Gil Scott Heron
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Mon 26 Apr 2010
At a little over three score years, novelist, poet and musician Gil Scott Heron cuts a dapper if weathered figure. Slender, elongated and sage-like Heron enters stage right, alone, like a jazz Gandalf. His famous baritone cuts through the packed auditorium, all here to witness the return of a true survivor, the daddy of the beats, the chaotic progenitor of hip hop.
There’s a spoken preamble in which Heron tells some bad jokes, outlines his campaign to ‘take back February’ because it is Black History Month (most of the audience are white) and muses at the bewilderment of releasing a new album in your sixties.
It’s all very familiar but it’s not until he settles down to play a solo version of his excellent 70s political diatribe ‘Blue Collar’, that it twigs - this is the same set list that Heron has been playing for the last twenty years. The possibility of him chancing a few tasty cuts from his intriguing new album I’m New Here recede quickly from hope.
For anyone who has seen Heron in concert before, from here, it is business as usual. He invites various members from his two most famous backing groups -- Amnesia Express and The Midnight band on stage and they work their way through fairly trad reconstructions of the good - ‘Winter in America’, ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’, ‘Pieces of a Man’ and the bad - ‘Is That Jazz?’, ‘Your Daddy Loves You’ ending on a bit of sub-Niles Rogers euphoria; ‘Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate’. The encore is of course - unsurprisingly and unironically - ‘The Bottle’.
What Heron and his exceptional band do is great and if you have never seen him before the show is wiggy enough to give one the sense of having seen a legend. But for lovers, fans, stalkers of this undeniable god-like genius it’s simply not fresh enough. Tonight the son of the Black Arrow is on cruise control.
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Mon 26 Apr.