Last night, one of my favourite artists, David Ford, agreed with me that I’d probably moved into “weird stalker” territory. Not exactly a compliment, is it? The reason being, I travelled up from Brighton to Edinburgh for one of his gigs. I’d last seen him three weeks previously at a charity gig in Islington, London, for Moxafrica, where he played a handful of songs and, between then and now, he also released a brand new album called, “Charge”, his fourth solo release. It’s rather special. I was fortunate enough to have a decent chat with him before and after his slot and, realising that I was a fan, he asked me if I was going to catch him on his forthcoming tour. I sadly replied that work commitments meant that the only one I’d be able to go to would be Edinburgh… and laughed. We then went on to talk about David Bowie briefly, as I’d asked him if he was bothered that Bowie would be releasing his new album at the same time as “Charge”, and he then made the bold statement that David Bowie was overrated. Once I’d closed my gaping mouth and recovered from the shock of those words, I asked him to explain what he meant but was then, unfortunately, ushered outside by security – which was understandable, seeing as it was getting late and everybody else had long left the venue. Three weeks later, there I was in Edinburgh at the Electric Circus, watching the superb David Ford ply his artistic trade, an idea that I’d laughed at just three weeks previously.
Now, although I’m very passionate about the music I love, I am sane. I wouldn’t normally travel so far for an artist, but David isn’t just your average tune-smith and I just couldn’t resist seeing him on a tour promoting such a great new album. Last night was the seventh time I’d seen Ford live and, although that may sound like a lot, I was stood next to a guy called Chris from Aberdeen who was seeing him for the nineteenth time. Watching him live is addictive. Once you’ve seen him once, you’ll want to see him again and again. Not only are the songs so heart-wrenchingly human and musically spellbinding, he gives such an emotionally-engaging performance each time you see him, you cannot help but get pulled into the music completely. I can quite honestly say that I’ve been to literally hundreds of gigs over the past couple of decades, but there aren’t many live performers who can hold a candle to David Ford. A master of the loop pedal, utilising home-made instruments and often becoming a whole band just by himself, a performance of “State Of The Union” never fails to amaze, an angry orgasm of a song which leaves you breathless just watching him. The fact that he is able to sing songs as beautifully fractured as “I Don’t Care What You Call Me” with such feeling and meaning, even though he has probably delivered those lines literally thousands of times, makes each Ford gig a genuinely affecting and profound experience.
Last night’s gig in Edinburgh was no exception. Joined on stage by his support acts Jarrod Dickenson and Emily Grove (he played on stage with them during their slots), many songs from the excellent new album, such as “Pour A Little Poison”, “Perfect Soul” and the magnificent “Every Time” got an enthusiastic airing and were treated by the crowd as if they were old favourites. Actual old favourites were plentiful and we were treated to a beautiful rendition of one of the most poignant love songs ever written, “Song For The Road”, the powerful “Waiting For The Storm” and the brilliant “Cheer Up You Miserable Fuck”, with a raucous sing-along at the end. He did, however, say that we were singing a little too beautifully and encouraged us to “sing like pirates”, so the crowd responded with a refrain that threatened to lift the roof. It was a wonderful, memorable evening and it was topped off with a brief friendly chat with David afterwards. That’s another thing about him – he always makes time for his fans, signing their tickets, posters and (I assume) body parts as well as patiently posing for photos with them. I have a couple of photos taken with him, I have to admit. As much as I try not to be a gushing fan, I’m not immune to being completely won over by the sheer talent of the bloke.
So, David Ford. What a great guy. Proud of never having made it into the mainstream, of not having to compromise his artistic vision, of never being a puppet of the music industry – and rightly so. “Charge”, his fourth solo album, is possibly the least commercial of the lot, an eclectic mix of southern blues (I’m talking USA, rather than Sussex), heartfelt, sincere ballads, tongue-in-cheek humour and honest, autobiographical lyrics. You open a vein on Ford’s arm and he bleeds these songs. The songs are David Ford… that’s what makes him, and this album, so lovable and remarkable. The sentiments of a song such as “What’s Not To Love”, for example, would sound mawkish and trite in the hands of a lesser, more chart-friendly artist, but David pulls off one of the most beautiful love songs of the decade. His other three albums, “I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I’ve Caused” (2005), “Songs For The Road” (2007) and “Let The Hard Times Roll” (2010) are all exceptionally good as well. I’m also partial to some of his work in indie band Easyworld too, but I’m not sure that David is. His solo work is definitely better, though, there’s no question of that.
One word of caution: once you become a Fordist, it’s difficult to pass by opportunities to see him perform. Even if it means travelling hundreds of miles to do so… like a “weird stalker” type fan. Which I’m not. Honest. And I forgot to ask him why he feels David Bowie is overrated. Bugger. Maybe next time. I’m sure there will definitely be a next time.