Hifi Pig readers of a certain age will know Dean Friedman from at least two songs – Lucky Star and Ariel.  Readers of a younger vintage may know him from Half Man Half Biscuit’s song The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman.

On a previous visit to Edinburgh, Friedman was in the audience at a Half Man Half Biscuit gig and he has been plotting his revenge ever since.

Ariel doesn’t get an outing tonight which is a shame as I’m sure it would have got a great reception* but we are otherwise treated to a selection of songs from across Friedman’s career, including some from his new yet-to-be-recorded album.  Friedman is a fine songwriter and I was looking forward to hearing his songs in a live context but I’m sorry to say that this evening’s performance didn’t really work for me.

The main reason for this was a poor sound balance: when Friedman played piano, his voice was almost drowned out.  This was also true, but to a lesser extent, when he played guitar.  I really wanted to come away from the show with a better appreciation of Friedman as a songwriter but unfortunately I was unable to do that as many of the lyrics just didn’t come over.

From the chat amongst the audience before the show, it seemed that most people had seen him play before and were familiar with his material. I was surprised, therefore, at how reserved they were during the performance.  Each song was met with polite applause but any attempts by Friedman to engage the audience between songs were fruitless.

That said, the Dean Friedman songbook is full of gems.  Whether the songs come from early in his career; Woman Of Mine, Shopping Bag Ladies, Lydia or later; the lovely Saturday Fathers, this is top-class songwriting.  Under The Weather has one of those tunes that allow you to sing along even though you’ve never heard it before.  The only songs that didn’t really ring true with me were the “comedy for adults” songs from Friedman’s Squirrels In The Attic album, and that was only because I think it’s impossible to beat Loudon Wainwright III at that kind of song.

A Baker’s Tale sees Friedman finally exacting his revenge on Half Man Half Biscuit’s Nigel Blackwell by telling the perhaps-not-entirely-true story of Nigel’s far from immaculate conception.  The show ends of course with Lucky Stars.  Had I known that I and the rest of the audience would be required to provide the female half of the duet I would have brushed up on the lyrics beforehand.  Given the diffidence of the rest of the audience, what should have been the show’s climax ends up as a bit of a damp squib.

This was the first night of a two-week Edinburgh run. An evening with Dean Friedman ought to be something special.  It wasn’t tonight and that is a great pity. Hopefully he got the sound problems sorted out, and a more responsive audience, for the other shows.

*I’m here all week.

John Scott

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