Paul Carrack is on tour and tonight’s stop-off at The Festival Theatre Edinburgh was a chance to catch up with a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose voice and songs are inter-woven into the musical fabric of the last few decades by Paul Carrack himself and the many other performers that he has worked with, written with, or who have recorded his work.
Paul Carrack is simply one of the classic writers of the past few decades, so it is perhaps appropriate that this show opened with a song that Paul has covered before, “When You Walk In The Room”, written by another all-time classic writer, Jackie DeShannon. Paul may like covering in style some of the classic songs of earlier days from time to time, but his own catalogue back catalogue as a writer (or co-writer) is not only a check-list of some of the most popular songs in contemporary popular music, but some of the best-crafted songs musically and lyrically that any British writer has penned.
For any upcoming songwriter/performer, this show was simply a master class in songwriting and stage performance as the evening gave us Paul in a very friendly and jovial mode, but wasting little time to talk as hit song followed hit song with the audience loving every minute of performances from Paul and the band on classics that included "How Long", The Living Years", "Over My Shoulder", “Eyes of Blue” and many more. Paul Carrack is without any doubt a gifted songwriter and it was just obvious from so many people in the audience here that these songs mean so much to them for so many different reasons. Add into this mix though one of the great soul voices of any time period (reminding me at times of the smoothness of Sam Cooke) plus the talents of a multi-instrumentalist, and it is easy to see and hear why Paul Carrack is on the “first choice” list for so many other great artists when they want to work with someone to bring that extra special touch to their project or music.
With a new tour, and a new album out - “These Days” - Paul shows no signs of slowing down and the new album (his 17th solo album) sees a welcome return to writing many songs again with his old “Squeeze” friend and band-mate, Chris Difford. This show is a mixture of classic songs from Paul’s back catalogue and of course new songs from this album, and as you would expect, everything old and new is fitting in together seamlessly with songs like "Amazing", "Dig Deep" and "Perfect Storm" clearly showing that Paul Carrack is still one of the best songwriters out there, and the title track “These Days” just takes me back to very laid back days listening to the classic sounds of Delroy Wilson.
The band for this tour are, as you would expect, musically as tight as any band is ever going to be, and although the line-up of six musicians (including a not too often seen double drummer set-up), brought to life the full musical richness of these songs, stripping some of them down to Paul, drums, and acoustic bass clearly showed that this whole tour is about the music and nothing else – no hiding behind stage dancers or other gimmicks – simply not needed here. This is a tour that highlights not only the quality of Paul Carrack as a writer and performer, but the huge range of musical styles that he is apparently, effortlessly fluent in.
Supporting Paul Carrack on this tour is singer/songwriter Lauren Ray, and from Lauren’s opening set of lyrics and songs, it is easy to see why Paul has chosen her for this tour as there is a natural connectivity between their music. Lauren may have a long way to go to be writing songs covering the diversity of musical styles of Paul Carrack, but a 30 minute set covering earlier songs and some from her new album “Woman In The Arena” due out in May this year showed with songs like “Moment” and “Irreplaceable” glimpses of what may come in the future from Lauren Ray.
Lauren Ray is a young singer/songwriter at the start of her musical journey and I think what Lauren really needs to develop as a writer/performer is simply time to experience more of life’s highs and lows and draw upon those experiences in her future work. Performing with an artist like Paul Carrack is a huge opportunity to learn from someone who knows that elusive art of not only writing a classic song, but having commercial success with it. This is Lauren’s opportunity to watch and study how Paul Carrack crafts songs, how he explores the full range of a keyboard, and how he interacts with his audience. There is the chance to have a master class in all of these elusive skills every night on this tour, and I am sure Lauren Ray will have taken many of these lessons into her music and on-stage performance by the end of this tour.
Review by Tom King