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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
Camden

KINKY FRIEDMAN
The Jazz Café
Camden Town, London
June 3rd 2008

No matter what happens to it (apparently someone recently tried to burn it down), and no matter how gentrified many of its streets have become, Camden Town remains a wonderfully seedy part of North London. So, prior to this gig I had a fifteen-minute wait, sheltering from the warm summer rain under scaffolding outside the iconic and always grubby Camden Town tube-station. There were a few of us there, usurping (much to their obvious annoyance) the pitches normally occupied by drug dealers, hustlers and their hangers-on. It was entertaining enough to watch them play out a street-scene imitation of Lou Reed’s ‘Dirty Boulevard’, but depressing to think that young people find themselves drawn into hopeless dead-end fantasies rather than fulfil the potential that lies inside them somewhere. Anyway, I discovered that with the wisdom that age and maturity brings, Jozzer and Trizza were somewhere nearby fulfilling themselves with the half-pints of wine that serve as regular measures in London bars these days, so with the Photographer in tow, headed off to the Jazz Café to meet them.
They have the dining thing worked out to perfection here – short and simple menu, good food, sure fire service and by and large, tables cleared before the main artist hits the stage.
Just as well on this occasion, as the hilarity generated by former Texas gubernatorial candidate, and (according to him) the State’s only Jewish cowboy, Kinky Friedman, and his compadres, Lebanese blue-grass guitarist Washington Ratso (“together we’re the best hope for peace the world has got”), and pianist Little Jewford (“he’s a Jew and he drives a Ford”), would have been enough to give any diner serious indigestion. Friedman is a polymath of extraordinary proportions – his lineage in country music goes back to his 1970’s band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, who provoked admiration, angst and anger with provoking satirical songs such as ‘They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus any more’. Kinky
When (as might perhaps have been predicted) fame and fortune failed to come knocking on his door he reinvented himself as a crime-writer, and has a shelf-load of novels to his name. He fought the 2006 election for Governor of Texas as an unaffiliated libertarian candidate, coming fourth in the poll (out of five candidates), and may run again in 2010, ‘though he noted that “God probably couldn't have won as an independent”. He runs a cigar business, has his own range of salsas for sale, saves homeless animals, and still tours with his band. He is, as our American cousins sometimes say, ‘a piece of work’
It’s a gentle show. We get songs from the Texas Jewboys days, such as ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to you’, ‘Homo Erectus’ (which even managed to feature former Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta), ‘Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed’, ‘Waitret, please waitret’ (a satire on Texan accents, which includes the unrepeatable line, “Waitret, please Waitret, come sit on my fate”) and ‘Asshole from El Paso’, all full-on jaw-droppingly politically incorrect humour.
Kinky Friedman
Kinky Friedman
But it’s mixed with more tender songs such as ‘Rapid City South Dakota’, ‘Sold American’, ‘Farewell first lady of the air’ (a ballad about Amelia Earhart’s last flight’), the Carter Family classic ‘Rambling boy’, Woody Guthrie’s ‘Pretty Boy Floyd”, and the song that Johnny Cash made famous, ‘The ballad of Ira Hayes’. Then there’s ‘Ride ‘em Jew boy’, sung as a tribute to “the Hillbilly Dalai Lama” Willie Nelson, who recorded the song on Friedman’s 2007 album, ‘Why the hell not?’, a collection of classic Friedman compositions performed by artistes including, in addition to the Dalai Lama, the likes of Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam.
Some of the songs are funny enough, but of course it’s Friedman’s shtick, the jokes, reminiscences and stories, and particularly his interaction with ‘idiot savant’ Jewford that provoke the laughter. Jewford has an exaggerated TV presenter’s voice that he uses partly as an echo, and partly as a one-man Greek chorus to Friedman’s comments and observations (“You’re welcome Kinky”). It’s anarchic and somewhat surreal, and as the evening wears on, painfully funny. Added to this, of course, are Friedman’s political tales about his failed campaign. Holding a pint of Guinness in one hand and a cigar in the other, he tells us about ‘Guinnessgate’, the incident during his campaign when he was spotted with an open can (a violation of the criminal code) of the black stuff in the back of a car during his campaign – his plea "I was drinking it ... but I did not swallow." He even reads an extract from his latest book, You Can Lead A Politician To Water But You Can't Make Him Think; Ten Commandments For Texas Politics, which like almost everything else is for sale at the end of the show (“I’ll sign anything but bad legislation”). And in a truly libertarian gesture, he scandalously steps to the back of the stage and lights his cigar, taking a few illicit puffs before letting it burn out. A committed man indeed.
Kinky
Kinky Friedman and Little Jewford
I’ve no doubt he and the boys go through the same stuff each night, but if you haven’t heard it before it’s vastly entertaining. And even if you have it’s still a good show – I reckon more than half of the people in the very mixed audience have seen him before. The show ends with ‘Asshole from El Paso’ (“We don’t wipe our asses on Old Glory, God and Lone Star beer are things we trust. We keep our women virgins till they’re married, so hosin’ sheep is good enough for us”), after which the ‘encore’ is performed in one-on-one encounters with the very long queue of fans who wait to meet the Kinkster and get one of those promiscuous signatures. It simply goes without saying, should you get a chance, go and see this man perform. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Here's an old video of 'They Ain't Makin Jews Like Jesus Anymore'...
 



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