Whilst at the Fiddlers to get some background info for my interview with Raymond Searson I took the chance to catch Greta Lansen playing live. I’d already seen Greta wow the audience at Bonn Folk Club with a short set, so an evening with her was too good an opportunity to miss.
My evening with Greta actually started earlier than expected when I came across the lady herself wheeling her mini Marshall amp in the direct of Brahmsstrasse. If you were in the area on Thursday and thought you saw a tall man taking a small, black square dog for a walk then that was me. Actually the ‘dog’ kept wanting to walk (roll) in other directions, so I eventually let it’s owner have the ‘leash’…
Anyone who has been upstairs at the Fiddlers and is over 5 foot tall will know standing up straight isn’t always an easy option. The ceiling girders remind me of schoolboy visits to Nelsons flagship HMS Victory in Portsmouth Dockyard. At least the Victory had an excuse since it’s crew were pretty small in those days. The ‘crew’ of The Fiddlers isn’t so small though and on numerous occasions I saw a tall waiter narrowly avoid a lobotomy.
By the time I’ve started on my Fish & Chip meal Greta has already started on her set for the evening. A recent interview with Folk Singer Donovan in ‘Mojo’ discloses that the man was more of a ‘mover & Shaker’ than given credit for. If it hadn’t been for contractual difficulties he would have had a psychedelic album out ahead of ‘Seargant Pepper’ and thereby beaten the Beatles to the punch. So what’s all that got to do with Greta and The Fiddlers on Thursday night? You ask. First of all, Greta Lansen plays a very wistful version of Donovans mega-hit ‘Catch the Wind’. The comparison sprang to my mind though also because the Donovan story illustrates how thin a line can be between being famous and unknown. Between being noticed or not noticed. Regardless of talent. In Greta Lansens case the music this evening too often gets hidden behind the background noise of people chatting, eating and drinking, which is a shame because it’s great music.
I envisage a butterfly batting itself against the inside of a bell-jar as Greta’s voice bats itself resolutely against the clink of beer glasses. As the evening progresses the voice seems to gain in strength though and there is even fire there at times, as on ‘Another Last Time’ and ‘From Here’ with it’s haunting “Nothing can Scare Me” refrain. A particular favourite musician of Greta’s is Joan Baez’ and she especially shines on ‘Once I had a sweetheart’ and again with Simon & Garfunkels ‘Scarborough Fair Canticle’ where the delicate fluttering quality of her voice (audience noise permitting) shines through.
Greta sings mainly in english which is no problem since she studied in the UK and videos of her gigging in Birmingham and Finsbury Park show she and her songs were very much at home there. In fact, whilst there are a couple of French numbers played this evening there is only one number in her native German. “The english language is a lot freer” she explained to me. It’s clear when she sings how important not just the words, but the sound of the words are. The delicate timbre of her voice reminds me very much of Canadian duo Madison Violet if only the room were quieter.
All in all I found myself thinking Greta Lansen, with a bit more confidence and a quiet room, has the makings of a very special singer. At Bonn Folk Club last year ‘Sans’ microphone and with an attentive, quiet audience, she was simply splendid.
Still, I had fish & chips and a good pint of Murphy’s to wash the music down with. When I mentioned to Greta that the lighting was bad for pictures she said how she looked wasn’t important – the music was what mattered. In the event she looked good in the dim lighting and she sounded good against the background noise. A shame that her studies at the University make appearances at Bonn Folk Club difficult. Catch Greta Lansen at a quieter venue where you can listen to that flitting butterfly of a voice, and you’ll be one step closer to heaven than at the Fiddlers. Don’t believe me? Give the following track a listen: GRETA LANSEN ‘SAY WHAT YOU NEED’