It's a funny phenomenon, really. Everybody has one. The embarrassing uncle. The one who did a party turn fifteen years ago when he was pissed, and everyone thought it was funny at the time, and made the mistake of laughing. Maybe once or twice you asked him to do it again. And now, every time he has as much as a half of shandy there he is, standing on the table telling that joke about the rabbi, the rabbit and Hayden Christiansen's nipple, or whatever the party trick happened to be. It's awful. The joke isn't funny any more - it's too close to home, too near the bone, and besides you've heard it so many times before. And the uncle - he used to be well liked and respected within the family. Now he's just a joke. A victim of his own success. Well - I hope you're proud of yourself.
So last night, I went to see Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine in concert. The setting was - well, it was a dark smoky room, full of people and alcohol and heat. A warm snug of a place, which also happens to be five minutes walk from our flat.
Boo Hewerdine opened. He's not well known, which is a real shame. His group, The Bible, had a couple of hits in the late eighties, both of which he performed. I was slightly surprised to find myself singing along. These days I know him better as someone who writes &/or co-writes a lot of Eddi Reader's material, and who performs with her. Nonetheless, it was good to see him on his own.
About ten, Eddi herself arrived on the tiny stage, and launched into her set. Now, in 1989, she was huge. Her band, Fairground Attraction, was at number one for ages with the annoying (and I mean truly annoying, in the sense of me saying that I loathed it) Perfect, now a stalwart of Karaoke and the occasional advert. Of course, they couldn't follow it up, and there was something of an implosion. Fairground Attraction disappeared from public view, and a few years later, Eddi appeared as a solo artist. Her mainstream career had a couple of false starts, and never really took off in the way that it deserved. She built a loyal fan base, had a couple of minor hits, and eventually parted company with major record labels, and became an independent artist - a move which she says really suits her. She's overcome that awful stigma that hits many bands after they have a huge hit, that they can't top, and she's found her niche, and she's damn comfortable there.
All of which meant that rather than playing to huge stadiums where you wouldn't catch me dead, I could see her in my local pub. The gig had a wonderful impromptu air to it; it didn't seem to be planned, and they seemed quite happy to perform more or less anything from Eddi's repertoire based on shouts from the audience. Two vocalists (Eddi and Boo), three guitarists (Eddi, Boo and Colin Reid), and an audience enthralled.
And, about ninety minutes into her set, Eddi introduced the song that for her is the 'Embarrassing Uncle' - the one huge success that could never be followed up. "Perfect", blues style. And the place went wild. Far from embarrassing, far from loathsome. Fantastic.