Gig Review: Elizabeth Cook
It looked for a while like sound problems might wreck Elizabeth Cook’s London show at the Relentless Garage in London, which took place at the halfway point of her current month-long UK tour. Fortunately, she persevered to emerge triumphant.
Cook looked great from the moment she walked on stage, wearing denim shorts and a stripey t-shirt. Her setlist featured many of the standout songs from her last two albums, Balls and Welder. Accompaniment came from Tim Carroll on electric guitar and Bones Hillman (formerly of Midnight Oil) on upright bass. Carroll is an excellent and tasteful guitarist who helps fill out the songs to compensate for both the absence of a full band and the polished production of the albums. He was impressive throughout, taking lead vocal on his own song “Till Then”, which also showcased his guitar skills.
For the first half-dozen songs, Cook was clearly distracted by the sound problems, complaining of a rumble on the stage like a bowling ball rolling around and of hearing “notes I ain’t singing” on her vocal monitor. And it’s fair to say that from the audience, the sound was a bit loud and muffled at times which didn’t help in hearing Cook’s clever lyrics. Six songs in, she declared the sound was getting better. Soon after, she played a couple of quieter songs, “Heroin Addict Sister” and “Sunday Morning”, where you could hear all the lyrics and, technical difficulties resolved, everyone relaxed a little.
Cook is not afraid to acknowledge her solid country roots, with covers of Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again”, and, for the final encore, the Louvin Brothers’ “Cash On The Barrelhead”. The first of these she introduced with a few words explaining that this was the music she grew up with, rather than the Beatles and the Stones. And her song “Dolly”, with the refrain Dolly, did you do it this way? which she wrote after being wined and dined by record company men prior to signing her first record deal, was like a female version of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”
By the time she put on her dancing shoes about half way through the set for a display of clogging (not tap dancing, she told the audience afterwards, because “tap is for rich people”), the audience was won over. Live, as on her albums, Cook can move easily back and forth between songs which display light and shade. “Mama’s Funeral”, the story of the wake which followed her mother’s death a couple of years ago was followed by a song her mother wrote called “I’m Beginning To Forget”. She then changed gear for “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”, which had the crowd singing along enthusiastically as the show built towards its climax.