An astonishing performance by Gillian and Dave at the Brighton Dome last night, opening their European tour, following the release of Gillian's first album for eight years, 'The Harrow and the Harvest' - as well as the first Dave Rawlings Machine release.
They play uncannily well together: Gillian laying down a rock-solid platform on her Gibson (or occasional banjo) with Dave spinning off at remarkable and unmistakable tangents on his distinctive antique f-hole-of-a-make-I-didn't-recognise (Epiphone?). He's not a grandstander in any way, and all is in service of the song - but this is like a jazz gig in the way that the audience repeatedly breaks into spontaneous roars and applause when another solo ties itself in beautiful knots before unravelling miraculously and parking on a sixpence in time for the next verse. And the voices - spot on, supportive harmonies. These two are a unit.
A delayed and somewhat - by their standards - muted opening was explained a few songs in: Dave had tripped climbing the final staircase on the long walk from the dressing room ('...it was in France...', '...we came through the Eurotunnel...') and landed heavily on his arm in protecting his precious guitar. They didn't know if it was going to work properly: well, it did - and I hope it's not too sore today. (I draw a veil over the shouts of 'Spinal Tap!' from the audience when difficult journeys from dressing room to stage were mentioned. G & D ignored them too...)
Over two hours of glorious music, mixing tracks from the new album with old classics and some judicious covers, with not the slightest sign of a weak link. I think it's only time before fine new songs like 'The Way That It Goes' ('She was busted, broke and flat/ had to sell that pussy cat') and 'Tennessee' ('I had no desire to be a child of sin/ and then you went and pressed your whiskers to my chin') have implanted themselves them as firmly in my brain as the indisputably extraordinary 'Elvis Presley Blues' and 'Revelator' - both gloriously present and correct last night.
And the covers? No Neil Young this time, sadly. But a lovely 'Billy' from Dylan's Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid soundtrack and a shivers-down-the-spine-astounding take on the Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit'. And then a trip back to O Brother, Where Art Thou? for a final encore of 'I'll Fly Away'.
Welcome back: don't leave it so long next time.