THIS was a chance to get up close and personal with one of the best – and possibly quirkiest – singer-songwriters of the past 40 years.

Step forward the unique talent that is Dean Friedman to explain some of the intricacies of his art, as well as entertaining and amusing in a warm-hearted two-set performance.

Not overly dressed for the occasion in black tee shirt, black jeans and walking shoes, the New Jersey songsmith performed on guitar, baby grand piano and once on the ukulele.

And such is the intimacy of the Sherling Studio than he was no more than 10 yards from this writer at any stage of the proceedings. It was fascinating to watch his work on the Freshman guitar from just three yards.

He remains, as ever, understated, his dry humour (“this is a rescheduled gig from the Manchester Co-op Arena”) to the fore in both his songs and anecdotes.

Friedman, New York state-based but a regular visitor to these shores, is still in full high-register, nasal voice at the age of 68 and distilling his body of work into a 16-song gig must be nigh on impossible.

He started with Humor Me, followed by the anti-love song I Never Really Liked You All That Much, the take on homelessness that is Shopping Bag Ladies, the endless sunshine of Summer Days and the touching tribute to friends who finally had a child, Jennifer’s Baby.

Friedman told a great tale about McDonald’s Girl, banned by the BBC in 1981 for having the temerity to mention a tradename, but which subsequently became part of the fast food chain’s advertising (with some lyrical changes) through a cover by The Blenders which went viral.

With Friedman (spoken of in the same breath as Randy Newman, Billy Joel and Loudon Wainwright III) it’s all about the words – never more so than on set closer Rocking Chair (It’s Going To Be All Right) where the furniture in his apartment starts talking to him.

He spent the interval flogging stuff and posing for pictures (it’s a low-key tour) before kicking off part two with the classic Lydia.

His spat with Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit delivered a delightful tale about how his song The Baker ¬was revenge for a Blackwell number mentioning him in somewhat disparaging terms. It all ended happily with Friedman appearing with the cult Merseyside band and performing both songs.

God Of Abraham was followed by This Guitar, his paean to a treasured instrument no longer in working order.

He went way back with first hit Ariel (his only big US smash), a lovely song with touches of the Beach Boys in the chorus, before closing with the classic call and response number, Lucky Stars, the audience invited to sing Denise Marsa’s lines from the 1978 hit.

Friedman was last seen back on the merch stand taking plaudits from a cheery, departing crowd.