A few weeks back Jake Clemons played in the living room of a small town I can’t pronounce in The Netherlands.
This all starts back in January 2014, when in the pit of one of Bruce Springsteen‘s Cape Town concerts I met a gorgeous Dutch girl called Ellen. Thanks to super advanced technology (the internet – it still baffles me) we’ve kept in touch, and eight months later I was standing in her home in Tegelen (it’s hard to say, and spell) surrounded by her closest family and friends.
One of these friends is the brilliant Sanne – Ellen’s sister in law and partner in crime. We have a similar approach to travelling abroad for concerts (basically Fuck It), and the girls headed to Ireland last year to see Jake play a series of gigs in pubs. They’ve campaigned ever since to get a European Tour going for him, and now their efforts have paid off.
All great concerts start with great journeys, don’t they? That morning I’d left London at 4am for an early morning flight to Eindhoven, meeting up with Irish Andy, his sister Rachel, Claire and her husband Raf. After a couple of blips along the way (if you ever meet Andy never task him with directions/timetables/transport) our train pulled into Venlo station.
Thanks to Andy we also visited the world renowned town of Helmond Brouwhuis….
Granting us the VIP treatment, Ellen and Sanne whisked us to Tegelen and Ellen’s family home where her bubbly and brilliant mum, dad and brother were waiting with fridges full of niiiiiice beer and homemade snackettes, keeping us fueled until the big arrival.
|As if there’ll ever be a blog post that doesn’t mention food|
|“If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in”|
|The magic carpet. Jake = Aladdin|
It soon came. Just after 8pm Jake pulled up in his little hire car (I did ask what it was put I can’t remember – it was something small and amusing). Guitar in hand he took his spot in the kitchen, big backing screen swapped for big fridge, and a stadium of thousands of fans swapped for 60 very eager faces just inches from his feet. Family and friends. Old and new. For two hours Jake treated us to a beautiful, intimate acoustic performance of his own music, including his latest EP “Embracing Light”.
|I’m not Embracing much Light in this pic|
“There’s a lot of bitterness in the world,” Jake told us, “but there’s that little bit of sweet to make it better.” A poignant introduction to one of his latest tracks, Bittersweet.
It was just one of the many songs of love and hope on the night, each accompanied by a heartfelt and often humorous anecdote. Laughing, he explained the importance of the living room shows to us: “Our music is all stored in a cloud in the sky – where’s my vinyl?!” It stressed his commitment to getting back to the roots of music – before CD’s and downloads. The days when music was there to be enjoyed and shared in person, often live in someone’s living room.
Of course no Jake Clemons performance would be complete without some sort of saxophone involvement. For ten minutes we stood open mouthed (a beautiful view for him I’m sure) as he treated the room, and the Tegelen neighbours (potentially the whole town – it was that loud) to a spine tingling sax solo.
|They rock the open mouth look|
Keen to involve other musicians in the crowd he then pulled up Raf, a guitar player in his own punk band, to play a couple of his own songs, with Jake stepping back to support on the sax. I’m not sure who was most excited about the opportunity – Jake, Raf, or Raf’s wife Claire. It was one very smiley trio.
It was the end of Jake’s set, but not the end of the night. Those Dutch know how to throw a good party, and the beers flowed until the early hours, with several of bottles of Dropshot (a liquorice “black magic liquor”) polished off along the way. Jake stayed for a few more hours having a chat and a laugh with everyone who’d travelled to see him play, remembering names and faces like he’d met us hundreds of times before.
|A Lowry sandwich|
|Andy = #selfie|
Every concert I go to I remember the music. I remember the songs, I remember the stories. But I also remember the characters. It’s the people around me who have added to those memories – whether it’s 90,000 strangers, or 60 people I’ve met just hours before. I was lucky to be a part of that night with Ellen, Sanne and their kind, welcoming and truly brilliant family and friends. Thank you girls for having me. Jake, we’re all ready for the next one.