Friday, 27 October 2017

The Thief of DADGAD - Pierre Bensusan


Live at St Mary's Church, Alveley 

Saturday 14 October, 2017


It could have been a scene from days gone by ... more than a hundred people making their way to the village church on a dark, autumnal Saturday evening. But, this well-attended gathering was not for a religious service but for a concert. That's not to say it wasn't a spiritually-uplifting evening as the mellifluous music of the virtuoso French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan filled the beautiful 12th century building. That the internationally-renowned musician should make the former coal-mining village of Alveley in Shropshire the venue for one of only five dates on his 2017 UK tour is something of a surprise. I'm told one of the villagers is a Bensusan fan and persuaded the organisers of Music at St Mary's to contact the guitarist's management.

Bensusan's playing and ethereal vocalising benefited from the church's wonderful acoustics plus some judicious effects, controlled by a laptop (which he operated himself from the stage area.)  In between numbers, he would adjust the effects, joking at one point, "I'm sorry about this – I'm expecting an important email."

Highlights of the performance included the delicate Four A.M. (from the 1987 Spices album), L'Alchimiste and Intuite. From the 2010 studio album Vividly, Bensusan played Pas Sage and Dadgad Café, explaining that he always plays in the DADGAD guitar tuning because he is self-taught and no one told him the standard way to tune a guitar!  Le Voyage pour L'Irlande was introduced with a quip that it's not so difficult to translate the French titles into English. He also had a funny anecdote about an occasion when he took part in a pub session in Ireland.

For one man to keep an audience entertained with just an acoustic guitar (in one tuning) for a couple of hours on a Saturday night takes remarkable skill and talent. Thankfully the transcendent, adventurous thief of DADGAD has what it takes.

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Tony Gillam is Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, a freelance writer, trainer and musician. He is the author of 'Reflections on Community Psychiatric Nursing' (2002) and 'Creativity, Wellbeing and Mental Health Practice' (2018).