“Jazz is a broad church. That’s why we chose a Tabernacle. Place of residence. Place of meeting. Tent of congregation. Tent of meeting.”
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I had a 72-hour lightning trip to London last week for a special weekend with fan friends and a fantastic evening of music at The Tabernacle London in Notting Hill with the one and only Damian Lewis. It was such a night that, one week later, I am still the under the spell of Damian’s spectacular performance and ready to tell you all about how our Ginger Elvis has ruled on the stage and off – he has made time for everyone, VIPs and fans alike, after the gig. So please come join me in the beautiful and inspiring music hall that is The Tabernacle London, and live or re-live ( if you were lucky enough to be there) every single detail from that glorious evening.
First things first. I owe huge thanks to my brilliant fan friends for their help in making this post a success. I cannot thank Tsvetanka, Nastasia, Noe, Ellie, Pial, and Vincent enough for taking pictures and making videos to share with the fandom on Fan Fun. It was such a pleasure spending this unreal evening with them! <3 And I sure hope to continue the tradition.
So… when do you typically go to a club when they say doors open at 7pm? 6:30ish? Maybe even later if you skip the support act. Me, too, typically. But not for Damian. And I am very lucky to have a bunch of fan friends who agree with me. In short: I arrived at The Tabernacle at 4:48 – determined to be the first person to get into the music hall!
Then arrives Vincent – whom I met at the Omeara gig – and Ellie (aka our London Spy) and her friend Pial. We start a line at about 6pm even though the gig guys think it is still early… but come on, we cannot contain ourselves!
Doors finally open at 7:30 or so and the gig space is all set for the evening when we get there – complete with a handwritten set list on the floor. YES! HANDWRITTTEN! And I know that handwriting very well…!!!
I get to study the set list: it is very similar to that at Omeara except for one song titled “Werewolves” and the order of the songs is slightly different. My hunch is that these shows are a warm-up for the album launch and that the band will probably play with the set list until they finalize it for the album launch.
Hattie Whitehead opens the evening. I am hearing her music for the first time, and I am no music critic… But being a good jazz listener, I am impressed by the jazz/folk sound as well as the lyrics in Hattie’s songs. And when I read about her later, I am not surprised that she grew up with a jazz musician and a poet at home 🙂 I would strongly encourage everyone to hear Hattie’s No Man’s Land. Such a beautiful tune. It is the kind of music I listen. I also appreciate Hattie’s post on Instagram. The entire front row gang is there 🙂
— Hattie Whitehead (@hattiewmusic) November 21, 2022
Towards the end of Hattie’s set, I notice a tall, skinny silhouette in a slim fit suit at the door. I may be near-sighted but I can recognize this man from any distance. As he gets ready to leave, I go after him.
Me: Hey you.
Him: (smiles and whispers) Go away. You can’t see me now.
Well, everybody knows it is bad luck to see the bride before the wedding 🙂
And it is time! Here is Damian looking dapper in his suit, very apt for an evening of jazz with fans and the who’s who of West End! It is quite unreal to be in the same room with the likes of Dominic West, Mark Strong, Ben Chaplin, and Elizabeth McGovern! His kids Manon and Gulliver are also there and so is his brother Gareth.
“Hello – thanks for coming out, everybody. On a Sunday Night. Thanks for choosing us over… Matt Hancock.”
Hilarious! If you do not know who Matt Hancock is… he is the former Health Secretary of the UK, and is still a member of the parliament, who is a participant on the ITV’s Sunday evening survival-reality show “I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!”
Damian and his fantastic band – David Archer on guitar, Joe Webb on piano, Giacomo Smith on alto sax and clarinet, Will Cleasby on drums, Will Sach on bass and Kitty Liv on harmonica and vocals – take it away with Down On The Bowery – a deeply romantic tune in which one lover invites his other half to climb up him like a vine, join to him like a twin, stop him crying and start him laughing…
Then they go straight into Hole in My Roof. This one is about loss – having a hole in your roof, in your head. You feel it all in Damian’s deep, husky voice.
“You and me should be together ’til the end.
So bye bye, baby, I can’t wait to see your smile again.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
Damian talks about the venue…
“Tabernacle. Jazz is a broad church. That’s why we chose a Tabernacle. Place of residence, place of meeting. A tent of congregation. Tent of meeting.”
The next song Soho Tango is about a very first meeting. Two people walk in Soho in the wee hours, rolling cigarettes, telling jokes and talking… I often find myself singing this song at home…
Damian now takes us back to the time before his “acting malarkey”: the time when he put a tent and a guitar on his motorbike and was off to busking in market squares of Southern France and Spain.
He judges badly one night as he crosses the Pyrenees. He builds his tent in the middle of an electric storm, and realizes, as darkness falls, that water is coming through the roof… as the storm rages, he wonders if this could be the end…
“Zaragoza, here I come.”
The next song is about a mighty woman we all know well…
“I knew a mighty, mighty woman once. She was my little one.”
Little One is a happy song, a celebration of who Helen is. A petite lady (“she is only 5 foot tall”) who is formidable (“she punches like a heavyweight, could eat you up for breakfast”, “she growls like a hurricane”), loud (“how can she seem so loud? I can hear her in a crowd”), energetic (“how can she walk so fast?”), lovely (“she’s got a smile that’ll light the sky up”) and much more. And he loves her. Love grows, evolves, and changes shape over time. Life must go on, Damian will live on, and Helen will always be a part of him…
“Bar closes at 10:00, we’re gonna try and get through this as quickly as possible.”
Time for a cover!
“This is not one of mine, it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. By Neil Young.”
It’s Harvest Moon, ladies and gentlemen. And the front row fans dancing in unison and tapping fingers is quite special. I wish somebody had taken a picture of us dancing…
“Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon”
I figure it is time for Never Judge a Man by his Umbrella when Damian all of a sudden grabs an umbrella on stage!
” Trust is hard to come by. Honesty is in short supply. Trump is back on Twitter… This song is about secrets, lies, and spies…”
As someone who follows everything Damian quite closely, let me give you a little trivia here: Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella is the title of a memoir written by former MI-6 Nicholas Elliott, the very man Damian is portraying in A Spy Among Friends! I have a copy and I have read it already! A Spy Among Friends is coming to the new streaming platform ITVX on December 8!
Damian continues with a cover from 1978. And oh my God he shakes the room with his performance of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London! In case you do not know the song, it is about a well-dressed womanizer, a ladies’ man, a werewolf preying on little old ladies. We think it is a perfect song for his voice. And look at our dashing boy on stage now with a top hat! I already get Will Radley vibes from The Radleys, Damian’s next movie project about a middle class, suburban, vampire British family 🙂
Here is a glimpse of Damian’s performance of Werewolves but this is something you really REALLY need to see it live – it is crazy good!
72 hour lightning trip to London: fun weekend with fan friends & an incredible evening with the one and only @lewis_damian at @LondonJazzFest 🎉🎸🎶 I look like a zombie with jet lag + 5 hours of sleep but this was my view last night so WORTH IT! Story coming soon 🤩 #DamianLewis pic.twitter.com/abTk7kiEal
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) November 21, 2022
Damian now sits at the piano for a solo performance.
“If Harvest Moon is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, this is one of the sweetest… it’s Tom Waits…”
Here’s Little Trip to Heaven…
You’re my north star when I’m lost and feeling blue
The sun is breaking through the clouds don’t you, don’t you know it’s true?
Honey, all the other stars seem dim around you
Thanking my lucky stars that I’ve found you
When I see your smiling face, honey
I know nothing ever going to take your place, and it’s youAnd it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you…
“I knew a woman once who wanted to grow old like a chic, Parisienne grand-dame… She managed some of this…”
We all know who this woman is, don’t we? Helen spent her teenage years in Paris because her dad was a diplomat there and witnessed chic Parisienne women attending parties and receptions at the residence. She once said:
I spent my teenage years in Paris when my dad was stationed there, and I’d look at women in their forties and think, ‘That’s the age I want to be.
Paris was not special only for Helen but also for the two of them as a couple. Damian proposed to Helen on Pont Neuf back in 2006.
Damian now takes the electro-guitar to sing about “the best laid plans, ladies and gentlemen, by mice and men often go awry..”
Here’s Makin’ Plans for you…
Why, the penultimate song in the set list, is absolutely one of my favorites. I love the entire spectrum of jazz but I am so in love with the New Orleans sound. And as Giacomo Smith very rightly puts it on Instagram “a little Jelly Roll Morton always gets the crowd going.” Smith’s clarinet solo in Why is simply superb.
“This has been fun. We’re gonna end with this one. Sometimes people visit.”
She Comes is a truly great song. And once you hear the lyrics, you know who it is that is visiting…
She comes as a blackbird, she comes as a fox.
She sits at the window, she sings from a rock.
She’s the moon in the day and the sun that shines in the dark.
She rests in me and she rests in shade.
She’s my joy, she’s my pain and she rained on me.
When someone asked Steve Abbott, Damian’s manager, about what kind of music Damian plays on Twitter, this was Mr. Abbott’s response.
Roots blues type of thing , JJ Cale ?
— abbo / Steve Abbott (@bedlambaby) July 8, 2022
So the encore of the evening comes from J. J. Cale – a song you may know as one that Eric Clapton sings because Cale wrote the song in 1966, Clapton covered it on his debut studio album in 1970 that made the song popular. And so J.J. Cale re-recorded it for his album Naturally in 1971 – the year Damian was born!
Here is After Midnight.
I grab the handwritten set list from the stage! And for your information, nobody steals the towel this time 😀
I said it before I will say it again. While the critics seem to find “bluesy rock’n’roll” and “mellow jukebox Americana” in Damian’s performance, I find LOVE with Helen’s name written all over many songs. Damian looked like having the time of his life on stage, and so was the crowd. I am also in full agreement with the four star (out of five) Sunday Times review:
“…his own songs had real flair and if “the acting malarkey”, as he called it, ever fails, his Martin guitar will prove a useful fallback.”
If you wonder about Damian’s new Martin guitar… He bought it at the legendary Gruhn Guitars on a recent visit to Nashville. It is a beauty.
Now, Damian’s live music gigs are obviously precious on their own, but he makes them absolutely priceless by making time for his fans afterwards. I have already mentioned how we, the fans, rubbed shoulders with the West End royalty at the gig, but Damian has made us feel like we were VIPs as well after the show! I should add that it was so much fun asking Dominic West about how it feels to be the king now 🙂
When it comes to Damian’s time with fans, let us start with this sweet moment between Damian and Bamm, a graduate student from Thailand studying graphic design in London. She made an astonishing postcard for Damian in anticipation of the upcoming mini-series A Spy Among Friends. And since the postcard has Nicholas Elliott, Damian’s character in the mini-series, holding an umbrella on it, it is also a direct reference to Damian’s song Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella!
Damian absolutely loved it!
Gingersnap came up with the idea of Christmas gifts for Damian before we knew he would do another music gig in November. And when I decided to go to London, we agreed to give Damian his gifts after the show. I am so happy to report that the gift ceremony has been a real success. Not only that Damian loved his gifts but, thanks to my brilliant fan friends, we have a lot of pics and vids to share those moments with you.
By 10:30pm, the venue is closed and so the security kicks everyone out 🙂 We find ourselves in the courtyard where I witness my favorite moment of the evening…
…probably because I am an only child, I have always been a sucker for close sibling relationships. And look at those two brothers smoking and chatting away in their own world… I LOVE IT!
Now that all his guests have left, Damian wants his gifts 🙂 And we need to walk further since the security people really need us to leave the courtyard as well! Look at me – do you think anyone can smile bigger?
Here is a “summary” of our gifts on my hotel bed as I prepared the gift bag I would give to Damian in the evening. And I explain every single item below.
First is the hand-crafted “Axe Heaven” guitar ornament for Damian’s Christmas tree… This Axe Heaven® miniature replica guitar honors the legendary Gibson Hummingbird™. Players like Keith Richards, Thom Yorke, and Eric Church have played Hummingbirds. Gingersnap chose “Axe Heaven” for Axe!
Second is the Gods of Soccer book Gingersnap chose for Damian to enjoy. It is such a timely gift since the World Cup 2022 started in Qatar the evening Damian performed at The Tabernacle. But Gingersnap chose this book also because the writer Roger Bennett interviewed our guy in the Band of Brothers 20th Year Anniversary Podcast series.
Oh and by the way, hats off to Noe… how many people can say “I held Damian Lewis’ beer”? 😀 And I need to add that Damian first assumes Noe came from Spain. And he is very surprised to hear that Noe, in fact, came all the way from Argentina for this gig. He hugs her 🙂
Next comes another book: The Ultimate Liverpool F.C. Trivia, a must-have for the die-hard LFC fans. Damian definitely falls in that category 🙂
We talk a bit about football. I ask Damian which national team he would support in the upcoming England vs Wales match! The answer is Wales. And the person who loves this answer the most is Gingersnap because she, who has had zero interest in soccer until recently, is now a die-hard Wrexham F.C. fan thanks to the sports documentary series Welcome to Wrexham!
I tell Damian that because Turkey never qualified for the World Cup when I was growing up, I was a free agent and chose Argentina as my team back in 1982. Only two words: Diego Maradona. And we inevitably talk about Maradona’s goal against England in 1986 known as “the Hand of God” that leads to a hilarious moment… I am grateful to my dear Tsvetanka for immortalizing this with her phone as I give Damian yet another gift – colorful socks with musical notes and guitars on them that Gingersnap chose for our Ginger Elvis.
Me: “La Mano de Dios…”
Damian: “El Mano. Not la Mano.”
Me: “No. It’s la Mano.”
We both look at Noe – the native Spanish speaker!
Noe: “La Mano…” Unchanged: Noe: “La Mano…”
Me: “My Spanish beats your Spanish!”
Damian: “Oooooh. It’s an irregular word. Okay. I love my guitar socks… thank you.”
Since the day Damian announced his music gigs, we have been dying to have some band merchandise! And since he has not given us any merch yet, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and had a merch item custom-made for Damian: a fridge magnet of his sold out Omeara gig poster 🙂
It’s time for our last gift – which is the most personal of all. Damian’s girlfriend Alison Mosshart is not only a rock musician but also a talented artist. The playing cards she paints are quite popular! So when I found out that Alison had an online art sale aka Chop Shop, I was tempted to take a look… and OMG as soon as I have seen art that I thought were very familiar, I emailed her and asked if those figures on the cards are the people that I thought they were. Her answer?
Do you remember this outrageously great photo of them in their recent Halloween trip to New Orleans? Unchanged: Do you remember this outrageously great photo of them in their recent Halloween trip to New Orleans?
And here is the artwork in the Chop Shop Catalogue! How can I not buy them for Damian???? Am I right, or am I right????
I told Alison that I would go to Damian’s gig in November and that those art works would be a lovely gift for him. She said he would do a backflip 🙂 And I also bought a third one to keep for myself… until I did not! 🙂 Damian was so kind and generous with all fans that evening that he gained so many brownie points. And I decided that I had to give the third card to him as well. Good thing it was in my purse! And I cannot thank my lovely Nastasia enough for immortalizing these priceless moments with her phone. If you watch this next video, you can see Damian’s biggest smile yet, him doing a fake backflip, and calling me “crazy” as someone in the background approves with a “yes, she is.” 🙂
What you cannot see in the video is what happens next! Now it is time for Damian to take out his own phone and have a photo taken with the two of us and the third playing card I give him – probably to share with Alison. I am so happy for this diamond duo (look at the card!!!!!) and wish them the best of everything.