When I recently mentioned to a dear friend of mine that I’d named this column Chuffed to Bits, she looked a bit perplexed. After I explained to her what that particular saying means, she suggested that perhaps I offer up a brief explanation for those who may not be familiar with the term. So here goes. As any English person will tell you, to be “chuffed to bits” means to be extremely delighted and pleased about something. And as I thoroughly enjoy writing about English people, places, and things that I’m extremely delighted and pleased about, well… there we have it.
As an Anglophile living in Arizona, I get chuffed to bits (See how that works?) when I have the opportunity to see English musicians perform in my neck of the woods. And this was the case a few weeks ago, as I recruited a group of girlfriends to take a road trip with me down to Tucson to see a brilliantly talented English singer/songwriter by the name of Bobby Long.
Back in December, I featured Bobby on my list of 25 British Music Artists You Should Be Listening To. I was introduced to his music a little over two years ago, and this is what I love about him: the guy sings with his whole heart and soul. You can tell. It just seeps through his recordings. He writes songs with a depth that makes me question his age (he’s in his twenties), and I marvel at his ability to use language to convey emotions in such an effectual, poetic manner.
Bobby’s sound has tinges of Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton with a spoonful of Jeff Buckley thrown in for good measure, and yet at the same time, he doesn’t really sound like anyone else. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to see one of his live shows, and to see if what I would hear in person would be as good as what I hear on my iPod.
And so on a sunny Saturday afternoon, my friends and I made the trek from Phoenix to Tucson (which is a little under 2 hours away by car). Upon our arrival, we hit up a local Mexican food restaurant before the show. After a heaping side of laughter to go with our delicious dinner and drinks, we made our way through downtown Tucson to the historic Hotel Congress.
A side note: If you’re ever in the area, Club Congress is an excellent place to see a live show. This is despite rumours that the hotel it’s housed in is haunted, and despite the pervy hieroglyphic symbols on the walls of the lobby (which is a story for another time). The stage of Club Congress is doused in red velvet curtains which create a rich, dramatic backdrop, and an intricate wrought iron design frames it on all sides, along with the Latin words Musica delenit bestiam feram (Music soothes the savage beast). If the setting alone was any indication, it was going to be a great night.
And it was. There were two stellar opening acts, the second of which included a very attractive male tambourine player who was sporting long, perfectly messy, rocker boy hair, whilst wearing a beaded necklace and skin tight red pants. This guy’s laid back demeanour prompted my friend Marisa to muse, “He’s acting on the outside how I’m feeling on the inside.” Indeed. These artists set the tone for an evening of mellow, honest music with no pomp or frills, of which Bobby Long himself was the ringmaster.
Then Bobby and his band came onstage, and it was obvious who everyone there had come to see. Songs from his recently released debut album, A Winter Tale, were featured, and there was certainly a motley crew with a vibrant energy. In attendance were the die-hard fans (those who knew all the words to his songs and sang along), those who wanted some live music to go with their alcohol (READ: loud, obnoxious, drunk people who shouted at him), those who wanted to dance alone—regardless of whether the song was danceable or not (an overly enthusiastic Lita Ford look-alike comes to mind, whom my friend Kena loved watching throughout the night), and those who might not have been all that familiar with who Bobby Long was, but just came out to appreciate some good music.
Bobby took it all in stride. You could tell he’s played many an open mic night, and most likely for many different crowds as he’s honed his craft over the years. He was humble, funny, charming, and above all, very thankful to be there, and thankful that all of us were there as well. He made no qualms about telling us so.
My friends and I sat behind “the net” as Bobby called it, so we could enjoy our libations whilst we enjoyed the music. Being that it was an all-ages show, the room was separated by a mesh net that resembled the material of a football goal box, and Bobby assured those of us behind it that if he wasn’t on stage, that’s exactly where he’d be as well. His English sense of humour made watching his performance that much more enjoyable.
“This is a song about bad women,” he revealed with a sheepish grin, as he launched into Who Have You Been Loving. He played brilliantly, crooning lyrics about broken hearts, troubled minds, and times gone by. At one point I thought to myself, as I watched him and his band play their hearts out during an amazing jam session in the midst of A Winter Tale, “It looks like they’re living out their childhood rock star dreams right here in front of us.”
My friends, who are all music lovers and kindly joined me on the journey to see Bobby live for the first time, seemed to appreciate his sound and his stage presence as well. A few different times, I caught them staring at him, as mesmerized by the talent that was on display before us as I was. And for me, that was the best part of the night. I love introducing others to good music. And when good people like Bobby Long are the ones making that good music, it just makes the introduction that much sweeter.
Many thanks to my friends DeAnna, Kena, Marisa, and Rebecca for joining me to soak up the musical offerings from yet another talented artist from across The Pond.
Bobby Long is currently touring the United States, and will be touring Australia, Europe, and England later this year. I highly recommend checking him out live if he plays a show near you.