Dim, dingy lighting barely illuminates this musty Edinburgh bar, its vague seafaring theme embodied by scale wooden models of old sailing boats, naval pencil sketches suspended from the walls and fishing nets draped over ancient partitions. It was in these surroundings that David Paul Jones introduced this hour-long piece of music in silky, dulcet tones. Attention was piqued as he spoke with passion; the building of suspense was complete.
Unfortunately, the audience’s attention wasn’t held for long. The downfall of the show began the moment ‘DPJ’ took his seat at a beautiful, ornate piano, facing away from the audience. While it was briefly interesting to watch his sleek fingers brush over the ivories and to behold the hammers pushing forwards and backwards, much of the emotion which might have been displayed during the work was lost due to the artist’s unfriendly positioning. Facial expressions can be crucial in musical performance, especially when being told a tale of ‘sailing through impenetrable darkness left by the loss of a companion’. Without being able to see Jones’s face, no real connection between audience and artist was created, which was a shame. In addition, Jones’ enunciation left much to be desired, so it became difficult to follow the plot.
Despite this, Jones certainly knows how to set a mood and the seafaring theme introduced by the setting was expertly evoked in the music. Many of the songs plodded along rhythmically, indicating incessant rain, and Jones developed a haunting atmosphere with his minor keys, reflecting how daunting and lonely the sea can become, especially when sailing alone. This was aided by Jones’ beautifully soothing bass-baritone, which reverberated around the room as if within a nebulous cave. In one particular song, The Pursuit of Illusion, the theme was reflected superbly with a mood of quiet desperation.Jones closes with a wealth of quotable phrases. In particular, one stuck out: ‘there is no greater form of wealth than that of human contact.’ If only he had followed his own advice and engaged with his audience a little more, perhaps the whole show would have been more effective. As it was, Jones’ retelling of a seafarer’s lone voyage sailed off into the distance without even grasping for the heartstrings.