Steve In Stevenage…

You know sometimes when you see something … you’ve just been made aware of it but it happened just a couple of days prior so you missed it completely?

Well…that just happened to me. I’m checking the local record stores, particularly those over the Hertfordshire border…to see what they’re stocking and their prices for Saturday’s RSD. I checked Revolution Records in Stevenage to see that just this Monday gone STEVE HILLAGE WAS THERE DOING AN ALBUM SIGNING! I AM GUTTED!

I am ssssoooo gutted I missed this. I think I’d have been the ONLY person there to say “So, Steve…what was like working with Simple Minds on Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call?”

I’D HAVE GRILLED HIS ARSE! Lol. “Is the story about the pot plant true? Did you really fall down a stairwell on an office chair?” You know…all the probing questions! Lol

Oh, shit. I can’t believe I missed him! 😩😩😩

The Stranglers – O2 Academy, Bristol – 28th March, 2019

It was quite a hike from Luton to Bristol. First a trip to London, then on from there to Bristol. I arrived at 3.45pm and met up with a friend shortly after.

We had a bite to eat at the Boston Tea Party at the top of Park Street. A nice place. Looks deceptively small on the outside, but has plenty of seating upstairs. I needed to fuel up before the gig, so had a chai latte, a veggie burger and chips.

We queue outside that venue around 6pm. We were met with a few other fans after…and the queue got progressively longer. Another friend us in the queue around 6.40 and we were let in a few minutes before 7pm.

Support act was Dr Feelgood. A curious support in that there is not a single original member of the band within the group. But they were great all the same. Great musicianship. The singer was quite a showman but at least he was animated and not standing about looking like he’d prefer to be elsewhere.

The only two Dr Feelgood songs I know are Milk And Alcohol and Roxette and they performed those. The only thing I’d say as a negative was, although the overall sound level was great, the singer was lost in the mix. He was too low. Couldn’t much hear him either singing or playing the harmonica. Other than that, the set was great and I really enjoyed them.

All good. Everything going well.

Just a short break and then out come the boys. We were in a prime position, right in front of JJ. I filmed a bit here and there and have one complete song of them performing set opener Tank.

All was going good. The following day was Dave Greenfield’s 70th birthday, and my friend, Ruth, had made a special celebratory banner for him. After a few songs, Ruth produced the banner from her pocket and we held it up against the barrier. JJ noticed it and nodded approval, then he went over and got Dave’s attention and pointed it out to him. A short while later, Baz noticed it too and asked Ruth to throw it up on the stage to him. Baz then clipped it to the front of Dave’s keyboard stand and it stayed there for the rest of the gig.

About half way through the set I was starting to feel unwell. Light headed and just…not sure of myself. A little overheated, but it was so cramped in there, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get my jumper off.

I sat down and would have probably revived myself had I been allowed to stay there a few mins, but security guard came over and told Ruth I needed to stand back up, that it was too dangerous for me to sit at the barrier. I stood back up and I was not too bad initially. JJ checked with me that I was okay and I had mouthed to him I was fine and gave him a thumbs up. I was just trying to keep calm and ride the feeling out…but it didn’t work and after a few minutes I was out for the count. I shared the footage on the blog of what ensued.

I could feel myself being pulled over the barrier and feel being carted off. I was conscious again and saying “Guys! I’m okay!” Lol. Obviously NOT okay, but at least conscious again. They took me out a side exit and sat me on the ground for a few mins. They then got me a chair and I sat there for a few more mins. I was allowed to go back in but had missed a few songs. It was so crowded, I was right at the back and I wasn’t going to risk trying to get to the front and get reunited with my friends.

I didn’t stay in the venue again for too long. There was a bar out the front and some seating, so I just sat and waited until the gig was done.

The Stranglers are ALWAYS top class. They are never anything else. Set was great, I mean the actual stage set…the set list of songs were too. Some songs as a fan but not “uber” fan I was unfamiliar with. And there were a couple of new tracks played and I caught a bit of one of them.

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They’re a stellar act. The venue is small, intimate, and on a personal level, could do with a bit of ventilation. Great otherwise though.

I’ve seen them at least once every year now since 2016 and this year I may end up seeing them twice, all things boding well!

You’ll NEVER be disappointed at a Stranglers gig…even if you do find yourself fainting in the middle of it.

Hedging My Bets, Trev…

It wasn’t until very late last night did I realise that tickets for the Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties Tour at the end of July/beginning of August had gone on pre-sale yesterday.

And in the overtly hopeful notion that Jim and Charlie (and quite possibly even Mick MacNeil – for the first show, at least) may take part in it (as “OTHER special guests to be announced in due course” was said on Trevor Horn’s web site) I have secured a ticket for the first show at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

I am starting to have the sneaking suspicion that this may be about the only chance I may get to see anything of the Minds this year.

So, come July 27th (or perhaps the 26th if I need to do the red-eye coach up overnight), I’ll be travelling to Glasgow yet again…and seeing yet ANOTHER gig at the RCH.

The bugger is that Horn plays the Festival Hall in London the following night which could actually cause a problem for me getting back there, if indeed I want to go a second time. At the moment I am happy with Glasgow only. I decided on Glasgow because, frankly, the strongest chance of there being an appearance on stage by Jim and Charlie WILL be at the Glasgow opener. Hame turf – opening night of the tour…it’ll be braw! And if Mick were to take part? Well, that definitely may be a Glasgow only affair. And how bloody special would that be? Had to get a ticket! Had to hedge my bets!

Review: Ruts DC – O2 Academy Oxford – February 18th, 2019

My first time for a gig at Oxford – and at this particular venue. The venue is pretty small…would maybe hold 750 tops. I like these size venues though, esp. for GA standing gigs.

The support act was The Professionals, with drummer (and Sex Pistols legend) Paul Cook the only existing original member of the lineup. I didn’t really look up the support act before the gig, so it was somewhat of a surprise when my friend and companion for the gig said that Cookie was playing as part of the support act. I’m getting my quota of drumming legends in these days!

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And as I didn’t know the support act that well, I didn’t know much of the material performed, although of course Silly Thing sounded familiar to me when it started. I think if I have things right they also performed Just Another Dream and Join The Professionals. Pretty sure they also performed I Didn’t See It Coming, and probably did 1-2-3 as well. It was a fast pace set as you would expect from a punk outfit. Short, punchy songs. Lots of energy. I enjoyed their set. Sound level was loud. My ears were stuffed before the Ruts even came on!

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And as for The Ruts? Well, we were given the full theatrical intro for what is a 40th anniversary tour of their debut album, The Crack. With a backdrop of a huge canvas print of the album’s artwork, they played the whole album in tracklist order, starting with their biggest hit, Babylon’s Burning – which I filmed.

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And of course, they just got tighter and tighter through the set. Segs seems like he should have been the frontman all along to me. No disrespect to Malcolm Owen intended at all, just me wanting to give credit to Segs. He’s fab and just takes it in his stride. They found an absolute gem of a guitarist in Leigh and, speaking as I did earlier of drumming legends…hell! For me, Dave Ruffy is right up there as one of the best drummers around. Sublime effortlessness.

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The setlist is pictured above. Nearly 24 hours later, and my ears are STILL ringing. If you’ve never seen them live and you like this genre of music (punk/ska/rock/pub rock), get along to one of their gigs. You won’t be disappointed. Honestly, they really are one of the best live bands going round right now. They never disappoint, and last night was no exception.

Review: John Grant – Cambridge Corn Exchange – Feb 7th, 2019

Again, support was from E.B. The Younger, performing tracks from his upcoming release, To Each His Own. Songs performed included lead single from the album, Used To Be. Also performed were Out Of The Woods, On An Island, and Don’t Forget Me.

The harmonies that Pulido and Creamer have together are rather wonderful. Pulido says on his website that Harry Nilsson is a major musical influence, and it is certainly evident in Pulido’s own sound.

I will give the album a few listens on release, and will probably invest in a copy. I have enjoyed watching both of his performances. Below is a clip of him and Dan performing When The Time Comes. Also captured is Pulido’s banter and engagement with the crowd. He likes a natter, and that’s a cool thing in my eyes.

Once again, the crew went quickly into action to have John out on stage promptly at 8.45pm.

The first thing I have to say about the venue, Cambridge Corn Exchange, is it has great acoustics! And whoever is doing JGs sound gets it absolutely spot on, no matter what venue he’s at. Outdoors at festivals, indoors in mid-sized capacity theatres, or in more intimate places like Union Chapel in London – I am always impressed by the sound quality and volume.

The lighting on this tour has also been superb.

The show started with (possibly my favourite track on Love Is Magic – I grapple with either this or Metamorphosis being my fave track on the album) Tempest. Again, we were treated to all bar the complete Love Is Magic album (the only track off the album not performed was The Common Snipe), interspersed with tracks from his previous three albums. Tracks included Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – Pale Green Ghosts – Sensitive New Age Guy – Global Warming – Glacier – Sigourney Weaver – Fireflies – Outer Space – JC Hates Faggots – Queen Of Denmark – Black Belt – GMF – and the most beautiful version of TC And Honeybear…I was in a flood of tears. I find it just the most heart-wrenching beautiful song.

It’s an extensive set and was much appreciated by the crowd in Cambridge. And John was feeling the love too. I thought Glasgow was amazing last week, but everything was just somehow taken up a notch again at Cambridge.

I could watch John perform every single night for the rest of my life and be in raptures. He’s both funny and humble, can take the piss out of himself, throw shapes about the stage and look like a dancefloor mega god, and then sit at his keyboard and deliver songs with such elegance and poignancy. The man is absolutely amazing.

Review: John Grant at Celtic Connections – King’s Theatre, Glasgow – Feb 1st, 2019

Support was by E.B. the Younger – the moniker of Midlake vocalist Eric Pulido, soon to release his solo debut. Now THERE’S the connection – John, of course, working with Midlake for his Queen Of Denmark debut.

Eric was joined on stage by keyboardist Dan. The pair of them have great vocal harmonies. He performed songs from his new album set for release in early March.

His music is quite easy going and he established a good rapport with the audience and was even piggybacked off stage by Dan at the end of the set. I look forward to seeing him again on Thursday night.

The stage crew set to work very quickly to get things set up for John. Only a short break was endured before he arrived on stage with regular, established band members, including the incomparable Budgie on drums. The more I watch him, the more I fall in love with his style and realise what a truly incredible drummer he is.

All was flowing well. I have to confess, once inside the King’s, it did seem a little strange a venue for what is essentially a rock gig but the crowd were into it and we were enjoying ourselves.

About the fifth song in they started to play album opener, Metamorphosis, and there was a technical problem. The song was halted, crew rushed on stage to sort it out, and while the problem was being rectified, John sat is his still fully functioning (and unaffected by the fault) keyboard to perform TC And Honeybear – which is just the most stunning and beautiful song. I wasn’t expecting him to perform too many of his older tunes, so it was a real treat. Was almost thankful for the technical hiccup!

By the time TC And Honeybear was through, the problem had been sorted and off we went with Metamorphosis again.

Others in the set included Preppy Boy, Smug Cunt, He’s Got His Mother’s Hips, Tempest, Love Is Magic, Is He Strange, Touch And Go – pretty much the whole album bar The Common Snipe (at least I think he did Diet Gum as well).

Those in the set not on Love Is Magic performed were Grey Tickles-Black Pressure, Pale Green Ghosts, Global Warming, Queen Of Denmark, JC Hates Faggots, Sensitive New Age Guy, GMF, Black Belt, Glacier, Fireflies, Caramel and Sigourney Weaver.

The surprise…or perhaps disappointment…of the night was that he DIDN’T perform Marz! I was okay with that, but I’m sure other fans would have been disappointed. If they were, it didn’t show in the crowd’s reception. Standing ovations towards the end of the set and after every song performed as an encore.

The crowd loved it. You could feel it. And apart from the technical fault at the start of Metamorphosis, the acoustics and sound levels were great.

I get taken to another place at a JG gig. I just lose myself, esp. on the more emotional tracks. Glacier was beautiful and epic, as was Queen Of Denmark. And…Budgie has me in awe. I love that man!

Top class, as always. I don’t think JG could ever do a shit gig. Well, I’ve never seen one.

Bring on Thursday and Cambridge!

Review: Loudon Wainwright III at Celtic Connections – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow – Jan 30th 2019

I had been lucky enough to get myself a free ticket to see a recording of The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland yesterday morning. I knew Grant Stott would be presenting the show, and there would most likely be live music, but that was all I knew.

The Cottiers was packed out for the show. We all got seated and some of the musicians entered the room ready to start recording. I see this guy enter the room and I think “Geez, that bloke looks like Loudon Wainwright III – OMG… is it?!”

Yep! It was. I was chuffed! I had wanted to see him for years. I mean I am by no means a huge fan of folk music… not much of a fan at all, really. There are some exceptions, but generally, I don’t go out of my way to seek it out. LWIII is one of those exceptions I have always found him humorous and fun.

He was so great at the Afternoon Show, that as soon as it wrapped up and we were done, I walked down to the Royal Concert Hall and grabbed a ticket for the gig.

His support act, Karen Casey, had also performed on the Afternoon Show and I enjoyed her too.

She was great last night as well. She’s got wonderful talented musicians playing with her and she has a wonderful voice. She chatted a bit between songs and shared funny anecdotes. I enjoyed her set.

There was a lot of love in the room for LWIII as he walked on stage.

Funny from the get go. He spoke of his father. A fractuous relationship he had with him. His dad was a renowned writer for Time magazine. He shared some extracts of columns that his father wrote for Time. He told us that through the passage of time, after his dad’s death in 1988, he got to know him better and understand him better.

I can’t remember all the songs he did. I am not familiar with their titles, so they didn’t stick in the memory. But the ones I do remember from last night that he performed – Meet The Wainwrights – a theme for a show he did in which he, Rufus, his partner and their daughter Lucy toured Alaska with fans for a five date tour with the family – he had fun anecdotes to share about all that too. Five Years Old – a song he wrote about missing Martha’s 5th birthday.

One I recorded called “It Ain’t Gaza” – I will post it when I get home. Just a great thing about… if you think things are shit to just put it in some perspective.

It was a great show. I’d love to see him again. Funny, a little sad now and then and thought-provoking too. I’m so glad I went.