasbord of floor artists we all settled back for “Mr Comfort” himself. Picking up the famous red guitar he swung straight into “And He Took It,” the audience needing no second bidding to join in with the chorus. The joy of Anthony John is that he is so multi – facetted and this was beautifully demonstrated with a most sensitive rendition of Tom Clelland’s “If There’s A Next Time.”

An integral part of an evening with Anthony John is the patter. This is hugely entertaining revolving around his fascination with nuns and tattoos. (A good title for an album!) On this occasion however he regaled us with anecdotes about his father and, turning the tables on the infamous Woodman Naughty Corner, quotations and heckles from our own web site.

Whilst the patter is entertaining the focus of the evening is, without doubt, the songs. Anthony John is a wordsmith of the very highest quality, ably illustrated by the tender “An Acquaintance Of Mine.” The imagery in this song is just mind-blowing. Moving from sensitivity to high comedy we moved swiftly on to the aptly titled “Impossible Song”. Try as one might, the chorus is impossible to sing although it is just seven words. Anthony John has clearly given up any hope of an audience managing to sing it correctly; he therefore invited us to make as much effort as possible to get it wrong! It was effortless! We were still clutching our sides with laughter when Anthony John introduced “The Wrong Way Round”. This is a stunning piece of writing and clearly comes from deep inside the man himself. The first half concluded with “Spray A Little Perfume” with the infectious hook of “tonight we’re going o dance right through ‘til dawn”. I’m sure we were all prepared to do so.

So we all paused for breath, a visit to the bar and a bit of chat before settling down for the second half. Anthony John started off by introducing his little Martin guitar. He really should have known better as it was greeted with the heckle “Have you washed it?” Never mind Anthony John, it sounded beautiful.

Anthony John has the happy knack of knowing exactly what an audience want and tonight was no different. Starting off with a new song telling us to do the things we want to do before it’s too late, (I’m sorry but I didn’t catch the title – it may have been “Sing It For You Now You’re Young”) he followed on with the tragic “Only Life Gloria Knows”. This song is a classic piece of descriptive writing and never fails to evoke the feeling of hopelessness and desperation. 
As well as performing his own material, Anthony John is also a fine interpreter of other people’s songs and this was well demonstrated with his performance of Dave J Wilson’s classic “Storm Around Tumbledown”. This song sits splendidly together with the poignant, bitter - sweet “Broken Years” and both deserved and received not only prolonged applause but also wonderful harmonies on the choruses.

Continuing with “That’s Life” and the smashing “History’s Clown” the evening reached its false tabs with “But Then I’m Irish”. Prolonged and fulsome applause ensured an encore and Anthony John delighted us all by calling our very own Bryn Phillips to the stage. Bryn was taken absolutely by surprise and it was fortunate he happened to be holding his guitar at the time! Together they sang Bryn’s song “Tomorrow The Sorrow Begins” the chorus ringing around the room was a fitting end to the evening.

I confess that I am an Anthony John Clarke fan and, as far as I’m concerned he can do no wrong. I must have seen him well over a dozen times and he never fails to delight. He is personable, humble and very, very talented and long may he continue to entertain us.