Billy Bragg Sage Gateshead 21 October 2021

BILLY TIXIt was a strange and winding road that took me to the Sage last Thursday to see Billy Bragg. Let me reminisce a little first (after all I am an old man largely revisiting and reliving my past). The first time I encountered Billy Bragg was as part of the Red Wedge Tour, a left-wing conglomeration of bands that travelled around the country in the 1980s. Billy Bragg, along with Paul Weller, was one of the instigators of the movement in reaction to Margaret Thatcher and the Tory values of the time. I have never been greatly political, but was interested in seeing the bands which included the aforementioned Bragg, Paul Weller with Style Council, the Communards and one or two others. The big surprise of the night was an unannounced appearance by the Smiths who blew the place apart and, according to Johnny Marr, this was their best live performance ever. So thanks to Billy for bringing the Smiths along that evening. It was the last time I was to see that magnificent band.

I saw Billy Bragg once more, headlining at Newcastle City Hall, and remember enjoying the concert. My memories of him otherwise are few and lost over the years. So when I saw he was coming to the Sage I suggested to the kids (who are both grown-up and too old to be called kids anymore) that we go along. They both agreed so we purchased tickets. But to be honest I was BILLY 1going more out of interest, and for my two children, rather than as a true fan. For two very different reasons, on the evening, the aforementioned kids were unable to come along so I decided to go, with my carer Jackie, to experience Billy “on my own”(although I am never totally on my own, as like the naughty child I am, I’m not allowed out by myself).

It’s strange how things turn out and how you can enjoy events that you are unsure about. The show was in two segments with a short interval. Billy Bragg was on great form, mixing new songs with old and, as he always did, talking a lot. This was the first night of the tour and also Billy’s first night on stage since the lockdown. The tour had been postponed for one year, as many others have been. Billy explained how he had spent the lockdown year writing a new album and reflecting on things.

“It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience….. The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.” (Billy Bragg official site)

BILLY 3He treated us to many songs from the new album which are more about his reflections on life than his normal political songs. He also talked a lot about his experience of the pandemic and how it has given him time to focus on recording and reading books. Like me he admitted to buying many books, reading a quote or two, and then storing them away. He alluded to his acoustic Gibson guitar smelling of old books and how wonderful that smell was; a sentiment which I wholly agree with. He looked very dapper with a new hairstyle and in smart jeans (something which I still possess but can never wear). He was accompanied by a keyboard player who kept him in check about the tuning of his guitars.

In many ways Bragg reminds me of a modern day Roy Harper, or even Pete Seeger. Like Roy or the late Seeger, he is left-wing and tell stories along with singing songs. I like artists who talk to the audience and give us something of themselves. It makes them more interesting, more authentic and more “real”. So I enjoyed my latest Billy Bragg experience, much more than I expected. I also ran into an old friend who came to see me during the interval. We used to work together some 20 or so years ago; it was great to connect again and we promised to keep in touch. I also treated myself to a couple of gin and tonics, which adds to the evening.

The annoying thing about having to book taxis is that I have to give then a time to collect me. Based on the published stage timings, which to be fair are always stated as approximate, I had booked the taxi quite early and Billy Bragg was still playing as we left. Never mind, I enjoyed the evening, which was one of re-connections: meeting an old friend again and reconnecting with Billy Bragg and his music. 

BILLY BOOKI also treated myself (and my friend John) to a copy of Billy Bragg’s book “The Three Dimensions of Freedom”, as there was no programme on sale: “At a time when opinion trumps facts and truth is treated as nothing more than another perspective, free speech has become a battleground. While authoritarians and algorithms threaten democracy, we argue over who has the right to speak. To protect ourselves from encroaching tyranny, we must look beyond this one-dimensional notion of what it means to be free and, by reconnecting liberty to equality and accountability, restore the individual agency engendered by the three dimensions of freedom.”

Many thanks to Jackie for accompanying me, taking the photographs, and making sure I don’t misbehave too much and drink too many gin and tonics, and to Chris for coming along later and helping me into bed.

John Lydon, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right Durham Gala Theatre 18 October 2021

LYDON TIX“He’s a legend and an icon, a revolutionary and an immortal. John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – changed the face of music and sparked a cultural revolution. The frontman and lyricist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd (PiL) caused a political earthquake and transformed music for good. To coincide with the publication of his new book, the brilliant, funny and insightful I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right, he is touring the UK. Lydon will talk about how he sees life, along with his unique and extraordinary career, and take audience questions during a pyrotechnic, one-off tour. Lydon will be sharing his thoughts with audiences. He Could Be Wrong. He Could Be Right.”(Tour announcement, 2019)

LYDON 5You couldn’t get much more of a contrast: Cliff Richard two days ago and then John Lydon! Two very different icons of popular music. But then, perhaps not as far apart as you might imagine: “Lydon, the uncompromising man of punk, explained his admiration for Cliff Richard: “My parents had a fantastic collection. It wasn’t just Irish folk tunes and accordion diddly-doos, there was early Beatles and lots of Cliff Richard too. The first record I would have ever wanted to buy was ‘Move It!’ by Cliff Richard. It was a really good song at the time and still is.” Richard may be a bit square now, but he influenced tonnes of acts form the sixties. “Early Cliff was a riotous assembly of sorts, and he had moves that left a good impression on a 5 year old.”” (Far Out)

I waited some time for this one. It was originally announced in 2019 and scheduled for 2020; then postponed until 2021. This is quite a lengthy tour, seeing Lydon visit venues up and down the country, promoting his latest book: I could be Wrong, I could be Right. I bought a copy of the book when it was initially issued; one of 5000 signed copies, each presented in a lovely box featuring one of John’s paintings on the cover (see images). Now I have seen John at a similar event a few years ago when he was promoting his last book, in Manchester, where I was lucky enough to meet the man himself and have him sign my book. I have already written about that encounter.

LYDON 1The stage was nicely set out with two red velvet chairs, one for John and one for his on tour interviewer. We weren’t allowed to take photographs, hence the image of the stage setup. The evening consisted of two segments separated by a short interval. The entire show lasted around two hours. The first segment was devoted to John telling us some memories of his life. The second and final segment took the form of a question-and-answer session. Attendees were allowed to write questions on special cards and post these in a box, placed at the front of the stage, during the interval.

John was on good form. He really doesn’t care what he says or who he may offend; but then, that’s just him, as he always was. The first segment started with John talking about his early years and being brought up by Irish Catholic parents: a father who finished every sentence with “you f**king c**t!” This phrase would reappear throughout the evening along with many other expletives. One thing I have learned about John, is that he is a mixture of 100% authentic, some exaggeration and speaks from the heart. Through all that he is very, very funny and there is a total honesty about the guy. I hope all that mix makes some sense, somehow. Anyway, that’s how he comes over to me. And so the story continues. We learn a lot about his childhood in a Catholic school run by nuns and priests who abused him in several LYDON 4ways. He talks a lot, and becomes quite emotional, about his wife Nora who has Alzheimers and for whom John is now primary carer. He has been with Nora since the 1970s and she is of German origin and the mother of the late Ari Up of the all girl punk band, The Slits. He clearly has a deep love for the lady and speaks with great affection about how best to deal with, in a very positive way, those who suffer from Alzheimers. He talks also about Jimmy Savile and how he outed Savile on the BBC in the 1970s, only to be banned by the Corporation from then on. He talks briefly about Sex Pistols and the recent court case, referring to his former bandmates in less than harmonious terms; involving more expletives. I guess I won’t be going to any Sex Pistols reunion gig for some time; if ever! “Speaking on the opening night of his extensive ‘I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right’ spoken-word tour this week, he ranted: “They’ve turned themselves into really greedy, selfish, nasty f****. But c’est la vie.” (Contactmusic) “JOHNNY Rotten shouted “liars, liars filthy liars!” on Good Morning Britain” (The Sun)

During the interval I chat with my carer Lisa and my sister-in-law Elaine, who has come along with us to the show as she is a fan of John and the Pistols. Now there is a story about this if you will bear with me for a minute. When I was going to see Sex Pistols at Scarborough Penthouse with my late wife, Marie and my friend Trevor, Elaine was a young teenager and cried for us to take her along to see the band. However, the Penthouse being an over 18 venue, we felt we could not risk it as she may not have been allowed entry. She was very upset, and has remained a fan since those days. Back to the show. I also partake in a nice cold pint of LYDON 3Guinness which goes down really well (even through one of those horrible paper straws).

The final segment of the show is the question-and-answer. This features questions about the recent legal case, and one which, most of all, both surprises and pleases me. John is asked who his favourite bands were before he joined Sex Pistols. His answer is, Roxy Music, The Kinks, and to my surprise: the Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Fairies and Status Quo. About the latter, he explains that Status Quo were a pretty great rock band in the early 70s; a sentiment which I fully agree with. He talks about putting his head into the bass bin at a Status Quo concert, something which I remember doing at a Motorhead gig. Very foolish. But Edgar Broughton! I was delighted to hear that he was a fellow fan. Indeed he went on to quote the main line of Edgar Broughton’s single “Gone Blue”: “I love that little hole in the back of her head”. I still don’t fully understand what Edgar was referring to there. Anyway, back to John. Another question asked if he believed Sid would still be alive if he had not met Nancy. John answered “No” and revealed that Sid’s mother was a heroin addict who gave Sid some heroin for his 14th birthday! He spoke quite emotionally and touchingly about his love of Sid and how he was his best mate. He also revealed a love of one of my own heroes: Alice Cooper, and talked about how he auditioned for Sex Pistols in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop in the Kings Road, by singing Alice’s “Eighteen” and “Schools Out” in front of a jukebox. The evening finished with John discussing his love of reggae music, how it influenced Public Image Ltd and leading us in a singalong similar to his single “Rise”.

LYDON 2Both Lisa and Elaine really enjoyed the show, as did I. A very entertaining evening with an icon of punk rock and popular culture. It doesn’t come much better than Cliff one night and John two nights later. A short taxi ride and we were back home where Lisa and Elaine hoisted me back into my bed with thoughts of John and Edgar Broughton swirling around in my head, no doubt aided by the pint of Guinness. A great night.

Cliff Richard 80th birthday tour Sage Gateshead 15 October 2021

cliff tixNow I can’t claim to be a massive Cliff Richard fan. However, having said that, he was quite an important part of my life during the 1960s. My dad used to love going to the pictures (or the cinema, as you know it now) and would take me several times a week to local cinemas such as the Plaza at Pallion, The Picture House, the Odeon, the ABC at Sunderland and further afield to cinemas like the ABC Haymarket, Newcastle and the Stoll Theatre (now the Tyne Theatre), Newcastle. We would go to see every new (and old) Disney cartoon including the Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio and many others. We also went to see every James Bond film (Sean Connery is still the true authentic James Bond), the Beatles films, Mary Poppins, Born Free, and every Man from Uncle film. All classics and all important parts of my youth. But best of all was none other than Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday. I must’ve seen it five or six times during the 60s and my dad and I just loved that movie and the title track.

CLIFF4So it was with songs like “The Young Ones”, “Bachelor Boy” and “Summer Holiday” in my head that I went along to this show. I also remember having an old copy of “Travelling Light” and “Living Doll” on 78. All great songs and great memories. The last time I saw Cliff was 20 years or so ago at Newcastle Arena with The Shadows, which was an excellent concert. This time I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The concert was in two 45 minute segments with a short interval, around 20 minutes, in between. The audience was, how can I say it, quite mature. In fact Jackie my carer and I felt as if we were the youngest people there! That is, of course, an exaggeration but the majority of the audience was female and around 70 or 80 years old. But then I guess that was to be expected with an artist like Cliff Richard who is now 81 years old.

Cliff looks, and sounds, just great. He is unbelievably fit and young looking. Excellent! He has assembled a band of seven musicians including two vocalists who provide excellent backing throughout the evening. Cliff comes on stage dressed in a long white evening coat and starts with “Wired for Sound” which is okay, but not one of my favourite songs. The first set is a mix of songs from the 60s and later and some new tracks which I don’t recognise. A good mix of songs including some great old ones such as “Please Don’t Tease” and “Do you Wanna Dance?”; The latter two sound just great. One interesting fact. The guitarist in the band is excellent and takes on some of the Hank Marvin licks and does them full justice. Cliff explains that the Fender Stratocaster he is playing is the very same one which Hank brought over to the UK in the late 50s. Wow! I wonder how Cliff managed to gain this guitar from Hank? Anyway the new guitarist is left-handed so has to play Hank’s Fender upside CLIFF5down. They also do a pretty great version of the opening segment of “Apache” with Cliff tapping the mic to make the sound of a drum as, he explained, he did on the original version. Cliff changes jacket during the set to a great cheer from the crowd. One thing I forgot to mention. As Cliff came on stage, a large group of ladies close to the front sang “Happy Birthday” to him. It had been his 81st birthday the day before! They also threw a pile of birthday balloons onto the stage. A great start to the show. The first set closes with a song appropriately titled “Older”. During the short interval I finish my large glass of red and decide to have a gin and tonic. Big mistake.

The second set followed a similar format to the first: a mix of old 60s favourites, later hits and songs from Cliff’s new album. Apparently, the new album went into the charts at number 3, which makes Cliff the first artist to have a top 5 record in every one of 6 decades. A record unlikely to be beaten, I would suggest. The highlight for me is a medley of “The Young Ones”, “Summer Holiday” and “Congratulations”. I was surprised how emotional these songs were for me; the first two took me back to my dad and the love he had for the cinema. The latter took me back to sitting at home with my mam and dad watching Cliff come second on television, as I recall, in the Eurovision Song contest; the year after Sandie Shaw won with “Puppet on a String”. I still think Cliff was robbed! Wonderful.

cliff progThe gin and tonic went down well and I soon slithered into my taxi, away home and before I knew it Chris and Jackie were putting me back to bed, feeling a little sickly. But then if I can’t have a drink these days, when can I? An excellent evening spent with a consummate performer, a national treasure, and a legend of early rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. Some cheesy, some excellent, and some so, so emotional that they brought tears to my eyes. May you continue to entertain us for many years to come, Sir Cliff.

Set 1: Wired for Sound; Dreamin’; Move It!; Where Do We Go From Here; Hope, Faith and You; Apache (short segment); Do You Wanna Dance?; Gee Whiz It’s You; Please Don’t Tease; Ocean Deep; Older.  Interval.

Set 2: Green Light; Carrie / Devil Woman; Living Doll / Summer Holiday / The Young Ones / Congratulations; PS Please; Lost in a Lonely World; A Heart Will Break; Marmaduke; Miss You Nights; We Don’t Talk Anymore; Peace in Our Time; Golden.

The Rubettes Sunderland Locarno 1974?

 

rubettes 1Come on, we all know the song, even if we won’t admit it. And many of us secretly still like it, don’t we?

Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to make you blue, 
Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to hurt you

Bap Showaddy, Bap Showaddywaddy, Wah Wah Wah……” (The Rubettes, 1974)

And we all remember the white caps and white suits, don’t we? 

So there I am, perched in my usual spot in the upstairs bar looking down on the stage. I may be by myself (because everyone I knew thought it was so… uncool… to go and see The Rubettes) drinking a pint of lager. Anyway, the Locarno, or the Mecca as we knew it, was my usual haunt on a Friday in those days (unless there was someone good playing at Newcastle Mayfair) so I wasn’t put off by going to see incredibly cheesy band. I recall little of the evening (perhaps due to too much alcohol at the time or perhaps because my memory is going) but I do remember looking down at the band and they looked exactly the same as they did on Top of the Pops; same white caps, same white suits and exactly the same crazy, cheesy vocals, harmonies and falsetto voices. And you know what, although I can’t remember the rest of the set, when they sang “Sugar Baby Love”, for those few minutes, I have to admit that they were just great. Much much better and much more fun than I expected. In those few minutes I was a Rubettes fan. Then the song finished, I returned to the bar for another pint of lager, and I look for some friends to chat to (in the hope that someone else was there). So that’s it, that is my memory of another guilty pleasure.

The Rubettes went on to have a few more hits as I recall, but there will always be remembered for “Sugar Baby Love”. As I often do in a case like this, I purchased a copy of the Rubettes album of the time Wear It’s At (isn’t eBay a wonderful thing?) The album cover includes a large picture of the trademark cap (see image) and also includes the big hit “Sugar Baby Love”. I haven’t actually played the album but did take some images for this blog post. I have, however, listened to the aforementioned “Sugar Baby Love” via another wonderful thing, Alexa and Amazon Music. Happy days are here again.

RUB 2I checked the band out and found out that there are two versions of the Rubettes touring at the moment. One of these features three original members and holds the rights to the name (from their website):

“To ensure the safeguard of the brand name and continue to work as a group, Mick Clarke became the UK trademark owner of The Rubettes® / UK00003348207 in July 2019. For any band that has attained com­mer­cial suc­cess, Trademark law may not be very “Rock and Roll”, but it sure is important these days and is an essential part of legal protection. From a legal perspective, the issue of who owns a band name usually falls under trademark law… Today,… The Rubettes® now have three original founder members performing together for the first time since 1974. With this amazing alliance, The Rubettes® will be one of the only few 70s bands that has three of its original founder members performing to their audiences in the UK, Europe and Worldwide.”

The other version of the band features lead singer Alan Williams (from their website):

“In celebrating 45 years of continuing Rubettes line ups, 1974/2019/20, it’s significant that the common denominator Alan Williams having remained throughout has perpetuated and sustained the  authentic sound of the Rubettes well into the 21st century and continues to do so. With Alan being the Rubettes lead vocalist and frontman from the very beginning there can be no better ambassador for Rubettes music than the latest line up of the Rubettes featuring Alan Williams. “

So take your pick!

The Jesus and Mary Chain Newcastle Mayfair 9 September 1987

jesus 1So, the conversation went like this. Laura: “Dad I thought you said you saw The Jesus and Mary Chain?” Me: “Yes. I’m sure I saw them at Newcastle Mayfair.” Laura: “Well it is not on your blog.” Me: “I must’ve forgotten about it. I shall add it!”

Now when I wrote my blog I took it from tickets, programmes and my memory. And somehow, I had forgotten this one. Not surprising; my memory is not great. I went straight to eBay and what did I find, but a ticket for the show which I quickly purchased. I had no ticket so presumably must’ve handed it in on the night. I heard a lot about this band and how legendary they were. I read the following on their official site:

“Few bands have had such a huge effect on musical culture, as The Jesus And Mary Chain. Their attitude alone, dressed in black, angry with the world, playing short sets drenched in feedback, set the bench mark in the post-Sex Pistols music scene of London. Their seminal debut album Psychocandy would go on to change the course of popular music, channeling the sneering angst and noise distortion of the live shows into hypnotic sweet melodies layered with dark lyrics that would beguile and bewilder. Released into the world, The Jesus And Mary Chain became the darlings of British press, as they searched to find the owner of the post punk crown in the mid 80’s.”

Pretty impressive! Now did my memories live up to this?

It was a Wednesday night and I had heard quite a lot about The Jesus and Mary Chain. So, I decided to go along, by myself, to the Mayfair to see what they were like. I recall stark black-and-white lighting and lots and lots of drums and noise. I would like to say I was blown away by the birth of grunge, but the truth is my memory of the concert is quite sketchy. I remember thinking that they were different, loud, stark, very “in your face” and quite scary in a way. I wasn’t familiar with the material but enjoyed the show and came away quite impressed. I have since watched some of their material on YouTube, such as “Kill Surf City“, which completely drags the Jan and Dean classic through punk into grunge and wish I could go back and watch the gig again!

Setlist: In a Hole; Fall; You Trip Me Up; Happy When It Rains; Cherry Came Too; Nine Million Rainy Days; Just Like Honey; The Hardest Walk; April Skies; The Living End; Taste of Cindy; Everything’s Alright When You’re Down. Encore: Kill Surf City; Never Understand

Genesis Newcastle Arena 30 September 2021

“”Can you tell me where my country lies?” said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes.” Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (Genesis 1973)

GENESIS TIXSo Genesis emerged one more time, for a final tour of the world. The band has retained its massive popularity over the years and sold out two nights at the vast Newcastle Arena. I went along on the first night, intrigued to see how my old heroes would perform after all these years.

It is more than 50 years since I first saw Genesis and, for me, the original prog rock group is still the best incarnation of the band. However, you have to hand it to Phil Collins who with old sidekicks (and only remaining original members) Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford took Genesis to even greater heights than those achieved by the Peter Gabriel version of the band. Now the set list looked promising and tempting. Earlier performances revealed that the band were playing quite a few old tracks including “the Lamb lies GENESIS 1Down on Broadway”, “I Know What I like”, “Carpet Crawlers” and excerpts from “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” and, once or twice, even “The Musical Box”. Now these songs represent the true soul of the band for me. I dream of them playing “The Knife” as the encore, but I knew this was not to be.

Phil Collins is clearly not well. You have to admire him. Earlier reviews and YouTube videos reveal that he spends the evening seated, singing but not drumming. The drum stool is now taken by his son who, apparently, does a great job and does his father justice.

So on Thursday I went along to the arena with my carer Jackie, both of us carrying our Covid passes on our phones to prove we had been double jabbed. As it happened, we were not actually asked to produce these. We took our seats on the disabled platform close to the front of the auditorium with a great view GENESIS 5of the stage. Having read all the reviews I knew what to expect, the band were due on stage at 8 PM with a 10:30 PM finish and no interval. It took some time to check all of the crowd into the arena and thus Genesis did not take the stage until around 8:15 PM.

Jackie went off to purchase a large glass of red wine for me. For some strange reason, the bar staff interpreted this as a bottle of red! Big mistake and too much temptation for me. The wine went down nicely, just as the performance progressed well also. Soon the band were on stage, Phil Collins not walking well (using a stick) and taking his seat at the front of the stage flanked by companions Mike Rutherford on bass and guitar to his left and Tony Banks on keyboards to his right. Phil’s son was behind the three front men, on his raised drum platform. The rest of the band comprised vocalists and long-term guitarist Darryl Streumer.

GENESIS 2The light show was pretty amazing, with massive video screens behind the band showing each of the performers “up close”. They started with an instrumental and then it was straight into the hits “Turn It on Again”, “Mama” and “Land of Confusion”. Now these songs were never my favourites, but on the night they sounded just great and Phil Collins did an excellent job on vocals. But for me it was the old Genesis that remained the best. So I particularly enjoyed “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and, of course, “I Know What I like”. It always surprised me, and still does, how similar Phil Collins voice can be to that of Peter Gabriel. I remember the first time I saw Genesis with Phil Collins as lead vocalist, at Glasgow Apollo, I was amazed how well he took on the mantle of front man and recreated Gabriel’s singing parts. Of course, he always took on some backing vocals duties, even in the early days, so perhaps it wasn’t so surprising. Anyway, he certainly did justice to the old classics which took me back 40 odd years. Before we knew it we were on the home stretch, with more hits such as “Throwing It All away” and the closing song “Invisible Touch”. Excellent. And somehow my bottle of wine was now almost empty and I felt pretty merry (to say the least).

Soon they returned to play “I Can’t Dance”, a short excerpt from the wonderful “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” and closing with “The Carpet Crawlers”. A triumphant return by an excellent band with a twisting,GENESIS 4 turning history that has taken them from prog rock heroes to almost middle-of-the-road pop/rock stars. And a particularly triumphant performance by Phil Collins, who clearly in ill-health, pulled off a magnificent showing. If this was to be the last time, then they couldn’t go out any better.

The taxi ride home was a bit of a blur, courtesy of the expensive (but cheap) red wine, as was being put back in the bed by Jackie and Chris. Similarly the blur and sickly feeling continued into the next day, as did the memories of Genesis. No more bottles of red wine for me!

GENESIS PROGSetlist: Behind the Lines / Duke’s End; Turn It On Again; Mama; Land of Confusion; Home by the Sea; Second Home by the Sea; Fading Lights; The Cinema Show; Afterglow; That’s All; The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway; Follow You Follow Me; Duchess; No Son of Mine; Firth of Fifth; I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); Domino; Throwing It All Away; Tonight, Tonight, Tonight; Invisible Touch. Encore: I Can’t Dance; Dancing With the Moonlit Knight; The Carpet Crawlers. 

Many thanks to Jackie for taking the photographs.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis Sage Gateshead 24 September 2021

Nick Cave is an enigma. A uniquely passionate, authentic performer. A preacher. A vampire. Someone nick 1whose fans are 100% devoted and committed to him. He’s all these things and more. So Laura, Dale, Jackie my carer and I went along with fellow pilgrims to experience the unique event that is a Nick Cave concert.

There was massive security around this concert. Not because of Covid, but rather because of Nick Cave’s desire to ensure that no tickets were resold. His following has become larger and larger over the years and the inclusion of his song “Red Right Hand” as the theme tune to Peaky Blinders has opened up his music to a wider audience. So the Sage is now a small venue in which for Nick Cave to perform. His last tour, with his band The Bad Seeds, took in arenas around the country. So even with the majority of tickets having a hefty price of £93, the concert sold out very quickly. Thus, come the evening of the event, the lead booker had to turn up with the rest of the party, carrying photo ID and proof of address. A check was made that nick 2these matched the details on the tickets and we were all issued with wristbands before we could gain entry.

This time Nick was accompanied by Bad Seeds guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, he of the manic electric violin, mesmerising keys and crazy beard. The duo were augmented by three vocalists and a bass player. Now Laura and I have both seen Nick Cave several times before, both solo and with The Bad Seeds, and we are familiar with most of his more well-known songs. However, this time many of the songs were unfamiliar to us. Nick was very much in the preacher mode, alternating between front of stage and his grand piano. There was no support act and they performed for almost 2 1/2 hours, without an interval. Nick was on great form, prowling stage front, NICK 2021 1dressed in his usual smart black suit and white shirt, jabbing at the front rows with his hands, his wiry frame moving swiftly from one end of the stage to the other. The songs were dark, doomy and delivered with the usual Cave passion. One particular highlight for me was a very emotional version of T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer”. The crowd loved it, cheering him on and watching closely his every move. There is something about this man which commands respect and devotion unlike any other act. As usual, we left feeling we had just experienced something quite special. For a short couple of hours on 24 September 2021 in Sage Gateshead Hall 1, God was in the house.

Setlist: Spinning Song; Bright Horses; Night Raid; Carnage; White Elephant; Ghosteen; Lavender Fields; Waiting for You; I Need You; Cosmic Dancer (T. Rex); God Is In The House; Hand of God; Shattered Ground; Galleon Ship; Leviathan; Balcony Man.

Encore: Hollywood; Henry Lee.

Encore 2: Into My Arms; Ghosteen Speaks.

Thanks to Jackie for taking the photo

The Zombies live stream event on Veeps from Abbey Road studios 18 September 2021

VEEP ZOMBIES 1The concert had a few different segments, Including quite a few songs I knew well and others that I was hearing from the first time. The setting was the famous Abbey Road studios. It was great to see the band performing live in those legendary settings in front of a small audience which, I suspect, consisted of invited guests, relatives and friends. I am, of course, a great fan of both Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone and have seen them many times in various incarnations of their bands including the Zombies, Colin solo, Argent, Rod solo and Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone as a duo. Rod Argent is a fantastic organist and keyboard player and Colin Blunstone has a very distinctive voice: strong, yet soft at the same time.

In the current incarnation of the Zombies, Rod and Colin are joined by (I believe) Steve Rodford – drums, Tom Toomey – guitar and Søren Koch – this guitar. Steve Rodford is the son of the late, sadly missed, bass player Jim Romford who was a founding member of Argent and also a long-term member of The Kinks and of course, the Zombies.

veeps zombies 2The opening song, which I didn’t know was great, an excellent piece of British RnB, blues influenced music. British bands of the early sixties have such an honest approach to blues and rock and roll. Rod Argent’s electric piano was particularly good. The band then went on to play several songs that are great, but unfamiliar to me. They were a mixture of old and new. One song in particular was interesting. Although I didn’t recognise the song, they announced that Tom Petty had covered it and so they went on to play “their own cover of a Tom Petty cover of a Zombies song”. Colin Blunstone also performed the haunting hit song of his “so you don’t mind”; written by Denny Laine. This was followed by a few songs featuring a string quartet which added an additional dimensional and texture to the music.

This was followed by a short selection of songs from the Odyssey and Oracle album. Now I love this album so hearing four songs from it was just great. The final song of the four was, as you would expect, the wonderful US hit “Time of the Season”, which still amazes me to this day. The use of breathy vocals and clapping around the main song is unique and gets me every time.

veeps zombies 3The next segment contained new songs which featured excellent playing by Rod Argent and strong vocals from Colin Blunstone. We were then on the home strait and into Argent’s “Hold Your Head up”, which still gives me great memories of dancing on the tables when seeing Argent back in the early 1970s at Sunderland Top Rank. Finally, the best was, as it should be, kept to the last and we were treated to “She’s Not There” which still sounds fresh since I first heard it in the 1960s.

Many thanks to my old friend and colleague Ciaran, from Limerick, who also watched the event and allowed me to use some of his words in my review above. Ciaran summed up the last couple of songs well: “I know ‘Hold your Head Up’ of course, but the live version was terrific – I much preferred it to the record: the organ solos were great here. The band was in great form on this one, and again on ‘She’s Not There’ which worked really well too, more great instrumental breaks.”

The set closed with an encore; a moving duet of Colin and Rod which rounded off the evening well. I’m quite getting to like live streaming events. Of course, they are not the same as “the real thing”, but they have a unique attraction of their own. My next live streaming event is to watch Paul McCartney being veeps zombies4interviewed about his Lyrics book at the Southbank Centre, London. Now, in the past before my accident, I would have been tempted to travel to London for this event. This is now no longer very practical for me, so live streaming allows me to “be there” virtually, which is the next best thing. The other great thing about some live streaming events is that I can watch them the next day, or again, if I wish.

To summarise, a great performance by a classic 1960s band with two legendary and very accomplished musicians. The 1960s produced some unique, excellent music which lives on to this day.

Setlist: Moving On; I Want You Back Again; Edge of the Rainbow; I Love You; Say You Don’t Mind; Different Game; You Could Be My Love; I Want to Fly; Tell Her No; Care of Cell 44; This Will Be Our Year; I Want Her She Wants Me; Time of the Season; Merry Go Round; Run Away (For All My Life); Hold Your Head Up; She’s Not There. Encore: The Way I Feel Inside

Patti Smith Veeps live stream from Electric Lady Studios 10 September 2021 2 AM BST!!

patti lady tixThis was (I think) my third live streaming event by Patti Smith. This was a little bit special as it was billed as a one-off live streaming event (no re-watching afterwards) from the famous Electric Lady Studios. There was one problem. It was at 2 AM BST (British Standard Time). Now my days of being awake, or getting up, at 2 AM are well past. I am just too old for this lark! It was different when I was younger and I was lying in a station bench in King’s Cross, Edinburgh Waverley or Victoria, but these days this was a real test of strength and willpower. Anyway, a little against my better judgement, I bought my ticket from Veeps. On the night before the event I drank my usual evening tipple, one can of draught Guinness, and went to sleep around 10 PM. At 1:45 AM my carer for the evening, Chris, woke me up, perched the computer above me in bed and switched it on ready for the show to start.

patti lady 3The event was billed as: “Patti Smith returns to Veeps for a very special collaboration with Electric Lady Studios and Spotify: streaming from the legendary recording facility on September 9th. A message from Patti “We are very proud to be part of this very special series at our favourite recording studio. It was a unique challenge and offered us an exciting and innovative platform”.”

This was particularly interesting and tempting because of the venue. Electric Lady Studios is a famous recording studio in Greenwich Village, New York City. It was commissioned by Jimi Hendrix in 1968. Hendrix spent only ten weeks recording in Electric Lady before his death in 1970, but it was later used by many famous artists from the 1970s onwards, including Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie.

Patti has recently recorded a short album at Electric Lady Studios, and this event was a live performance of that album.

So, there I was, now fully awake and alert, waiting for Patti Smith to appear. It is always interesting at these live streaming events reading the chat box to see who else is watching alongside me (metaphorically). So, I notice messages such as “hello Patti from Tokyo”, “hi from London”, “hi there from Berlin”, “waiting for you Patti, from New York”, and so on… You get the idea.

patti lady 1Soon Patti did appear and we were treated to a great performance of the songs from the album. The aforementioned album contains a selection of old Patti Smith’s songs and some covers including a wonderful version of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”. The lady was on top form and was backed by her usual musicians including long-time collaborator Lenny Kaye. Great! Now, a few people in the chat box were questioning whether the performance was really live or pre-recorded. To be honest, the way the songs blended from one to the next did feel like a pre-recorded performance and Patti had little to say on the evening. However, to me it didn’t matter; it was still another opportunity to see the great lady performing at her best. The set was short, matching the length of the album. Some people in the chat seemed disappointed at this. Me, I was quite satisfied, and in some ways, a little relieved that I could return to my sleep; dreams of Patti Smith live swirling around in my head. I awoke the next morning, a little tired, but actually none the worse for my experience.

patti lady 2Setlist: April Fool; Ghost Dance; Blame it on the Sun; Broken Flag; Birdland; One Too Many Mornings; Peaceable Kingdom

Showaddywaddy Sunderland Locarno 15 November 1974

showad 2Now this really is a guilty pleasure! For a few weeks in 1973 and 1974, Friday night at Sunderland Locarno became a pop night, rather than the usual progressive rock night. During those times I remember seeing the Bay City Rollers, Mud, Hot Chocolate (I have previously written about these bands), and the Rubettes (I will write about them soon). There may have been others, I don’t remember. Many of my friends decided to pass on these events, however, I decided to go along, partly out of interest, to see what the bands were like, and secretly out of fun because I actually enjoyed many pop bands. One other band I saw around this time was Showaddywaddy.

From the band’s biography on their official website: “Showaddywaddy were formed in 1973 in Leicester, from two groups, Choise and Golden Hammers…. Choise and The Hammers played regularly far and wide across the UK… during early 1973, the bands got up on stage together to play a rock ‘n’ roll revue” which became Showaddywaddy.

In 1973, Showaddywaddy appeared on the TV programme New Faces, which, as many of us will recall was a sort of Opportunity Knocks – type show where various acts performed (often including solo vocalists, groups and comedians) and a winner was eventually selected. Showaddywaddy was successful in winning one episode, and then went on to be runners-up in the “All Winners Final”.

Showaddywaddy released their first single “Hey Rock ‘n’ Roll” in April 1974 and it reached number 2 in the UK charts. After that they went from success to success, hitting the UK charts another 22 times until late 1982, making them one of the most successful UK singles groups of all time. Their style was a mix of originals and covers, rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop.

showad 2As I recall when I saw them, which was quite early in their career, there were a lot of members on stage with two vocalists, two bass players and two drummers. They wore full Teddy Boy gear with colourful drape jackets and crêpe sole shoes (I remember once buying a pair in the late 70s during the punk era) and were lots of fun. There was lots of dancing, both by the band and the audience, and lots of good old – time rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop. Great stuff. Of course, I stood in the bar, playing it cool, peering down at this stage, secretly enjoying the whole proceedings. I would not admit this to my friends at the time. How silly it was to be so snobbish about certain bands/groups (when did groups become bands?). But that’s how it was at the time. My recollections are patchy but are of lots of colour, lots of dancing and great fun music by a fun band. After that Showaddywaddy went on to greater fame, no longer playing clubs and ballrooms, moving upward to filling concert halls such as Newcastle City Hall. I remember that they often performed at Sunderland Empire. But of course I was too “cool” to go along and see them again. What a silly boy I was!

“At their peak, they were doing 200 gigs a year, often gigging 7 days a week, and playing both matinee and evening performances on the same day.”

As usual, I just had to go onto eBay and buy a copy of their album Showaddywaddy to remind myself of the band and their singles (see images). It brought back memories of my youth and of all their hits and how they were always on Top of the Pops. Showaddywaddy continue to perform and tour to this day. There have been many line-up changes over the years; however the current version of the band consists of only one remaining original member, Romeo Challenger, the drummer. They continue to rock their way around the UK and Europe and will soon hit their 50th anniversary, in 2023.