Having first taken form in England, selling-out London’s Barbican theatre, the highly successful Nick Drake tribute show Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake is making the trip down under, bringing with it a range of stunning performers to reinterpret the music of this timeless artist. Curated by Joe Boyd, Drake’s producer, mentor and friend, the show features an amazing cast of singers and players, including fellow legendary British folk artist Vashti Bunyan and many more.
Having only recorded three albums Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972), and never finding fame of any great kind within his lifetime, dying tragically at the age of 26 of an overdose of anti-depressants, Drake has never-the-less gone on to become one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. With everyone from R.E.M to Radiohead, Robert Smith to Blur, even Brad Pitt citing him as an influence and inspiration, the mark he left on modern music is as indelible as it is ironic, the artist himself dying penniless and largely unknown.
His music has become a touchstone to refer to a certain kind of gentility and kindness in music. Reading the reviews section of any music publication today, you’re likely to find Drake’s name pop up next to any number of artists, showing how even today, in a world where music has gone on to ever more intricate and technical heights, we as people still long for the kind of earnest purity and heartfelt expression displayed in Drake’s music. There is a humanity there that’s all too hard to find in music today.
Way To Blue then, by hand-picking a selection of musicians to pay homage to his work, seeks to help people reconnect with that sensation, without tarnishing the purity of the works themselves. As I mentioned before, Vashti Bunyan is on board, the legendary songstress taking time out of her busy schedule following the re-release, and huge success of her seminal 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, as is Green Gartside the voice and mind behind 80’s chart and critical sensation Scritti Politti. Robyn Hitchcock, the lead singer of The Soft Boys will also be lending his impressive voice to the proceedings, as will Irish singer Lisa Hannigan, Krystle Warren and Scott Matthews. Drake’s original bassist Danny Thompson will also be playing, the show also featuring the original string arrangements from Joe Boyd, thus connecting Drake’s past with his present and future.
Sure to be one of the highlights of The Sydney Opera House’s calendar for the year, Way To Blue is more than just a tribute show in the classic covers band sense, the event instead offering a chance to reconvene with our humanity and feel a little less like, as Drake himself puts it, “a remnant of something that’s passed.”
Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake will take place on November 11 in The Concert Hall of Sydney’s Opera House, tickets are on sale now.