March 9, 2014 by Craig McAllister
JJ Gilmour played an excellent 90-odd minutes at the HAC on Friday night. Over an hour and a half of brilliant songs, self-deprecating humour and a masterclass lesson in how to have an audience eating out the palm of your hand. And nothing in the way odd about it at all.
Most bands come on and BAM! they’re straight into the first number. Not Jinky. He wanders on, generous glass of Chateau Neuf du Pape in his hand, then sends poor Phil, the long-standing straight-man keyboard player to his jester routine, back to the dressing room to bring out his 50th birthday mug. There’s a wee wave to some relatives. Another to a couple of super-fans. And suddenly he’s off and running. Like a prime-time Billy Connolly, one-liner follows one-liner, each one funnier than the previous. Then, just as you’re thinking “hang on, is this one of those HAC comedy nights I’ve heard about?”, he starts singing.
It’s easy to focus on the funny stuff, but JJ is first and foremost a singer. Let’s not forget that.
His voice is sensational. Crystal clear with a hint of Coatbridge blues. And the songs he sings are sweet. Little pocket ruminations on life ‘n love. His whole act (if it is an ‘act‘ – off stage he proves to be exactly the same) is superb. Unlike a gazillion other artists who shamble around the stage with fake studied cool and all the presence of a bad fart, Jinky plays to and for his audience. He graciously takes requests for back catalogue obscurities, plucking Silencers tracks and little heard solo numbers out of the ether. He heckles before being heckled, with the sort of language a welder might use when arguing with a miner at the Working Mens’ Social on pay day. Then he leaves everyone open-mouthed in wonder at the tender fragility of the next song. At one point he leaves his spot facing the audience to block any attempts at going to the bar or the toilet. You simply can’t take your eyes (and ears) off him.
Towards the end he brings out support act Sean Kennedy and bigs him up. Jinky lets Sean sing a couple of songs that he’s ‘given’ him. Sean’ y’see is about to go and seek his fortune in Nashville for a few months. Jinky giving away his songs to a talented youngster is a smart move for both of them – Sean gets quality material to add to his already top-notch repertoire and Jinky has the very real prospect of having his song performed by Nashville’s next big thing. Even if Jinky stopped tomorrow, his songs would live on.
JJ acknowledges himself that he has something of a select audience, which is nothing short of criminal given the talent he has. Do yourself a favour and be a part of that select audience the next time you get the chance. Ask anyone who was there on Friday night and they’ll tell you the same thing.