No matter how he continues to impress as a poet, Stonehaven's Neil Young (and sometimes Neil C Young) just cannot shake the association with his famous alter ego. Although comparatively late in booking this fine poet, Books and Beans MC Gerard Rochford was quick to refer to myself, Catriona Yule and Keith Murray as Neil's "backing band" (although did not go as far as to refer to us as Crazy Horse) at the reading tonight and, gladly so, we each read for just a few minutes to "warm up" for the night's headliner.
Catriona gave us some of her greatest hits in 'Russian Dolls', 'Portrait of John and Yoko' and 'The Song' while Keith impressed us with a "best of" selection of his work published over the years by the Herald. Only I dared to tease the crowd by only performing new material....and I think I'll ditch this "gig" theme now.
Yes, my set was largely all new tonight with political poems 'You Kip, You Lose' (an anti-Farage rant) and 'When Alex Met Frank' (an imagined scene between a canvassing Alex Salmond and our cat) and 'Premonition on Holburn Street' which I had read previously in the open mic in January. I was pleased with the audience reaction - you always get a good round of applause at Books and Beans and I think folks genuinely like what they hear.
I have performed with Neil Young on several occasions in the past: he appeared at the last ever Per-Verse! and twice made the final of the North East Spoken Word Slam and was a regular open mic champ in Cellar 35. Tonight he made his Books and Beans debut, opening in style with a great performance piece as the recently interred Richard III rightfully worried about being given the "laureate treatment". He read variously from both his 2011 pamphlet 'Lagan Voices' and more recent works. My favourites were the always entertaining 'Shankhill Road KFC' which tells the tale of a Celtic fan straying from safety when visiting Cliftonville for a European cup match and a completely different, moving tribute to a departed friend. Don't tell him this, but it's one of the finest sonnets I've ever heard.
The next Books and Beans night takes place on 30th April with Alasdair Gordon reading from his brand new book and a tribute to the late, great Hilda Meers.