Willy Mason @ Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh

It was with some amount of trepidation that I ventured over to Edinburgh, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t book travel and accommodation until Tuesday despite having planned to go for a few months.

I enjoyed some of the best times in my life in Edinburgh in a previous relationship, and seeing Willy Mason perform in Brighton last September was probably the pinnacle of that relationship.  So going back to Edinburgh alone to go to a Willy Mason gig triggered what can only be described as a circus of emotions inside my head.

The feelings of uncertainty subsided when I took a few steps outside Waverley Station to be greeted by the towering gothic structure that is the Scott Monument.  That was when I realised that you would have to be an utterly soulless creature to not be able to appreciate even a few hours in Edinburgh.  You walk out of Waverley Station and you have the Scott Monument looming over you; look up to your left and Edinburgh Castle sits looking over the city, and behind you lays Calton Hill.  Nowhere else in the world gives you that kind of welcome.

And those are only the immediate things that strike you.  There is so much more to Edinburgh:  the steep, sweeping pebbled streets, the hidden bars which lay down winding side-streets (the favourite one I found yesterday was located about halfway down the street in the picture above.  The Banshee Labyrinth claims to be Scotland’s most haunted pub, and half of the building is located in the old underground vaults) and the vast romantic potential for getting lost.  Edinburgh has everything that you’d want in a city – except for maybe a working tram system.  LOL.

So I found Cabaret Voltaire with minimum fuss.  It was about a five minute walk from Waverley Station, just off the Royal Mile, which was just a little disappointing as I have a real fondness of getting lost in Edinburgh.  I think maybe my sense of direction is improving with age.

The most striking thing about the gig venue is that it was underground – as much of Edinburgh’s best parts tend to be – and so was perhaps one of the hottest venues I have ever heard music played.  The intimacy of the setting only added to the intense warmth.

The gig itself was enjoyable, though perhaps not memorable.  I think that seeing Ryan Adams twice this year has probably spoiled any acoustic shows I might happen to see in the next twelve months.  Willy Mason is a sweet guy though (too mild-mannered to deal with the frustrating chattering at the back of the room – Ryan would have sorted those kids out) and his set was packed with uplifting folk numbers.

It was well worth being reminded of the sing-along quality of Willy’s material.  Songs like Oxygen, Where The Humans Eat, Gotta Keep Walking, So Long and Hard Hand To Hold sound like the kind of songs you could belt out over a campfire while passing a flask of whisky around.  There were notable appearances also of Sophie and Pickup Truck, while I Wish I Knew How To Say Goodbye was a charming highlight.

At £2 for a Jack Daniels and coke inside the venue the night was always on to a winner, the venue was stylish and the music was enjoyable.  I think I’m crushing on Edinburgh again.

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