Having arrived early in order to meet Jill for an interview, I was privileged to witness some of the sound check. I find sound checks can offer a unique insight group dynamics and help to fuel my anticipation of the gig to come.
It was also interesting to note the universality of certain ‘technical terms’ regarding things that don’t work properly. When Jill asked about some distortion in her fold-back monitor a prompt reply came from the sound desk indicating that it was probably due to the monitor being “s***e”! Oh how often have I heard this description applied to all sorts of malfunctioning equipment. Luckily the promoter had access to alternatives and I soon found myself helping to transport these to the venue.
On completion of the sound check I was then able to sit down back-stage to proceed with our planned interview. I found Jill to be extremely approachable and grounded, it was a real pleasure to be able to spend that time finding out more about her progress through her career.
Then the audience started to come in from the rain and get their drinks in the foyer and it didn’t take long for the auditorium to fill up ahead of the 8pm start. Although ‘The Wynd’ isn’t a particularly big venue it was still very reassuring to see that there were virtually no empty seats as Jill, and support musicians Fraser and Jody took their seats. I had previously seen Jill play one song live on stage in Glasgow, at the Scottish New Music Awards ceremony; on that occasion the audience were generally unseated and very animated, the ambience in Melrose was completely different. Jill’s love of the intimacy of ‘The Wynd’ was one of the things that we had discussed during the earlier interview and I soon came to understand why she felt so strongly about it. At one point during the set my reporters’ pad slipped onto the floor and I felt quite self conscious for having caused a distraction, whether or not I had actually distracted anybody is unclear but I was convinced that I had! At a later point she was talking to the audience about her feelings regarding playing in Melrose and remarked that “it’s so quiet, I can hear you changing your minds.’
As far as the actual performance was concerned she got things off to an upbeat and positive start with ‘End Of The Line’ and ‘I’ll Never Know’ from the ‘Getaway Driver’ album; songs from earlier in her career followed, ‘Long Way Round’ then ‘Sunbeams And Custard Creams’, and then back to ‘Remedy’ from the latest album.
Guitarist Fraser then got an opportunity to showcase his skills further in a blues styled number before Jill joined in to support him on blues harp, then seguing into another number that sounded so familiar but I simply couldn’t recollect its title. A bit of audience participation was next in the schedule with Jill working to encourage some accompanying “oo’s” and eyebrow action for another song that I was also unable to identify despite it feeling so familiar; perhaps I should aim to be more professional and ask for set list details.
Then we were treated to a cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’ before the first half was brought to a close with ‘The Letter’ (complete with some excellent bottleneck playing by Fraser).
During the interval I discovered that the two ladies sitting next to me had travelled up from Manchester to see this performance – and it wasn’t the first time that they had made that journey to catch Jill playing live. Now that’s true dedication!
The second half comprised ‘Over And Done’, ‘Get My Love’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Aisha’s Car’ (with more audience participation), ‘Mockingbird’, ‘Getaway Driver’, and finally ‘Leaving’ as an encore.
In addition to the wonderful music, the evening was much enhanced by Jill’s links which gave a great insight into her lovely, warm and engaging personality; her years of prior experience on tour with a variety of great musicians have clearly helped to make her a natural when it comes to keeping her audiences enthralled.
Her obvious popularity caused a large queue to form at the merchandise stand as soon as the gig was over. People were keen to make puchases and get things signed, have a chat and have photos taken.
Chatting with Kate and Sarah before wishing them a safe journey back to Manchester I remarked that I found it quite ironic that many young people in the Scottish Borders will complain that there is nothing for them locally and they believe that they have to go to cities to find sufficient things to do, yet here I was faced with two people who had opted to leave a city to come to the Borders for what they expected to be something far better that what they could get at home.
Interview with Jill to be broadcast during ‘Drive Time’ on http://www.generateradio.com 12th June 5pm to 8pm UK time – audio file to be posted here at later date.