Edwyn Collins brings a humanity to SXSW

Edwyn Collins live at SXSW

Perhaps the most heart-warming moment of the whole of SXSW was Edwyn Collins set.

Still recovering from 2005’s double brain haemorrhage, Collins had to sit down for the whole set and had a stand for his lyrics.

Despite this he is in great voice, infact I can’t remember his voice ever sounding better. It’s slightly deeper and warmer now as he leads his band through a selection of Orange Juice and solo classics. He is also still sharp as fuck. His witty asides between the songs are as funny and astute as ever and if it wasn’t for the fact that the right hand side of his body is still semi paralysed from his illness he would still be same old Edwyn.

The fact that he is here atall is a miracle and the fact that he can still tour and sing with such passion and beauty is tantamount to an inner toughness and the redemptive power of great music.

There’s only the guitar missing as he sits on stage giving each song the hindered per cent that is so often talked about by glib singers and so little delivered.

Way back in the early eighties I used to go to Orange Juice gigs when they were an emerging cult band on Postcard records. It was a period of fascination with all things Scottish underground from Josef K to the Fire Engines to Orange Juice- bands that took the energy of the Subway Sect end of punk rock and criss crossed it with sixties underground. They were making a brave new pop that made none of them millionaires but whose DNA is all over modern music from Franz Ferdinand to the Artic Monkeys- what was once weird is now mainstream.

Orange Juice’s spindly, kinetic Velvets take on punk rock was simply thrilling honey and we saw them several times in that period that is now called post punk and seems to have a load of rules written into it. The fact was that at the time we were watching all sorts from Discharge to Postcard to Bauhaus to Killing Joke- the music scene was far more eclectic than we are now being told.

The 2011 Edwyn is proof of the redemptive power of rock n roll and its healing nature. He sings the songs beautifully and his superb band including ex Ruts drummer Dave Ruffy and Rockingbirds Andy Haackett is shit tight. They play the songs with a comforting aplomb and that sort of loose swagger that only great musicians can.

They also play with a real joy adding to the genuine warmth of the gig. It’s a genuine, very human warmth that can be so rare in the fast food conveyer belt of modern music. Edwyn Collins is not on that conveyer belt. He is not in a rush. I guess what happened in his life puts everything into perspective. The music means everything but it’s not part of the pointless contest. The songs stand the test of time and infact sound even better twenty, thirty years down the line.
Edwyn sits there and croons in only the way he can and brings a new life to all corners of that wonderful catalogue, ”ËœA Girl Like You’ is rearranged slightly and sounds even better, the old Orange Juice stuff replaces its nervy, kinetic punk rock haste with the assurance of middle age without becoming flabby. The songs now sound like the classics they are, timeless pieces of great guitar action.

It’s also a family affair with Edwyn’s son joining the band for a couple of songs, Edwyn Junior looking the spit of father. It all really should not work atall but this is as rock n roll as it gets, if rock n roll is the purest expression of being human then here it is.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. This article has made my day. Loved his work since I was a nipper and to hear that he’s still playing music after the time he’s had – it’s great news. I’d rant on about how a musician with so much heart and courage deserves more of the limelight from the whining dross we endure daily, but…oh I have already.

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