Review: Warm Digits – The Cluny, Newcastle – 16/12/2021

What can one say about the year 2021? Not a lot. It started out quite abysmally and it took quite a few months before things slowly started to feel like they were getting better. We deluded ourselves we were getting on top of Covid. The vaccine roll out happened and the FM (First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon) seemed pretty driven to get the Scottish population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible. Even now, statistically, compared to the rest of the UK, Scotland has the highest rate of vaccinated residents in the UK (I believe). As good as those stats are – a new variant has come along and now there is a new “evil” word joining Covid – Omicron! Covid cases are on the rise once more and there is a drive for booster vaccines to be given to as much of the population as possible in the quickest time.

This year I have been to as many gigs as I got to go to in 2020 before the Covid shit hit the fan – ie: not many at all. A couple of gigs I had chosen not to go to due to my own concerns still. Two gigs at Barrowland Ballroom I didn’t attend were John Grant and Manic Street Preachers. My list of gigs I went to is: Scritti Politti, Field Music (they were also one of my 2020 gigs), and Warm Digits (also on my 2020 list). I should have been going to one final gig this evening – to see Memes at McChuills. I had already decided I wasn’t going to attend it. I had taken enough risk seeing Thursday night’s Warm Digits gig. The good news is that in light of the Omicron variant and new restrictions coming into place, Memes have rescheduled their gig to April 1st next year.

The Warm Digits gig I have been concerned about for weeks. After the previous gig of going to the Stag and Dagger in Edinburgh to see them, and the disappointment of them having to cancel their Glasgow gig – and not being able to go to their gig in Manchester, it was all hinging on Newcastle. It had been a long while since I saw them play a full set and I really, really NEEDED to see a full set!

But with everything that hit with Omicron, I had my doubts about if I should go? Everything else I had put in place, determined to get there. I had purchased return train tickets straight after the Edinburgh Stag and Dagger and booked a room at a hotel nearest the venue. 

Other things were also playing on my mind. I actually thought the Covid things would be the thing of lesser concern. Vaccines were happening. Precautions were in place. I was worried weather would be a factor and had there been snowfall then that could stuff up the running of train services, etc, etc. Then about a week or so before the gig, this Omicron variant was spreading like nobody’s business around the world and I started to freak out. Esp. once Boris started talking about potentially going into lockdown again! I started to have my doubts that I would even be allowed to travel. And what happens if I end up going to England – will they let me back into Scotland on Friday? 

On Thursday morning I received a letter from SAAS about my application of my part-time fee grant. I was awarded the grant! Yay! But because this was my first time applying for the grant, I wasn’t sure how to interpret the letter other than I had been granted partial funding because the award was only for so much of the fee. So that left me believing I would somehow have to stump up the rest. I wanted clarity on this though and contacted the OU. They said I needed to specifically speak to the Scotland region of the OU, as they directly handle the fees and grant awards for Scottish OU students. During busy times though when you call the OU in Scotland number and the lines are busy, the calls are filtered through to the main OU phone lines in England. My call got filtered through to England twice. The second time, the adviser on the line said he’d put in a callback request for me so someone from OU in Scotland would call me back. Great. That was all good. But equally I am leaving for Newcastle with this worry that I am going to have to find 40% of the fee for the course! It was casting serious doubt on whether I could go ahead with my study. 

I packed a bag. Had a shower and got ready to head off to Newcastle. 

All the travel was running smoothly. Train into the city from Ashfield was on time. Arrived at Queen Street in good time for the connecting Edinburgh express train. Arrived at Edinburgh just after 2pm and the connecting train that was heading to London was already there on the platform. Found my carriage and seat and got comfy. About 40 minutes later we stop at Berwick-upon-Tweed, which looks like an absolutely STUNNING place, and is somewhere I’d definitely like to go and check out in the future.

Just after we pull out of Berwick, I get my callback from Ou in Scotland. I explained that I received the award letter in the post earlier that morning and had said I had been awarded so much – a partial award and wanted to check what I needed to do to pay the rest of the fee. The person on the phone asked me to clarify the award amount I was given, which I told them. “That is the maximum award they have given you. The university pays the rest. You have nothing to pay.” I don’t think I have ever been so relieved or felt so thankful for a phone call in a long while. I was like “Oh, my God! That’s incredible! I am so, so relieved. This is fantastic! Thank you so, so much!” I was on a cloud! So buoyed by that news. And just…so relieved and able to relax. 

It was pretty dark by the time I arrived in Newcastle. The sun had set and there was minimal twilight left. I decided to get a taxi to the Premier Inn I was staying at. Taxis were straight outside the exit from the station so I grabbed one and arrived at the Premier Inn several minutes later. 

Had a quick drink and a snack and after about an hour, I decided to head to The Cluny. I could see on Google Maps it was a really short walk to there from the Premier Inn. Less than half a mile. But it isn’t a busy part of the city and I was a little worried about the walk. But I knew that it would hardly be a taxi driver’s worth to come and collect me from the Premier Inn to drive me, quite literally, down the road and around the corner. So I walked it. But OMG, I was freaking out doing it! But I made it there safely (obviously!) but there was NO WAY I was going to take that walk back to the hotel after the gig. One, I knew by then my legs will have given out on me, and two, by 11.15pm, those streets will be even MORE terrifying. 

When I get to The Cluny, I familiarise myself with the place again and go to the back of the pub and upstairs to the quiet “lounging” area. I take a seat on the sofa and have been there all of a few minutes when I hear music start up and realise it’s Andy and Steve going through their soundcheck. Not only that, I can hear that they are rehearsing their Christmas song – Good Enough For You This Christmas. From the time of Edinburgh I had been saying “The Cluny is a Christmas gig. You HAVE to do the Christmas song! You just have to!” 

I got up off the sofa and snuck in through the doors of the auditorium in front of me. I stood towards the back, enjoying my little exclusive preview. Andy looked up at one point and I waved like a loon at him, grinning away that they were rehearsing the song. 

Steve was to the side of the stage and couldn’t quite see me from where I was standing, so when the song ended I shouted “YaaaaaaY!!!!” and that was Steve alerted to my presence and, bless him, he smiled and said “you made it! Excellent!”

Not only are Warm Digits bloody amazing musically – but Steve and Andy are just such lovely, lovely guys. They always make me feel welcome and they never make me feel a pest for wanting to hang out with them. They are just so, so fab. Speaking of FAB! We had a bite to eat together before the gig. Andy and I are very much “team Get Back”, the both of us waxing lyrical about what we thought of it and how great it was and how we’re both well up for completely ODing on the notion that Peter Jackson says he will eventually release all 60 HOURS of the footage! 

To the crux of the matter – the gig itself. There were two support acts. But with first support had to pull out of the gig unfortunately. That left Dextro as the sole support act. I really enjoyed his set. There’s quite a kind of “trance” vibe going on with his music. I find it hard to get into music with a lot of space like that and not much of a “groove” as such – more loops and repetition at a standing venue. I feel like it is more a style of music that needs to be enjoyed sitting down. As much as I was enjoying his set, after a while it started to play havoc with me and I feared I was about to have a vasovagal attack so I left the auditorium and went and sat on one of the sofas back out through the far doors. Just to give myself 5-10 minutes to compose myself and get my breathing under control. I was doing deep breathing inside to try and ward off the feeling but I was starting to feel like I better go and sit down for a few minutes while I was able to.

I went back and was able to enjoy the final 10 minutes of his set without the fear of keeling over.

Again, I will say that I enjoyed his set, but I would need to be at a seated venue to enjoy his set fully. I would see him again. I had checked out his music on Spotify before the gig and I liked what I was hearing and was interested in seeing him.

Hear more from Dextro by checking out his bandcamp page – https://dextro.bandcamp.com

As for Warm Digits? FANTASTIC! They sounded great from the off. The Cluny’s acoustics are fabulous and they get great sound guys in, I think. The levels were perfect. Nothing was too loud or distorted – so very different to how Edinburgh was. Crowd wise, despite Steve and Andy’s concerns there might only be a very small crowd, there was about (conservatively) 50 people in, which obviously doesn’t sound much – but given all other factors, it was pretty darn good. And everyone there was really into it and having a great time. It was great to see people enjoying themselves. And it was great for Andy and Steve too because of course they get to bounce off the reaction and appreciation from the crowd and it circles round. It was a lovefest in that room!

And it was just so great to hear a full set! To have things like Frames And Cages, Fools Tomorrow and False Positive (which now seems a wonderfully prescient title for that track!) on the setlist, as well as Flight Of Ideas stalwarts Feel The Panic and The View From Nowhere playing. Replication had been played a few times as well over the past 18 months but Thursday night allowed a great showcase of tracks from Flight Of Ideas. But there was a great mix of older tracks in the set too, End Times was sounding the best I’d ever heard it and Rumble And The Tremor was bloody fab too. Then quite the oldie, playing Connected Coast from their Interchange album. 

After the world’s shortest “end” of the gig was the encore with the much enjoyed (by me especially) Good Enough For You This Christmas and then a finish with the fabulous title track from Wireless World. 

The best. Just the best! Everything I was anticipating this gig to be. Nothing disappointed. The guys played great, the sound was fab. Everything was on the mark. And I was buzzing. And I wasn’t the only one. 

It’s still not been the easiest of years this 2021, but at least live…musically, for me it has ended on a real high. 

Thanks once again to Andy and to Steve for not only being my favourite band in the entire universe (along with Simple Minds) but for also being such wonderful men and being ever so great to your number one fan – in Glasgow, at least. I really hope to see you guys out there on the road again next year.

T-Shirt Day 2021

Today is the debut of this fine bit of merch! Wasn’t expecting this on Sunday night. Very lovely of Steve to offer me one of these fab shirts. Had their gig been going ahead, I’d be seeing them tonight in Glasgow. I’d have loved nothing better! Alas, it was not to be.

Roll on December 16th and my trip to Newcastle and a Warm Digits Christmas.

Happy T-Shirt Day, everyone!

Did Someone Say “Giveaway”?

YES THEY DID!

The badges I very gratefully received from a fellow SM fan in Vancouver were in multiples. I asked if they were okay with me giving some of the badges away and they were happy to allow me to do that.

I didn’t want to come across as ungrateful for the wonderful, kind thing they did for me. But I wanted to share in the love. I was just bowled over to see my artwork turned into badges!

So, here we are! These four sets of badges below will be given away. All you have to do is throw your hat in the ring…if you see this on Facebook, like and comment. Share the post if you like. Let me know your favourite badge. If viewing on Twitter, you can reply tweet or share tweet with comment. You can enter via Instagram too.

You can also do that here via the blog. Just click on the “leave a comment/ X comments” text at the bottom right corner of the post and let me know which of the badges is your favourite.

Basically just make yourself known!

You can enter by midday GMT – Monday, 15th November (this Monday coming). I’ll choose 4 winners at random to receive one of the four sets of badges shown. (The sets will be awarded at random.) Open to anyone worldwide.

So get entering! Good luck!

And there are more giveaways to come! Stay tuned!

Virginia Turbett On Twitter

The boss lady has FINALLY joined the Twittersphere, having been dead against it for the past two and a half years of me helping her out with FB and Instagram.

So, please welcome to the Twitterverse VTurbett_Photos!

Jim’s Shirt And Jonathan Richman In Detroit – Bookie’s Club 870

I was looking around eBay earlier wanting to see what Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers stuff is up there. There’s a lot of stuff that’s in the USA, sadly, which would make it very costly to get sent to here.

This one really piqued my interest! I love original gig posters like this. Even more of a surprise was to see that Jonathan and TML were playing the Bookie’s Club 870. I don’t think Simple Minds ever played there, but as you can see from the photos from Virginia’s site, Jim had a Bookie’s Club 870 shirt. Where he got it from? Who knows? Probably nicked it off someone? They played the Royal Oak Theater in Detroit in March, 1981 – but the Bookie’s Club 870 is several miles away. There was a few days break until the next gig though, so maybe they stayed in Detroit and caught a gig at the Bookie’s?

If only Jim would remember. If only I could ask him!

Alas.

Anyway…

I love seeing these kinds of links. These silly little things make me happy.

Virgins Boys – Virgin Photos – Part Two

After the post about Virginia’s photos of the day Simple Minds signed to Virgin Records in March, 1981…today THESE babies arrived!

Obviously my favourites are going to be the ones of Jim. In one he is poised to sign (or has just signed) the contract. He has those pursed lips there – the excited sign of concentration.

The other I love is him with Ronnie Gurr. He’s looking at Ronnie all smitten, like. Lol

Ronnie left comments on my sharing of these photos on Facebook. It seems Ronnie was still working for Arista at the time, but soon moved over to Virgin also.

“A great day. I was still an Arista boy but took the afternoon off and soon followed my pals by becoming a Virgin a few months later.” is what he had said to me.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Jim Kerr Interview – Q Magazine – March 1998

The caption on the first photo – There was so much talk about Jim’s “penny whistle” at the time. Bloody hell! Also…the end of the article…him going on about Mariella Frostrup. Tie a knot in it, Kerr! Surely you were already with somebody else by this point? You’re never alone for long, it seems. I could comment further…but I won’t.

Anyway, I guess you can’t keep a good man down….

Click on the images for better and maximum viewing options.

As a side note of what was discussed above is this (below). I stumbled upon it about a week ago. Don’t ask me how I got there – despite how it looks, rather bloody innocently, I can assure you! It was printed in the Sunday Mirror on September 4th, 2005. They obviously had Jim look at a bunch of photos of himself and comment on them. The article was titled “My Pap Pics: Jim Kerr” and I’m guessing he was shown a rather “revealing” photo of himself? The “Brussels banana” photo, perhaps? The photos of the article weren’t printed, just the text. Anyway…here are his MODEST words about it. He was rather more modest several years later….shrinkage? 😂😂😂

So…who are we to believe? Bragging Jim of 2005? Or modest Jim of 2014 interviewed in the Irish Independent newspaper?

Answers on a QR-coded postcard…

White Hot Day – Simple Minds Fan Convention – RESCHEDULED (New Date, New Venue)

Thanks to this bloody pandemic and frigging Covid-19, White Hot Day, the Simple Minds fan convention, set to take place in the band’s ‘hame toon’ of Glasgow (Glesga) has been rescheduled.

The convention will now take place on Saturday, October 15th, 2022, at a new venue, Classic Grand on Jamaica Street, Just a short (less than 5 minutes) walk from Central station (for those making their way into Glasgow for the event).

Tickets available through Tickets Scotland – all previously purchased tickets remain valid for the new date/venue.

See you there!

Simple Minds Feature – Classic Pop Magazine – Issue Two – January, 2013

Long overdue to have got myself a copy to scan and share this article. Damn pissed that the long coveted photo of them on the sinking Titanic is – one: cropped and two: crap quality.

I love that other photo of them taken when they had one of their TOTP appearances. Jim with a tambourine in hand is always a winner.

Might have a go at some tidying up work on it later – a la “Mr Tambourine Man” banner artwork you may catch on here if you hang about for long enough.

Again – click on images to get increased image viewing options on the bottom right of each page.

Enjoy!

Minds Music Monday – Seeing Out The Angel – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

“So when I thought Charlie’s guitar in ‘Angel’ sounded like church bells…” – writes Adam Sweeting, having just been given an explanation by Jim of the ideas behind the song. You can read a full extract of that below.

I’d be intrigued to know what the book of short stories was. I thought for a few minutes about asking Derek Forbes if he’d remember it. Even went to Twitter in further contemplation of conjuring up the gumption to ask him…but I can’t. Best to let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess if Jim had remembered it, he’d have mentioned its name or the author back then during the interview. Maybe someone could find out or shed some light on it?

Anyway, let us ‘push on’. 


UPDATE: A regular visitor and reader of this blog – Scott, contacted me about who he thinks the author of the short stories might be and which short story it is! And I think he just may be right. He read on Dream Giver about Jim mentioning Philip K Dick. Well of course I remember that too because of Jim’s reply to me (when I quizzed him about having read sci-fi) about “growing out of things…like drugs, alcohol, hair dye and jodhpurs”. But I didn’t make the connection when compiling this post. A book of short stories of Dick’s is titled “A Handful Of Darkness”. Released originally in 1955, it contains a short story called “Upon The Dull Earth” (that even sounds like a line Jim would use in a song!) – a link to the plot of the story HERE – I think Scott came up trumps with this! Where would I be without him?


The original working title for the song was “Petrocello” – a word entirely made up it would seem. A portmanteau of the words “petronella” and “Limoncello”, perhaps? Or maybe of “petronella” and “uccello”? A portmanteau of those two words could translate as “dancing birds”. For “petronella” is a style of Scottish folk dance while “uccello” is the Italian word for bird. That would be lovely if it was a combination of those two. I’m always trying to put romantic connotations to everything. 

Again it was one of the songs that Mick gave to Jim to listen to on cassette and obviously he could hear such potential in all the pieces. I guess had Mick not heard the potential in the music himself first, he’d have not passed it on to Jim to pass his lugholes over it. 

I can’t claim to know about music or its structure and complexities (or otherwise) and what it is to describe something as “melody” as opposed to labelling it an “arpeggio” – but what I do know is those chords, those notes from Mick MacNeil’s synths are some of the most beautiful pieces of musical notation you will ever hear. And that Adam Sweeting is right, that Charlie’s guitar chords do sound like church bells. 

As it started life as one of Mick’s workings, it may have initially been going to remain an instrumental. Who knows at what point during recording proceedings Jim was ready to provide lyrics? He seemed quite the procrastinator back then – leaving lyrical input until pressed to provide it. Then again ‘Angel’ was seemingly one of the earlier tunes to be formed so maybe it was a rare time in which Jim was ready with lyrics fairly early on but he just delayed putting them across in the studio? All supposition by me. 

The song had a brief run of being in the live set during the opening part of the Sons And Fascination tour in Aug/Sept of 1981, performed just a handful of times before leaving the set altogether. Never to reappear again until 2006 on the Black and White tour. And not on a set list again since. 

The only live recording of it that exists from those handful of 1981 shows is from the Royal Court in Liverpool on September 22nd. It’s performed in Edinburgh on the opening night of the tour on August 28th – it doesn’t seem to go too well.

The next two shows, it’s off the set list – the reason for the Bingley Hall absence I guess would be to how ill Jim was on the night. The next gig in Nottingham, was the one and only time that Wonderful In Young Life was performed. Ironed out, perhaps? It was then back in the set until the final gig of this first short leg of the tour at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on September 25th. A total (potentially – as some set list information is unavailable) of seven shows that it was performed at. Amazing then that there is even one recording to exist of it. I’m sure that given that the gig was recorded for the specific purpose of putting out some live content, that a recording of it being performed at Hammersmith must exist somewhere in a vault.

It was a fairly prominent feature in 2006, particularly during the first part pf the year as the band tour around Europe. It makes its last appearance during the opening gig of the Australian leg of the tour in May. There are several live versions to be heard. The pedant in me couldn’t really stick with any of them. I am terrible for that. I love lyrics as they are. As they’ve been written and intended to be heard in the first place and when that doesn’t happen I find it annoying. Yes! I know. There is the excuse that the band hadn’t actually performed the song 25 years by that point – I could give them a break! But my counter argument would be one – they would have given themselves time to rehearse before going on tour. Also, the element about it that leaves me disappointed has nothing to do with the music. It’s being played very well from the examples of performances I had heard. My gripe is with Jim and the lyrics. The version I can listen to that plays furthest along in the tour is in Rome on March 19th. Some six weeks into the tour. It’s the 34th performance of the song. 

I will say no more of it because I know where he’d tell me to stick it – esp. after given a critique of something some 15 years after the fact, but I can’t help being a pedantic c*** about these things.

All I know is that as a track to end an album with? Very few match it for statement and feeling, to summerise and sum up all that has passed in the album that has just been experienced. The melody. The “church bells”. The amazing bassline. The underplayed drum beat. The beautiful backing vocal. It’s exquisite. As delicate and as haunting as the angels it is depicting. That daydream, vision, visitation – whatever it was that Jim experienced as a child certainly left its mark on him. And all these years later it still lives on and will live on eternally in the mindset of Simple Minds fans. Those angels are with all of us. For many of us they feel like guardians. Guardians of the thoughts and feelings we hold so very precious. If what Jim experienced was indeed “a vision”, then it was definitely meant to be. They wanted to be seen, and they wanted Jim to see them.

What an absolutely sublime piece of work to finish an album on. 

Photograph of Jim by Virginia Turbett
Angel wings vector graphics: Bastian Schwind
Additional source information: simpleminds.org