Play to your strengths (like Isaac)


Singer-songwriter Isaac Gracie played this week at the Earth Arts Centre in Hackney, east London. I’ve been a sometime groupie since last April, and this was the second concert I’d seen. I love how this boy’s low vibrato and silky high notes – from super-soft to ear-piercing – resonate in my head for the rest of the week. I replay the songs every day until I have to play something else to get rid of them again.

Last time I saw him he was a relative newbie, thankful and careful on stage and playing to an equally young and graceful audience. This time he was just as mindful of his audience but the performance was a glossier and more polished affair, far better attended and in a bigger venue. There was a lot of nifty light-work, a fancy intro, and not one but two encores, The placed was packed out and the crowd was a bit different, slightly more varied, ranging from young to old but with the common theme of hippy chic – there’s a lot of hair in the room at a Gracie concert (I removed my scrunchie as we queued to go in).

On this night, Gracie played his whole set with a secret that only the hardiest fan might have known. Since that’s not me, I only found out the following morning that he’d been playing guitar all night with a damaged hand. If you’d been one of the gang gathered in the pit you might have seen, up close, the red marks under the strings from a busted finger, dinged in a concert a few days before. In short, he bled through his entire set, playing on regardless.

We had no idea until the following morning, when my friend found a short clip on Twitter, a two-second close-up film of him playing on, bloodied but still strumming. Call it perseverance, or stupidity. Since that gig was his last in the current run, he’d clearly opted to continue, knowing he could have a long rest afterwards. So I’m going to call it generous, and brave.

If we love what we’re doing, we do it and we don’t stop. Obviously this doesn’t translate to everything – you can’t continue with the dinner party if your kitchen is flooding, or knit that Christmas scarf if you go down with pneumonia. Even so, I thought Gracie sent a clear message to those of us who had sat through that concert (as most people tend to, but that’s for another review). And the message was that he loved what he did and he loved his fans.

I can’t promise I’d continue to type if I broke my wrist but I like to think I’d try and carry on in some way, for the love of what I do. It’s so great when your job is your favourite ever thing. Hope you’ve got a plaster on it today, Isaac.

Here are some things I would still do even if my roof fell in. Probably.