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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Recharging the Batteries: Paul Byrom in Natick

I hear often enough how when we take something we enjoy and try to make a living at it, it can be tough holding on to whatever made it something we loved in the first place. Blogging about music is no exception. This year I have had the great fortune to know enough great people in our local music scene that I can finally really start feeling like a 'real music blogger', whatever that is. I've even met a couple fans this year, including one or two who had never met me before. I've also had conversations with people lately that are in response to something I wrote, or discussing some band I recommended, and all these things are absolutely great. Of course, I would love to figure out how to pay the rent without cutting into the time I spend on things linked to music blogging. At the same time what I am doing online has the potential, at least, of helping other people in the local and not-so-local music world pay their rent, and over the past few months the stress of thinking so much on these aspects of music blogging has made writing new blog posts harder and harder. I don't know where the money is in local music, and apparently no one else does either, and maybe wherever money is lurking, it is time to step back and refocus away from the money to what mattered when all this started- the music. I started writing about music because I enjoyed the music and enjoyed writing about it and sharing my experiences involving great music.

Which is why this is the post I am writing after enjoying one of the few concerts I was not guest-listed for this year, a live-streaming online concert by Paul Byrom, who was performing just a short while ago in Natick, Massachusetts. There is no recording from this show, and I took no pictures, because the lighting on Paul washed his face out enough that taking screencaps would have been pointless. So since I couldn't go back and watch the bits I missed (there was a short section while he was introducing the song he wrote where the cat decided he was through with sitting quietly and rather persuasively demanded my attention) I had to just sit quietly and enjoy the concert.

I was actually glad by those last few songs that I was watching alone with my cat a few thousand miles away, as Paul's last few songs tonight hit a lot closer to home than I expected- I know, watching the audience as they gathered their things after the show, that I was hardly the only one so effected by Paul's music, but I think had I been there in person I would not have felt comfortable allowing his music to become so personal. Is everyone else like this? I was grateful that I had a whole section to myself at the Denver Celtic Thunder show last year because I could enjoy the concert without wondering whether I was annoying the people sitting nearby, and felt very much more constrained in Loveland a few days later because the woman sitting next to me would not clap or sing along to anything and kept glaring at those of us who seemed inclined to.

I very much enjoyed all of Paul's concert tonight- His rendition of "She" was a nice reminder of who he was when we first heard him on the Celtic Thunder show, and his insights on Storm were delightful. I haven't seen much point in griping about Storm, and as Paul admitted, that show has some lovely music, but I think he and I are on the same page with respect to Storm as a show. (One thing he didn't say and which I would not expect him to fully appreciate- Storm does at least allow us ladies to enjoy the images of Keith as a bandit and Ryan as a gypsy in a nicely low-cut shirt, so the costumes weren't all bad.) Paul's song for his lovely fiance, who was there and according to Paul was selling merchandise at the show, was beautiful, and I hope that he can fit "To Make You Feel My Love" on his next album. And, if Paul can parody his fiance's friends' reactions to his proposal and the ring and still have a fiance afterward, clearly he made the right choice in proposing to her. We also got to hear a few of the songs off Paul's latest album, "This Is the Moment", and several additional songs, mixed in among the stories and jokes.

Paul's original song, inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001, was especially nice, and captures nicely that odd feeling I am sure many of us have had over the past few years when we wake up on what could have been a perfectly normal day to discover that a tsunami or hurricane or bombing has occurred. Even sitting miles away from these things, we can't help but be aware on those days of the awful precarity with which we all live our daily lives. I don't know if I want to hear such a song on the radio on the next morning of a huge deadly disaster, even rendered in Paul's voice- some feelings need time to simmer wordlessly, especially on days like those- but it would be nice if he might slip this one on an upcoming album too, just in case it is ever needed.

Paul Byrom always seems like someone I should know, even though I have not yet met him in any context. He and I are almost exactly the same age, so even though he grew up in Ireland and I grew up in Colorado, we grew up in different corners of the same world, where MTV had lots of music and phones used to have those curly cords on the headsets. The Ireland I remember hearing about as a kid was the Ireland that "The Island" belongs to, a terribly protracted war zone that seemed to hum with tension even when seemingly at peace, and probably part of what fascinates me about the Irish singers I 'love' is the idea that they actually lived in that world. I loved that Paul turned the last segment of his show towards Irish songs and talking more about Ireland, not because I expect Irish people to sing Irish music and American people to sing American music, but because it was a bit more of an introspective and nuanced Ireland in Paul's set- not the jigs and reels and whiskey, but the anguished partings and neverending conflicts and that Irish flavor of misery where even the pretty love songs can make you cry. "Carrickfergus", "The Island" and "Danny Boy" are all songs that all Celtic Thunder fans know by now, and Ryan Kelly, Keith Harkin and Emmet Cahill sing some lovely versions of these songs too, but Paul's set lent these familiar songs a melancholy air that is never quite equalled by the Celtic Thunder show.

I hope that those of my readers who missed Paul Byrom's show streamed from Natick can see him themselves soon, if nothing else on PBS when his newly filmed solo show starts making its rounds on our televisions. And, with how tickled Paul seemed to be about the idea of fans watching him from around the world tonight, maybe we'll see more streamed concerts from him in the future.

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