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.