Concert ReviewsReviews

Concert Review: The Great Park, The Raw Men Empire (Wishful Music Groningen, 23 September 2011)

Living room concerts have been popping up more and more the past few years, at least in the Netherlands, and they always seemed a fascinating idea. Therefore, when The Great Park (a.k.a. Stephen Burch) invited us to see him play in a recent event organised by Wishful Music, we took the opportunity to see what it was all about. In this case, a cozy student’s room behind an old school, with space for about 25 people, beers in the fridge, and seats on the carpet. And, most importantly, two artists for the night.

Up first was the aforementioned The Great Park, an English singer/songwriter based in Berlin, who is currently doing a lot of European touring. Burch’s songs are firmly within the modern man-and-guitar tradition, combining fingerpicking and strumming with semi-narrative vocals. With a minimal setup such as this, the whole performance rests on an individual artist’s charisma and lyrics, and in this respect The Great Park is a wonderful musician. As astutely pointed out in a review of Burch’s excellent latest album on VPRO Dwars recently, he sounds not unlike David Tibet singing Leonard Cohen, though without most of the former’s esoteric themes and emotional outbursts, tending more toward the style of the latter, focusing on poetic tales of love and life and loss. Even without the subtle strings and other instrumental embellishments of the album, Burch’s performance is memorable in its honesty and narrative quality, personal and emotional without ever becoming trite.

Here’s a video of The Great Park performing “Portugal” on this night:

The other performance of the night was by the Israeli quartet The Raw Men Empire, four guys who play a sort of semi-unplugged mixture of folk and indie rock, with a strong emphasis on catchy songs and a bit of comedy. It showed that these men have played a lot together, as they gave away a very tight performance with various musical roles for each of the members. They also relied a lot on audience interaction,as can be seen in the video below of the song “One Track Mind”:

All in all, a funny and engaging gig, though this is a band that is most fun to see in a setting like this, and not really something to buy an album of to play at home.

Both artists benefited greatly from the intimate setting, though, where a sense of communion is just that bit stronger than when somebody’s playing on a stage generally. Though not suitable for all kinds of artists, this is certainly the strength of living room gigs, and it’s worth checking your local scene for events like this.