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Review of concert from 2002-01-15: with Emmylou Harris, S Earle, N Griffith, J Prine; Glasgow, Clyde Auditorium; Landmine Free World
Guardian, 2002-01-17
- Elizabeth Mahoney

 

Concert for a Landmine-Free World

Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Elisabeth Mahoney
Thursday January 17, 2002

 
Emmylou Harris at the Concert for a Landmine Free World
 

Every 22 minutes someone is killed or maimed by a landmine. This equates to eight people losing limbs or their life over the course of this charity concert. However impressive the line-up (Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris), and however sweet the music, these cruel statistics hung in the air as sombrely as the only bit of stage decoration, a forlorn-looking homemade banner. "Our smoke machine broke, and our dancers got waylaid at some airport," was the explanation offered by Harris, the evening's self-declared "hostess".

The show had all the visual impact of a 1960s political meeting in a draughty church hall. The musicians sat in a row throughout, taking it in turn to play their songs. Harris was quite the busiest, pausing from singing only to auction off the Cambodian silk scarf she was wearing. She and Costello sang Indoor Fireworks together, slowing the chorus down to a troubling, drowsy pace. For most of the slightly stilted first set, though, one person sang while the others looked as if they didn't quite know what to do with themselves. Prine stared off into the middle-distance, Costello bent himself in half and nodded slowly, and Earle rested his guitar on his stomach, looking not unlike Jim Royle.

At the end of the first half, Bobby Muller (co-founder of the international campaign to ban landmines) came on to speak about the issue that had ostensibly brought us together. Judging by the amount of coughing in the audience as he spoke, a fair number were only here for the line-up. One of those even shouted "No politics" as Costello introduced an especially bruising rendition of Shipbuilding.

It was in the second set that the show, and its quiet stars, began to relax. Much more collaborative in nature, this set had a fluidity and engaging quality that the first - despite some real highlights - lacked. Personalities began to shine through: Prine has a humour so dry it's brittle, while Griffith is a sentimental chatterbox. The musicians also competed to sing the most heartbreakingly poignant song (Earle won, with Goodbye). For a final, rousing encore, they joined together to sing Prine's Daddy Won't You Take Me Back to Muhlenberg County, a song about a real place called Paradise that is under threat. We may not live in paradise, but the song still made a searing kind of sense on the night.

At the Hammersmith Apollo, London W6 (0870 606 3400), tonight.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

 
         
 

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