Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
An evening of songs and stories in the company of one of popular music’s most revered songwriters was hardly likely to disappoint – and so it was with Jimmy Webb’s very welcome Wimborne debut.
This is a show those in the know would gladly travel no small distance to see and it’s to the enormous credit of the Tivoli that, by hook or by crook, it can attract such world-class talent… and on a Friday night!
There were plenty in the know in an admiring audience that included singer songwriter Billy Bragg and at least one Ivor Novello nominee, as well as a smattering of pro and semi-pro musos. Each of the seven (count ’em!) songs that Webb played was greeted by ripples of appreciative applause from the cognoscenti as hors d’oeuvres for the rapturous applause that signalled their end.
For it turns out Webb is not only a fount of supremely crafted songs, but he’s no slouch either as a piano player – rigorously decorating his songs with what he tells us are “transformational elements” – or a singer, his mastery of his own voice belies its inability to hit all the high notes.
For our part we are invited into the stories behind songs. We hear how Up, Up and Away was banned as a drugs song until Webb’s preacher father tore up an influential radio station “with a Bible and a .45”, how All I Know was given to Art Garfunkel in response to particularly capricious request for something “more yellow” and, by way of a heartfelt tribute, how Joe Cocker realigned The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Having already played The Highwayman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix in acknowledging his debt to The Lord for heeding a childhood prayer to have Glen Campbell sing his songs, there’s not a dry eye in the house as Webb talks about his old friend’s battle with Alzheimer’s to introduce a version of Wichita Lineman so subtle we hardly dared breathe.
Another hour to fit in gems like Didn’t We?, PF Sloan and Galveston would have been a breeze, but as it was the elaborate encore of MacArthur Park was a masterclass in itself. A rare night indeed.