Gemma Ray was back at Copenhagen's Vega a little more than 2 years after she supported Nick Cave's Grinderman at the same venue. Tonight she was supporting Seasick Steve. Playing as support act is always a tricky thing because the crowd can be a hard opponent especially on a Monday evening. That doesn't seem to be a problem for Gemma though. Once again she did a very fine job and quickly won over the rather large crowd and received warm applause after each song.
Compared to the first time I saw her, I now own all of her albums and I was looking forward to hear a lot of well known tunes. Gemma however is not so easy to predict and I actually only recognized 4 out of the approximately twice as many songs she played during her 40 minutes support slot.
From her excellent "Island Fire"  album we got a great "Runaway" - a song which has also been released on an EP single back in 2011. From her "Lights Out Zoltar!"  album we got "100 MPH (in 2nd Gear)" and "So Do I". Funny thing about that album is that the title song "Lights Out Zoltar" is not even included, it can only be found on the EP single I just mentioned. The last song I recognized on this fine evening was "I'd Rather Go Blind" taken from the album "It’s A Shame About Gemma Ray" . The rest of the setlist was either new songs or cover versions unknown to me.
Gemma had brought a bass player and a drummer with her and - together with Gemma's guitar (yet again armed with a knife to play slide) and her great voice - they really sounded fantastic in Vega. It was so nice to hear a support band with perfect sound, something that is certainly not guaranteed these days. The only thing that could have made this performance even better would have been a full set and if the annoying Swedes standing next to me had kept their bloody mouths shut. It seemed that Gemma had a great time too and she was quite talkative this evening and joked that "it was good to be back in a civilized city like Copenhagen instead of Paris." Well, I for one was glad to have her back here.
Seasick Steve was the main act of the evening and even though I had only bought my ticket to hear Gemma Ray, I had decided to give Steve a fair chance. He started off playing a few songs on a couple of different guitars and then he was later joined by a drummer. His fans or rather cult followers seemed almost ridiculously overly enthusiastic because it wasn't really that great to be honest. The songs didn't stand out much or maybe I just didn't feel the blues.
Yes, it is funny when he plays on various homemade guitars and it was particularly funny when he wrecked a fragile cigarbox guitar, so he had to abort the song. It was also quite charming when he picked a girl from the crowd to watch him perform a love song on stage. But an old man having lived a hard life - apparently so hard that he had to sit on a chair for most of the gig - and a bunch of funny looking guitars were just not enough to win me over. I didn't like the music very much, it was too primitive and simple and the sound created by the 2 musicians wasn't particularly great either.
After some 50 minutes of Seasick Steve I decided I had tried to sail that boat for long enough and I headed downstairs to go home. To my very pleasant surprise I found Gemma and her band in the merchandise stand downstairs, and I bought a few vinyl records from her I didn't have already. I had a little chat with Gemma and I had a photo taken with her. She said, there's a very good chance, she and her band might show up in Copenhagen next year to play a full gig. Here's much hope that it will actually happen.