Yes Newcastle City Hall 26 June 2022

yes5Well it finally happened. I contracted Covid! Possibly when I went to see the Rolling Stones at Anfield (at least I was in good company as a certain Sir Mick Jagger also went down with the nasty virus). Luckily we are both clear now although it took me a week to get there, that is before I tested negative. In the meantime I missed a few concerts but I was so wiped out I couldn’t possibly have attended. Still I was feeling just about well enough to venture out last night to see one of my favourite all-time bands, Yes.

Now they say that one forms allegiances to the bands that you see when you are young. This has certainly been the case with me. I first saw Yes in 1969 when I was all of 12 years old and they were supporting the Bonzo Dog Band (who had just been in the chart with “I’m an Urban Space Man”). The music was loud, exciting, bright and like nothing else I had ever experienced before. I went on my own and I was in the front row a few feet away from the band who, in those days was Jon Anderson (vocals), Peter Banks (guitar), Chris Squire (bass guitar), Tony Kaye (keyboards) and Bill Bruford (drums). Completely different from the lineup I saw last night.

yes2From that night on I was a lifelong Yes fan and must have seen them many, many times over the years since. The lineup has changed along a winding, meandering road with Steve Howe replacing Peter Banks on guitar in 1970 and Rick Wakeman and Alan White joining on keyboards and drums respectively, shortly afterwards. Then came many lineup changes, lots of classic albums, and mega prog stardom. Along the way Jon Anderson left, as did Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe left and then rejoined the fold. Chris Squire and Alan White both sadly passed away; local hero Alan White very recently (he hailed from Chester le Street). But the true story of Yes is much much more complicated than that!

The current members of Yes are: Steve Howe – guitars (first joined in 1970); Geoff Downes – keyboards (first joined in 1980 for the Drama album in a strange incarnation of the band where he and Buggles compatriot Trevor Horn joined for a short period); Billy Sherwood – bass guitar (since 2015); Jon Davison – lead vocals (since 2012); Jay Schellen – drums (has been playing drums with the band since 2017, sometimes deputising for Alan White who sadly passed away in May 2022).

yes1The tour had originally been billed as a recreation of the Relayer album; however (and to my delight) something changed their minds and it became a recreation of the Close to the Edge album. A much better choice! The show started with something of a very pleasant surprise. Illustrator Roger Dean, creator of the Yes logo, many of their album covers and several other progressive rock LP covers, walked on stage and took us through a slideshow of his life as an illustrator and with Yes. Fantastic! This was followed by a fitting tribute to Alan White with many nice images of the great drummer appearing on the backdrop.
The band then took to the stage and started the first half of the show with a set comprising songs from throughout the band’s career. This includes to my delight “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” the latter coming from the second album Time and a Word, an album on which none of the current members featured! This song, a cover of a Richie Havens track, with its swirling keyboards playing excerpts from the Western film The Big Country was always a favourite of mine in their early days. Other great songs were “Wondrous Stories” and an excellent rendition of “Clap” by Steve Howe. We were also treated to a couple of tracks from the latest Yes album The Quest, which seems to follow in the great tradition of Yes music. I have often asked “when is a band no longer a band?” In the case of Yes I think the latest incarnation does full justice to the great heritage of Yes music. The vocals are very reminiscent of the great John Anderson, who also fronts his own version of Yes music along with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, all former band members. Curiouser and curiouser! Anyway to answer my question “yes (no pun intended)” this grouping of musicians do indeed deserve the name. The first half of the show concluded with another great favourite “Heart of the Sunrise” from the Fragile album.

yes4During the interval I partook in a pint of lager (no Guinness I am afraid) and bought a couple of copies of the programme/book (one for my friend John in the USA) which is a sumptuous product celebrating the 50th anniversary of Close to the Edge and taking the reader through the whole history of the band.
The second set comprises the great album Close to the Edge played in its entirety. I had forgotten just how wonderful the tracks on this album are. The encores take us back to the early days and “Roundabout” followed by closing song “Starship Trooper”. A fantastic evening of Yes music. I hope I can experience many more such evenings.

Many thanks to Lisa for the photographs and Elaine for helping me into my bed. I must admit I was rather tired; to my shame I was finding it difficult to keep my eyes open towards the end of the set; Covid has taken its toll on me and it will take me some time to fully recover.

yes3Setlist:

First set: On the Silent Wings of Freedom; Yours Is No Disgrace; No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed; Does It Really Happen?; Clap; Wonderous Stories; The Ice Bridge; Dare to Know; Heart of the Sunrise.

Close to the Edge Set: Close to the Edge; And You and I; Siberian Khatru.

Encore: Roundabout; Starship Trooper.

The Rolling Stones Anfield Liverpool 9 June 2022

Stones tixSo this was a dream trip for me. Every time I think “This Could Be the Last Time”. But of course it never is. And I hope it never will be. These guys just go on and on for ever. And for me that is just great. The Stones are, without question, my favourite band and worthy of the title “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World”. This is my 15th Stones experience since I first saw them in 1971 at Newcastle City Hall for the princely sum of 15 shillings/75p (decimalisation was just coming in and they printed both prices on the ticket. I was 14 and went to the early 6:30 PM show (they played 2 shows a night back in the day) and paid £1 for the ticket outside. From that night on I became a massive Rolling Stones fan.

Frontage_of_Liverpool_Lime_Street_railway_stationSo we went down: me, Lisa, Elaine and Jan courtesy of Trans Pennine Express on Thursday afternoon and took a short walk to our hotel close to Lime Street station. After a couple of hours rest I was up again and we took a bus to Anfield where we were shown to a nice lounge with food and drink prior to taking our seats for the show, which we did to catch the last couple of songs of Echo and the Bunnymen, the support act. We had nice seats in the disabled area with a good view of the stage and Jan just in front of us.

stones charlieAfter a short wait, just before the Stones took to the stage the screens lit up and showed a lovely tribute to Charlie Watts, with video footage from throughout his career showing him, always dapper and cool, back in the 1960s through to his last days with the band. This received a well-deserved cheer from the Anfield crowd. RIP Charlie. Much missed. It was 9 PM and the Rolling Stones took to the stage, starting with “Street Fighting Man”. Jagger was as energetic as ever running up and down the walkway right out in the crowd. Flanked by Keith (as cool as ever and forever my hero) and Ronnie Wood; both looking and playing great. Mick Jagger’s vocals were as powerful as they ever have been. Like a fine wine these guys seem to get better with age. They never cease to astound me and always exceed my expectations. Mick announced “This is our 60th anniversary tour and the first one we have done without our drummer Charlie Watts. So we dedicate the show to Charlie”, followed by a massive cheer from the crowd.

stones5This was a perfect set list for me, drawing heavily from the 1960s: “19th Nervous Breakdown” followed. When I was a young kid I remember buying this single for a shilling or two (or maybe less) from the public house over the road from my home. It would sell ex-jukebox singles and we would go over every now and then to buy classic records from a little box which the barmaid would bring out to the off sales window. Then we were treated to “Get off of My Cloud” and “Tumbling Dice”. Then came the surprise: in tribute to the Beatles Mick introduced their early hit (of course written by the Fab Four) “I Wanna Be Your Man”. This was apparently the first time they had played the song since I saw them perform it at the O2 Arena in London in 2012.

stones4Then another great favourite of mine, which was a charttopping hit for the great Chris Farlowe “Out Of Time”. You can’t beat the old classics. Then another classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed by the less familiar “Living in a Ghost Town” and then back to the 1960s for “Honky Tonk Women” (I told you this was a perfect set list!) Next, as always, Keith took front of stage for “You Got the Silver” and the less familiar “Connection”. Mick was soon back for a great singalong with “Miss You”, followed by another of my favourites “Midnight Rambler”. He no longer whips the stage with his belt, as he did in the 1970s, but uses his jacket instead. For this song he really turns it up a notch, running up and down the walkway into the crowd singing the chorus again and again. Next another great classic “Start Me Up”.

stones3The next song “Paint It Black” always gets me. For me, the perfect Stones song with Ronnie Wood playing electric sitar bringing back memories of seeing Brian Jones on TV sitting cross-legged with his own sitar. Now I knew we were on the home strait. The stage turns dark red and the familiar chants of “Sympathy for the Devil” start to fill the night air. Another great crowdpleaser. They close with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

Next another magic moment. The Anfield crowd spontaneously sing their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The band seemed to allow them time to complete it before they return to play “Gimme Shelter” and finish the show, as always, with “Satisfaction”. The perfect end to another great concert by “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World”. After a short time queueing we are back on our bus and of to Lime Street. Till the next time.stones2

Setlist: Street Fighting Man; 19th Nervous Breakdown; Get Off of My Cloud; Tumbling Dice; I Wanna Be Your Man; Out of Time; You Can’t Always Get What You Want; Living in a Ghost Town; Honky Tonk Women; You Got the Silver (Keith vocals); Connection (Keith vocals); Miss You; Midnight Rambler; Start Me Up; Paint It Black; Sympathy for the Devil; Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Encore: Gimme Shelter; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Thanks to Lisa for the photographs and to Wikimedia Commons for the image of Lime Street Station.

Tony Christie Whitley Bay Playhouse 4 June 2022

tony tixNow this is a guilty pleasure. After the wonderful guitar work of Jeff Beck and the excitement of seeing Johnny Depp, two days later I am in Whitley Bay Playhouse to see none other than the great Yorkshire man Tony Christie. I have harboured a secret desire to see Tony for some time and a few weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought tickets. I was encouraged by my carer Jan who is also a fan and accompanied me to the concert. Tony Christie was on stage sharp at 7:30 PM and played two sets with an interval, finishing at 9:30 PM. An early night for once, which suits me just fine at my age. Talking about age Tony Christie is 79 years old and still looks and sings great. He was accompanied by an excellent band all of whom are great musicians in their own right.

tony1
Tony started the evening with a single written for him by Jarvis Cocker who also comes from Sheffield, Tony’s home town. I didn’t recognise the song but it sounded great. This was followed by his first hit from 1971, “Las Vegas”. He then went on to sing a mixture of ballads including covers of well-known songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra. Tony was very much the smart guy about town wearing a natty three-piece whistle complete with smart tie and top pocket hanky. His voice is strong and he clearly enjoys singing to a crowd. I had in my mind that he would be like a club singer, but he is so much more than that. Tony told us about his many successes including singing in the West End and his worldwide tours. The first set also included Tony’s great smash hit record “I Did What I Did For Maria”. Nuff said. Lots of fun!

tony2During the second set we were treated to more ballads including Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me”. This time Tony’s suit was even more impressive, glistening, nice and shiny. I would love to wear one like that! We all sang along to “Avenues and Alleyways”, the theme tune from TV show The Protectors. Of course the closing song had to be “Is This the Way to Amarillo?” and we all sang along again. Tony explained that Neil Sedaka had offered him two songs: “Amarillo”and “Solitaire”. Tony’s manager did not like the latter of those two songs and persuaded Tony not to record it. Of course Andy Williams went on to have a worldwide smash with the song. An opportunity missed. Such is life. A great evening with some great songs. Not your classic rock, but lots of fun delivered by a real professional who has entertained crowds around the world for many years and I’m sure will do for many years to come.

Jeff Beck Sage Gateshead 2 June 2022

jeff tixJeff Beck is a big hero of mine. I have given a lot of thought to this and I am convinced that he is probably the best living guitarist, alongside Hank Marvin. Jeff Beck can produce sounds out of his Fender Stratocaster like no one else. His use of tone, vibrato and moving up and down the fretboard involves incredible technique that he makes looks so simple. He makes a lot of use of his little finger turning the volume control up-and-down to create fade, alongside intricate use of the tremolo arm to produce almost symphonic sounds. And yes I can hear the influences of The Shadows and Hank Marvin throughout. At the same time Jeff Beck can rock out, suddenly producing loud and fuzzy chord sequences. His introductions to certain tunes use harmonics and play around with the melody until it, almost secretly, emerges into the song as it was originally intended to be heard. So I take any opportunity to see Jeff Beck in concert.

beck5We have waited a couple of years for this concert to take place, because of Covid. But, as always, Jeff didn’t let us down and delivered a performance to be remembered for the music and for other reasons of which I will write shortly.

Jeff started the set with his usual eclectic choice of instrumentals, each of which was different yet great in its own right. Some I recognised; some were unfamiliar to me. Then, after half a dozen songs, the surprise we were all expecting actually happened.

Now famous Hollywood idol Johnny Depp had flown over from America after his recent court case to join the Jeff Beck tour. I was not aware of it, but Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp have been collaborating for a few years now. Johnny Depp had already appeared at several shows on the tour and we were all waiting to see if he would grace the stage of the Sage. When he was spotted drinking on Newcastle Quayside with Jeff Beck and local hero Sam Fender it became obvious that he would be joining beck4the Gateshead concert. Immediately, any remaining tickets were sold. Such is the legend that is Johnny Depp. People were queueing outside the Sage for many hours to catch a glimpse of Johnny Depp, or even an autograph (and some fans were lucky enough to score a signature). My carer Lisa was really excited at the prospect of seeing Johnny Depp. Now my view is that Johnny Depp is a secret closet rockstar wannabe. All of this is to his credit, by the way, in my opinion. He is a massive fan of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and sings and plays in a band called The Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper. But I was unaware of the Jeff Beck connection.

beck2Johnny Depp came on stage to a massive cheer from the crowd. The pair then proceeded to deliver a short set of songs with Johnny Depp on vocals and guitar and Jeff Beck providing his own inimitable accompaniment. Now people have different views on Johnny Depp as a musician. He is not the greatest singer on the planet nor is he a wonderful guitarist but he puts his all into the performance and, for me, his vocals are quite emotional. They started with a song called “Hedy Lamar”, which I am not familiar with, followed by “Isolation”, a John Lennon song which again I don’t know. Then came a wonderful version of the Everly Brothers ballad “Let It Be Me” which I found quite emotional. Exquisite. Then another great song and a great rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on “, followed by Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and a song by Killing Joke which was again unfamiliar to me. Johnny Depp left the stage: as he did, the two friends hugged each other. Jeff explained at one point “I met this guy five years ago when he came to my dressing room and said “Hello” and we have never stopped laughing since!” He also explained that they have been working on an album which will be released next month. Jeff Beck concluded the concert with two more instrumentals, ending with “Corpus Christi Carol”. Fantastic.

beck6People have mixed views on this collaboration and on Johnny Depp’s appearance with Jeff Beck. Some fans appeared on local television questioning why Jeff Beck would “spoil” his concert by collaborating with someone who cannot sing too well (their view, not mine). Others were simply knocked out by having the opportunity to be in the presence of a major Hollywood star. Now this is my view: Jeff Beck is no fool. He does not need Johnny Depp to sell tickets. He does have his own legend to protect. But he simply likes the guy and enjoys the collaboration and it can’t do his reputation any harm. Indeed it will introduce many new fans to his music. So this is a win-win collaboration. I was certainly glad, and excited, to witness it.

beck badA wonderful concert, and a wonderful evening. Thank you Jeff and Johnny.

Thanks to Lisa for the photographs and to David, my son, for helping me into bed and looking after me for the evening.

Setlist (something like this): Star Cycle; You Know You Know (Mahavishnu Orchestra song); Stratus; Nadia; Rumble (the wonderful Link Wray instrumental); Mná na hÉireann; Big Block; Brush With the Blues; (Johnny Depp comes on stage to a great cheer); Heddy Lamar; Isolation (John Lennon song); Let It Be Me (the wonderful Everly Brothers ballad); What’s Going On (lovely Marvin Gaye song); Little Wing (the great Jimi Hendrix song); The Death and Resurrection Show (Killing Joke tune); (Johnny Depp leaves the stage) Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers; Corpus Christi Carol.

Encore: (with Johnny Depp) A Day in the Life (instrumental version of The Beatles song)

 

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Whitley Bay Playhouse 26 May 2022

arthur tixWelcome to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. A rare treat experienced by a group of middle-aged (and older) followers, along with some younger devotees, in the seaside town of Whitley Bay. Even Arthur partook in some fish and chips and found them to be to his liking. This is the show that Arthur always wanted to deliver to us. The vision was always there. Back in the early days where he ascended up on a crane wearing his crown of flames at the Plumpton Jazz Festival or when I was so lucky to experience a performance by his band Kingdom Come in the early 1970s at Wearmouth Hall, Sunderland Polytechnic Students Union and he emerged from a coffin, was tied to a massive cross and was dragged off stage in a straitjacket. I thought it was one of the weirdest and craziest things I had ever witnessed. Now technology has enabled Arthur to deliver the full concept to us in all its splendour.

arthur bdgThe first half consisted of Arthur performing the majority of his first Crazy World of Arthur Brown album, including “Fire Poem” which leads into his anthem “Fire!” Everyone knows this one: “I am the God of hellfire and I bring you – – – Fire! I take you to burn”. The reaction of people when I told them I was going to see Arthur Brown. “Who is he?”, or “is he still around?” When reminded most people did remember “Fire!” He also included some new material and some classic Kingdom Come songs. Lots of costume changes. And, a real crown of fire! That is something I have never seen him wear before. Psychedelic backdrop showing liquid lens videos of Arthur in his prime in the late 1960s. Mannequins wearing spooky masks. The band wearing crazy costumes and headgear with feathers just as I remember Kingdom Come back 50 years ago. Gauze, flimsy, drapes adorning the stage.arthur 4

Arthur creeping about and moving off and on stage during costume changes. A theremin with its own mannequin and spooky, psychedelic sounds. Swirling, 1960s Hammond organ. In other words the full concept. Psychedelic. Fully encaptivating. Crazy. Drawing us into his crazy world. Amazing. Strong screams. Deep, soaring operatic voice.

Arthur reveals he is 80 next month. He is fit, lean and dances like a whirling dervish. His voice is as strong as ever. He finishes the first set with the classic “Time Captives” which I have seen him sing several times with Hawkwind. My friend Norman just reminded me of this and the time we went to see them (Arthur and Hawkwind, that is) at the Magna Centre in Sheffield. Everyone dressed as robots! Now that was a crazy evening as well.arthur 1

“Without Arthur Brown there would be no Alice Cooper”: Alice Cooper. “Arthur Brown has the Voice ofarthur 5 Death”: Bruce Dickinson – Iron Maiden. “Arthur Brown was a man ahead of his time”: Elton John. “Arthur Brown is as much a dancer as he is a singer”: Pete Townshend – The Who. (All quotes from Arthur’s website)

The second half is just as encaptivating. Less costume changes, just as crazy dancing. A medley of Arthur’s roots. “Be Bop a Lula”, “Hey sinner man where you gonna run to?” Some obscure; many crazy. He finishes with “this one you will know”: Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”. I have seen Arthur perform this Dylan classic several times. I remember David and I went to see Arthur at the Compass Club in Whitby (Arthur’s hometown) and he emerged from the back of the hall dressed all in black with a large top hat and banging a long staff on the ground singing this song. His treatment is immaculate. And then he is gone. Leaving us with memories of his crazy world and a night spent in the company of a true artist who has just shared with us his vision of madness, darkness and Fire! The crowd gave him a standing ovation, which is richly deserved. Laura declared it “amazing”. The last time we saw him together was at York Fibbers club more than 10 years ago. But this was the pinnacle. Thank you Arthur for an amazing evening. But then why would I expect anything less?arthur3

Many thanks to Jackie for her exquisite photographs and Chris for helping me back into my bed. A final memory. When I was 12 years old, with my Christmas money I treated myself to two albums. The first was the Who’s Tommy double album rock opera. The second was Tyrannosaurus Rex and their second album Phrophets, Seers and Sages; The Angels of the Agesarthur 2. The third was, of course, Arthur Brown’s first album The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. I loved that album and played it and played it. One omission, Arthur, if I dare to be so greedy: I wish you had played Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” from that album. But then you can’t always get what you want (now there’s another song!)

Whitesnake, Foreigner and Europe Newcastle Utilita Arena 14 May 2022

white tixTo my shame, I arrived late and missed. I have never seen them and “Final Countdown” is a great rock song and one of my daughter Ashleigh’s favourite songs. She told me off later for missing their set. My carer Jan and I arrived just in time to buy a couple of programmes and take our seats as had just started their set. This was not your regular “support act”. Foreigner are, of course, a massively successful band and worthy of headliner status themselves. Therefore they played a full length set comprising major hits including “Cold As Ice” and closer singalong “I Want to Know What Love Is”. It is a long time since I have seen Foreigner, the last time being as support act for Led Zeppelin at their reunion concert in the O2 London. Before that I think it was at the Reading Festival in the late 1970s when they were just breaking through as a major act. I had forgotten just how great they are, how many classic rock songs they have produced and I must say I was incredibly impressed by them; their songs, the performance and the musicianship. The band’s lineup has changed many times over the years and now comprises only one original member, Mick Jones who hails from the UK. Mick was originally a member of Spooky Tooth, a 1960s progressive rock band, before he left for America, wrote a bunch of great songs and formed Foreigner to perform them, along with ex-King Crimson member Ian Macdonald (who left the band a long time ago).

white 1The rest of the members of the band are all American, hence the name Foreigner (the band being UK/American and thus “foreign” in both countries!) I was looking around the stage, wondering where Mick Jones was. He came on to join the rest of the band for the last three songs playing guitar and keyboards. I am not sure if he is unwell, but he looked great and it was wonderful to see him again with the rest of his band. By the way, this takes me back to my long-time question “when is a band not a band?” Before Mick Jones joined the band on stage the Foreigner performing in front of us had no original members. However this did not detract from their performance. Many of the crowd may not have realised or even cared. To summarise, Foreigner were excellent and the 10,000 capacity crowd were really hyped up for the final act and headliner, Whitesnake.

David Coverdale, Whitesnake and I go back a long way since I first saw him fronting Deep Purple as their new vocalist on the Burn tour at Newcastle Odeon in 1974. I remember being very nervous and curious, wondering how anyone could replace Ian Gillan as lead vocalist. I need not have worried. David Coverdale came onstage and blew us away with his tremendous presence and powerful vocals on now classics such as title track “Burn” and my personal favourite “Mistreated “. I then saw him in an early band at Redcar Coatham Bowl (Coverdalewhite prog comes from Saltburn in the Middlesbrough area) and in various incarnations of Whitesnake at Newcastle City Hall, Reading Rock Festival and Donington Monsters of Rock. Throughout the years the line-up of Whitesnake has changed, starting off with a UK lineup featuring former Deep Purple members Jon Lord and Ian Paice, alongside guitarists Mickey Moody and Bernie Marsden. Coverdale then went to the USA and surrounded himself with a new American band. Worldwide fame followed! Throughout these times David Coverdale has continued to front the band taking the lead with tremendous soaring, screaming, screeching, excellent vocals.

white 4Coverdale was on excellent form, taking total command of the audience who sang along with him and followed his every move, as he threw the mic stand up in the air and led his band through classic tracks including my favourites “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City”, “Fool For Your Loving” and “Here I Go Again”. I was hoping he would sing “Mistreated” but instead Whitesnake closed with an incendiary version of the Purple classic “Burn”. Just as good. Coverdale’s voice was as powerful and strong as ever. Amazing. Jan and I both agreed it had been a fantastic concert.

white5One final Whitesnake memory. Coverdale and his band headlined the final, Sunday night of the Reading Festival in 1980. My friend Davey and I returned to our tents. “I’m sure my tent was here” I said to Davey. I walked round and round and sure enough there was an empty space where my tent had been. Someone had stolen my tent! I crawled into Davey’s small tent where we both lay squashed for the evening. Happy days.

Whitesnake Setlist: Bad Boys; Slide It In; Love Ain’t No Stranger; Hey You (You Make Me Rock); Slow an’ Easy; Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City; Fool for Your Loving; Crying in the Rain; Is This Love; Give Me All Your Love; Here I Go Again; Still of the Night; Burn

Gary Numan Newcastle City Hall 11 May 2022

nu tixThis was a return to experiencing Gary Numan in a couple of ways. The last time I was at a Gary Numan concert was in 1981 at Wembley Empire pool (now Wembley Arena) for his farewell concert. This was a fantastic end to a short career which started with his massive initial breakthrough hit “Are Friends Electric?” Numan was something completely new and different set against the background of punk and new wave in the late 1970s. I was lucky enough to see his first tour at Newcastle City Hall, followed by the “cars” tour at the same venue. Then he decided to retire and I made the pilgrimage to Wembley for his final show. Happy happy memories.

numan 6The second return to experiencing Gary Numan was for my sister-in-law Elaine. My late wife and I took Elaine as a youngster, to see Numan on that wonderful first tour where a robotic Gary mesmerised us with his new blend of electronica, rock and pop music. Flanked by robot figures and a wonderful light show with music unlike anything we had heard before it was a great introduction to the world of Gary Numan. Elaine, then a teenage girl, just loved it. So this was her first outing to see Gary Numan since that experience of his initial tour.

numan 4Now I had seen that Gary had been touring again for some years now and kept meaning to go along and see him. His return to the City Hall, where we saw those early shows, was just too much to resist. And Elaine was looking forward to see what the new Gary would be like. I also was intrigued to experience Gary Numan again. So, lots of memories of great shows from a long time ago. Time, the lives of myself and Elaine, and Gary, have moved on. What would the show be like?

numan 7First up was support act French band Divine Shade. They were an electronic/heavy bass band clearly influenced by Gary Numan. Think a heavy Gary Numan/dark Depeche Mode/LOUD. They were really loud and we were down the front next to the speakers. We could feel the vibration running through us; just like old times and the first time I saw Black Sabbath when Geezer Butler’s bass hit me in my stomach. Excellent! A great start to the show. They clearly enjoyed it also. From their Facebook page: “Thank you Newcastle ! It was great ! Cool fact from the nice security gard, our little dressing room was the Beatles favorite one.” Now there is a fact I didn’t know!

numan 3I wasn’t sure what to expect from Gary Numan this time around. To say he didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. He was fantastic from the very start, keeping the pace up right until the end. The set was a mixture of old and new. I was delighted that the second song was my old favourite “Me! I Disconnect from You” the lyrics of which now take on a new meaning in light of the fact that Gary has publicly mentioned his shyness. It brought back memories of that Wembley show over 40 years ago when I remember it as a standout song. Gary is very much the front man now, revealing more of himself to us, much darker, dressed all in black with red stripes running down his face. His music is louder, rockier and darker. He is flanked by a bass player and a guitarist each with shaven heads, wearing black skirts and large black boots. Quite menacing, dark and Gothic.

numan 1I hadn’t realised just how much Gary Numan’s music had changed over the years. I was clearly out of touch. He has stripped things down to the basics and produced a much darker, heavier sound. In front of us was a new, louder, more intense front man than the young boy Elaine and I experienced all those years ago. The old songs were given a much heavier treatment and included some of my favourites such as “Down in the Park”, “Cars” and closer “I Die, You Die”. Throughout the show Gary stood on stage sometimes pulling back on the mic stand, going down on his knees and then throwing his arms up in the air. Very much the show man. The crowd loved it and gave him one of the warmest receptions I have seen for a long time. Fabulous.

He returned for two encores, the last of which was “Are Friends Electric?” Elaine, Jackie my carer and I really enjoyed it. Elaine said it was a better show than the first time and I didn’t disagree.

Setlist: Intruder; Me! I Disconnect From You; Halo; The Gift; Metal; Ghost Nation; Is This World Not Enough; Films; Pure; Resurrection; Down in the Park; And It Breaks Me Again; Dead Sun Rising; Cars; My Name Is Ruin; Love Hurt Bleed; The Chosen; I Die: You Die;

Encore: Remind Me to Smile; Are ‘Friends’ Electric?

Punk No. 1 Exhibition Newcastle Central Library 3 – 31 May 2022. Private viewing 7 May 2022

jim 0Jimmy Burns is not only a massive punk hoarder and collector, he is also a real gent. We first touched base some time ago when Jimmy contacted me through the blog and shared some images of posters which he had, of punk concerts I had been to in the past. Jimmy then kindly let me use these images on my blog. Since then we have kept in touch and I was delighted when he told me that part of his massive punk memorabilia collection was to be displayed in Newcastle Central library.
jimmy 1
Jimmy kindly offered to meet me at the library and give me a private personal tour of his exhibition, which is by the way, excellent and well worth visiting. He met me and my carer Jan at the entrance to the library and we went upstairs in the lift to the space where his collection is currently on show. What he revealed to me was a treasure trove of memorabilia which takes the visitor through the history of punk, particularly in the north-east. This includes very rare posters of punk bands including Sex Pistols posters from early gigs, including their legendary show at Huddersfield on Christmas Day 1977, which was to be their last UK concert (before the later reunions). There is also a massive collection of badges, tickets, vinyl and original, very rare, punk clothing such as a Destroy T-shirt from the original Kings Road shop of Malcolm McLaren and Vivian Westwood.
jim 4
To say that Jimmy has assembled a unique collection of punk items which not only covers the north-east but is of national importance, is an understatement. I very much doubt anyone else has such a collection. And indeed, only part of his collection is currently on display in the library. Jimmy has put this together largely through personal connections he has made over the years.

We were soon chatting about punk concerts that we had both been to “back in the day” and shared some great memories of mad evenings in Newcastle Mayfair and Newcastle University. We both had particularly strong memories of quite crazy, violent gigs such as The Specials at jim 9Newcastle Mayfair. Happy days.

Jan and I were both knocked out by the exhibition and by Jimmy’s passion for anything to do with vintage punk rock. Thank you so much Jimmy for spending time with us, talking us through the exhibition and sharing happy memories with me. I really appreciate it and look forward to chatting with you more in the future. Good luck with the exhibition. I’m sure that many people will go to see it and that it will be well received. If you are interested in punk rock then I would urge you to go along and visit the exhibition while it is cjim 5urrently on display in Newcastle Central library.

A great afternoon spent in great company discussing some of the best music to emerge in the late 70s and early 80s and some of the best concerts to ever take place in the north-east around that time.

jim 6      jim 7 jim 3 jim 2 jim 8

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets Newcastle City Hall 3 May 2022

NICK TIXNick Mason, drummer of Pink Floyd fame, has assembled a band of fine musicians to go out on the road and play a wonderful set of early Pink Floyd classic songs, many from the Syd Barrett era. As soon I heard of this development, I was intrigued and could not resist going to say then when a north-east gig was announced some time ago. The concert had been rearranged, due to Covid, so I was keenly waiting for this event to actually take place.

NICK 2Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets are an English rock band formed in 2018 to perform the early music of Pink Floyd. The band comprises Pink Floyd drummer and co-founder Nick Mason, bassist Guy Pratt, guitarists Gary Kemp and Lee Harris, and keyboardist Dom Beken. As many fans had discovered Pink Floyd with their bestselling 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, Mason wanted to bring their earlier material to a wider audience.”(From Wikipedia). Bassist Guy Pratt was a member of a later incarnation of Pink Floyd and Gary Karen was, of course, a founder member of 1980s band Spandau Ballet.

The stage was set out with Nick Mason in the centre (very much the star of the show and the evening), surrounded by his band of musicians. Behind, and around them, was a very appropriate backdrop of psychedelic liquid lens images; setting the scene for an evening of early psychedelic rock. Fantastic. We arrived just in time to experience an amazing version of “One Of These Days”, the opening track of Meddle, and the very same song which I saw Pink Floyd play in the City Hall in early 1972. This was followed by going back in time to the classic Syd Barrett NICK 1song “Arnold Layne”. The band did a great job of recreating the music, ethos and atmosphere of these early classics. Gary Kemp in particular, is to be applauded for his tremendous guitar work and vocals. Indeed, each member of the band is clearly an accomplished musician and together they stunned the crowd with a concert which was authentic to the original Pink Floyd musical textures. The rest of the first set comprised a mixture of songs from early Floyd albums including less well-known tracks such as “Obscured by Clouds” and the wonderful “Remember a Day”. The first half of the show concluded with an uplifting, mesmerising version of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the sun”, complete with drum rhythms and gongs. Another song which I remember Floyd performing at that 1972 concert which now seems eons away in the distant past. The instrumentals were particularly well performed. A short interval followed during which I had time to partake in a pint of Hobgoblin (no Guinness, sadly).

NICK 4The second half opened by taking us right back to the start with classic guitar-based tunes “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine”, two of my favourite early Pink Floyd tracks. We were then treated to a few less known, at least by me, songs and the second set ended with Barrett’s “Lucifer Sam” and Meddle’s standout track, Pink Floyd favourite, “Echoes”. A very appropriate closer for an excellent selection of songs.

But the crowd wouldn’t let the band leave without the song many of us were waiting to hear. For the first time I was treated to a live version of “See Emily Play”. So many memories bounced around in my head; mainly of loving the tune so much in the early 1970s when it was played constantly at Sunderland Locarno (with everyone running onto the dancefloor, except me, to do crazy handwaving hippy dances). Then more faultless instrumental psychedelic meanderings with “a Saucerful of Secrets” and the final closer Syd Barrett’s quirky, childlike tune “Bike”. David, Elaine and I all agreed it was a great concert.

NICK 5I treated myself to a signed drum skin and a T-shirt (sadly no programme). Many thanks to David for his expert photography and to Elaine and Chris for placing me safely into my bed at the end of a great evening. Thank you Nick for putting together a band worthy of the songs, their leader and the band name. Classic. Happy days.

Setlist: One of These Days; Arnold Layne; Fearless; Obscured by Clouds; Candy and a Currant Bun; Vegetable Man; If; Atom Heart Mother; If (reprise); Remember a Day; Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

Interval

Interstellar Overdrive; Astronomy Domine; The Nile Song; Burning Bridges; Childhood’s End; Lucifer Sam; Echoes.

Encore: See Emily Play; A Saucerful of Secrets; Bike

John Cooper Clarke Sage Gateshead 30 April 2022

COOPER TIXWent to see an old friend the other night. John Cooper Clarke. He of punkish poetry and 1970s Manchester fame. Laura and Dale came too. Have had the pleasure of his company many times. Since the late 1970s. Cool he was then. And now. The MC for the evening was a Cockney guy. He was clearly of the punk ilk; very coolish too. The support act was another poet. Mike Garry. From the Manchester area. Long hairish, also quite punkish. Recited from his book. Does readings in schools, prisons, with communities and internationally. Clever use of voice and rhythm. Cool guy. Strange to see the Sage stage with only a mic stand in the centre. No gear. Very minimalist. Soon a short interval came upon us. Time for a pint of Newcastle Brown. Brown dog.

COOPER 2“John Cooper Clarke, also known as the Bard of Salford, is a phenomenon: Poet Laureate of Punk, rock star, fashion icon, TV and radio presenter, social and cultural commentator – he’s one of Britain’s most beloved and influential writers and performers.” (From the man’s website).

Then our man cometh. Joined the pleasantly full hall. Full of devotees. And cool he was. As ever. Cool hair. Cool cap. Cool black jeans. Cool jacket. Matched cap. Coolest of all: winklepicker, Cuban heel, Chelsea boots. Like mine. Mine don’t fit me anymore. Sad. Lots of poetry filled the hall. Very funny. Quick pace. Fast rhythm. Almost rap. Manchester twang. Carer Jan laughed a lot. Crowd knew and loved him. Hung on to every word. Very clever words. Read a lot from new book. Finished with some familiar ones: “Beasley Street”; “Evidently Chickentown” (lots of swearing: excellent); “T**t”. Great show Dr John. Thank you for your words. Thank you for your company. Thank you for your wisdom. Through your words we see you and understand you.COOPER CLARKE 1

Thanks to Jan: photographer for the evening. Thanks to Chris: put to bedder for the evening. Poetry rhythm resounding through my head.

Setlist (something along these lines): Hire Car; Get Back On Drugs You Fat F***; The Luckiest Guy Alive; Bedblocker Blues; She’s got a metal plate in her head; Beasley Street; Beasley Boulevard; Pies; I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife; Evidently Chickentown.

Encore: Tw**; I Wanna Be Yours