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I obviously haven’t been to nearly enough rock gigs in my life. Watching Later Live: with Jools Holland on BBC2 last week I was quite fascinated with the mechanics of the musicianship. First, the roistering fervour of The Maccabees’ drummer bashing out a dramatic change of tempo: he must experience all the fun of a boisterous toddler (usually, like drummers, male) who smashes his own or his sibling’s toys in an intense release of pent-up energy. Later, on the other side of the studio (and the generational divide), the grey-bearded, beret-wearing, guitar-wielding Richard Thompson entertained with a number called ‘Beatnik Walk’: the longer the camera lingered on his plucking and strumming, the more I wished someone would put a mini microphone next to his strings and a super high-definition audio system in my living room. The vibrations would send me straight to sonic heaven.

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson (photo by Anthony Pepitone)

I’m more of a Schubert and Radio 3 person these days. Even so, by the time I switched off my light on Tuesday night I had a fresh respect for old-school guitar- and drum-based popular music. The next time I hear a track on the radio that seems only so-so, I’ll remember that behind the noise lies much drumming, finger-picking and exciting physical exertion. If only I could experience the song in a live performance, perhaps at a venue of chamber music intimacy, I might really groove to it.

There’s more Later Live tonight – 10pm on BBC2.

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