The Listening Room is an event held on Sundays in The Blue Blazer, behind the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. I’ve been going on an occasional basis for many years. It’s in an L-shaped room and the performer is usually sitting or standing somewhere around the corner. In that corner it’s a very closeup and intimate performance space. No amplification, but the audience is sitting a couple of steps away from you. It’s perfect for solo performers and the best nights I’ve seen there are where a solo performer has captured the audience perfectly, as if playing in their own home.
The first part of the evening is open and anyone can play a couple of songs. The quality of songwriting and performing is generally ridiculously high and even when it isn’t, it won’t be long until someone else is on.
The L shape allows the curious to sit a little bit away from the corner crucible, so they can see if they’re interested without the awkwardness of coming into the close audience area and the self-consciousness of having to get up and leave that area if they don’t like what they’re hearing.
There are downsides, for both performers and audience. For the performer, although the main area maintains a politely observed silence, the ‘half and half’ area – the long bit of the L – doesn’t always do so, and your quieter vocals, for which you’d normally rely on a mic, can be lost. Sometimes you’re also competing against quite a lot of background noise from the main bar. So despite the ‘intimate’ nature of the venue I’ve tended to play belting songs rather than whispering songs.
This Sunday that’s unlikely to be a problem as I’m playing with my full five-piece band, the Heaven Sent. With keyboard and bass, we’re not able to observe the ‘unplugged’ rule, but we’ll balance those against the acoustic instruments – guitars and percussion and we’ll be able to have five vocals – a luxury as most places we play plugged don’t have that many mics!
We’ll be playing songs from the album we’re recording at the moment with Gerry Callaghan, mainly drawn from the lighter – one might even venture to say ‘humorous’ m’lud – end of the repetoire.
Please come early and grab a seat in the best area because if you don’t the band are likely to take over the whole space! I’ve played there as a four-piece a few times and someone always gets hit with a swinging bass or guitar. Come along and practice your first aid skills!
Sun Mar 13th 8pm Blue Blazer, Spittal Street.