Ed Harcourt & friends, Union Chapel, London, May 30th, 2009

Ed Harcourt once walked out of a gig by legendary US composer Van Dyke Parks because the sustain pedal on his keyboard wasn't working. A bit of an unfair way to treat Brian Wilson's chum? Probably. Whatever, the karmic wheel had turned into place this evening, as Harcourt's piano was similarly afflicted in the beautiful setting of the Union Chapel. Aside from that incidental setback, a beautiful summer's day a nearly full church and the gently fusty smell of Christianity meant that everything was in place for a triumphant evening.

 Picture credit – thanks to miss.drivel
And a glorious triumph it almost was. Everything was there – a carefully put together set list, featuring a splattering of well-loved old favourites (Hanging With The Wrong Crowd, Born In The 70s, Apple Of My Eye), a few numbers of his latest EP (Russian Roulette, Caterpillar) and a couple of great new songs (including the impressive Do As I Do), a cracking  band, and backing vocals from his wife and sisters-in-law in the form of The Langley Sisters. Whilst it was an impressive show from the consistently, excellent Harcourt, it fell just slightly short of being the magnificently magical evening it could have been.

Don't get me wrong, the were four or five moments of joyous sublimity – the suitably psalm-esque Something To Live For, eventually completed without use of a microphone after a couple of false starts, made the collective hairs on the back of the neck of most of the congregation stand up, Russian Roulette was a joy as was (as ever), This One's For You. The duet with outstanding support singer Josephine Oniyama too was memorable. As if he needed to remind us, Harcourt again proved he's one of the nation's greatest singer-songwriters (I hate that phrase, it makes me think of Joan Baez, but that is what he is. A singer-songwiter, he's not Joan Baez), but one that's shamefully overlooked by the majority of stay-at-home Susan Boyle fans.

For me, Harcourt seemed a little distracted tonight, as witnessed by him visibly ranting at his stage crew after the show outside the dressing rooms – the dodgy pedal clearly had a big effect. Harcourt's shows are always slightly shambolic affairs – in part due to his eclecticism, but tonight's suffered slightly for it – didn't make the move from the great, to the stratospheric. I did think I noticed Van Dyke Parks shuffle past me at one point, though…

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