Archive for the ‘Michael Chapman’ Category

Fred Frith & Michael Chapman The Sage Gateshead 30th May 2014

Fred Frith & Michael Chapman Lau-Land The Sage Gateshead 30th May 2014frefrithLast week I saw the great guitarist Jeff Beck at Manchester Bridgewater Hall. Last night I witnessed performances by two very different guitarists, Michael Chapman and Fred Frith, in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall of the Sage Gateshead. The concert was part of the Lau-Land festival, an event organised with, and by, the folk group Lau. The Sage announced the festival like this: “Following huge acclaim for their recent ‘Race The Loser’ album and a fifth nomination for Best Group at the BBC Folk Awards, free thinking visionary folk trio Lau curate their own festival at Sage Gateshead. Lau-Land invites you to enter into Lau’s musical world and experience some of the inspiring artists who have influenced Lau’s inventive approach to their own music.” The festival had a few days of concerts, who had influenced Lau. Last night’s gig brought together folk-singer/guitarist Michael Chapman and experimental musician Fred Frith.
The Northern Rock hall is the smallest of the three halls in the Sage, and last night it was quite respectably full. Michael Chapman was on stage when I arrived, shortly after the start time of 8pm. Its been some years (probably almost 40) since I last saw this guy in concert. I saw him a lot during the 70s, either supporting major touring acts like ELP, or once headlining at the Mayfair with his own band. michaelchapmanDressed in T shirt, cap, and jeans Michael’s set last night was entirely instrumental, the songs interspersed with the stories that lay behind them, usually about fellow guitarists. Michael is an excllent acoustic guitarist; his songs are very strong on rhythm, and also very melodic, some with an almost hypnotic quality, a fact which he acknowledged when introducing one piece: “this one can get quite hypnotic, wake me up if I fall asleep”. Chapman concentrates much more on his guitar playing these days, back in the 70s, he sang more. Great to see him again, and a nice opening to the evening. The crowd gave him a warm reception.
After a short interval, Fred Frith took to the stage. I had been looking forward to this, as I knew it was going to be something quite different. The last time I saw this guy he was fronting Henry Cow and they were supporting Captain Beefheart. I found them quite challenging musically at the time, very strange and experimental. I didn’t quite get it. Last night I went with an open mind. Frith continues to play experimental improvisation of a unique nature using the guitar as his instrument. I had read about his concerts which involve him laying “a couple of his homemade guitars flat on a table” and playing them with “a collection of found objects (varying from concert to concert). He would drop objects, like ball bearings, dried beans and rice, on the strings while stroking, scraping and hitting them with whatever was on hand.” (from his Wikipedia page). Frith started by telling us that in 1967 he saw Michael Chapman play at Hull University, and that he was great then, as he was last night. He went on to recall that his first professional, paid, engagement was playing with his band at Jarrow Working Men’s club, and that he played a guitar improvisation that night, which didn’t go down too well at all with the local club men. 493px-FredFrith_April2009_(cropped)He sat with his guitar laid flat on his lap, a table beside him covered with a variety of objects. Ill try and describe some of Frith’s technique. Tapping the guitar to create rhythm. Sliding his hand up and down the strings. Tapping on the strings rhythmically. Hitting the guitar to get a deep booming sound. Playing the guitar with objects, perhaps a brush (I was sitting at the back, so couldn’t quite make out everything he was using). Drumming the guitar with a paintbrush. Using a couple of drinking straws, placing one between the strings and then using the other to drum on the guitar and the straw. Placing a ribbon between the strings and pulling in back and forth creating a scraping sound. Playing with a violin bow. Heavy use of echo. Detuning his guitar while he played. Clever use of harmonics up and down the neck. Playing the guitar through a tea towel. Lots of effects pedals; fuzz, noise, reverb. Dropping a necklace onto the guitar, then a chain, puling them up and down in turn into a metal bowl laid on the guitar. Two bowls with grains (of rice? sand?) , and pouring the grains from one bowl to the other on top of the guitar. Singing, squealing, whispering strange sounds into the mike; quite creepy. All of this sounds crazy, and it was, but it was also quite musical, hypnotic. Elements of eastern music, heavy rock, all came through. I know I have said this before, but it was truly unlike anything I have seen before. Mind blowing. After almost an hour, the sound slowly went quiet and then stopped. He stood up, bowed and walked off stage. The crowd stood and applauded. Wow.
Thanks to Aaron for releasing the image of Fred Frith for use under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. The picture is of Frith performing in Wallingford, Seattle, on 25th April 2009.
The Michael Chapman image is from one of my ELP programmes.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer Newcastle City Hall 1971

Emerson Lake & Palmer Newcastle City Hall 1971
Support from Michael Chapman & Spontaneous Combustion
Emerson, Lake & Palmer were pretty hot stuff in 1971. They were very popular, and just on the verge of mega success. My mate had their first eponymous album and Pictures at an Exhibition, which had been recorded at Newcastle City Hall earlier that year. We used to go round to his house and we would play both albums again and again. The music on th first album was a curious blend of the pomp classical-rock of Keith Emerson, coupled with the beautiful melodies of Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer’s drum solo Tank. I would always ask to hear Take a Pebble and Lucky Man. I’d seen Keith Emerson in concert in the Nice at Sunderland Empire, and I knew how good a showman he was, so when ELP returned to the City Hall later in 1971, I bought a ticket. I remember being totally blown away by ELP that night; I had a seat close to the front, which always helps. Going to concerts was still a relatively new experience for me, and I would watch every minute of each gig that I attended, studying the musicians and their onstage antics, and ELP had so many strengths to wonder at. Emerson live was a spectacle to behold in himself. Surrounded by two Hammond organs, a Moog, a grand piano, and a Lesley cabinet; Keith was the ultimate early 70s performer. He would play two organs at once, pull them about and on top of himself, stab the organ with a massive dagger, use the dagger to hold down notes, and reach into the piano and play the strings with his hand. He would also famously run up the steps at the back of the City Hall stage and play the massive pipe organ, and is recorded doing so on the Pictures album. ELP’s concert set at that time featured most of the tracks from the first album; I also think Hoedown was included, perhaps as the opener. The Nice live favourite Rondo remained in the set from Emerson’s previous band, and Nutrocker was the fun encore. Pictures also featured, with the aforementioned trip up to the City Hall organ. The programme I have included here is worthy of special mention. It probably doesn’t look much from the scan, bit its actually one of the best produced programmes I have in my collection. Its a small booklet with a white card cover and the band’s name embossed across the top. Inside each picture page is separated from the next by a clear plastic page which contain the text surrounding the photos. It is really a lovely item, which my description can’t possibly do justice to. Looking through it the other day, I discovered that I’d kept a flyer for support act Michael Chapman, which I have also included here. Spontaneous Combustion were first on the bill at this gig. I’ve blogged separately about both of these acts elsewhere. Michael popped up all the time in those days, as support act on a number of tours of major bands, and was a good opening act with some great songs. Spontaneous Combustion were a largely instrumental prog/psych trio, who were produced by Greg Lake. They played a great version of Sabre Dance, as I recall.

Michael Chapman: a Fully Qualified Survivor

Michael Chapman gigs in the 1970s
Michael must have spent the whole of the 1970s gigging up and down the country. I recall seeing him support several major touring artists: Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Focus and Camel come to mind, but I’m sure there were several others. I also recall going to see him as headline act at Newcastle Mayfair one Friday night around 1975 or 1976. Pretty sure he had a full band with him that night, featuring Keef Hartley on drums, and Rick Kemp on bass. Danny Thompson also often played with Michael, on acoustic double bass. If you haven’t heard any of Michael’s material, listen to his first album Rainmaker, or the Fully Qualified Survivor album, both of which are classics. Michael continues to play to this day, and is another guy who I really must catch up with and go and see again. I always enjoyed seeing him in the 70s, his guitar playing is as strong as his songs and his soulful voice.

Camel Newcastle City Hall 1978

Camel Newcastle City Hall 1978
Support Michael Chapman
I was back in the City Hall again in 1978 to see Camel, with support from Michael Chapman. This tour was to promote the Breathless album, and the set included tracks from the new album, as well as a medley of tracks from the Snow Goose album. I remember being quite pleased to hear the Snow Goose material. This was to be the last tour with founder Peter Bardens in the line up. Support Michael Chapman seemed to be gigging constantly throughout the 70s. I must have seen him support many different artists. Michael deserves a separate mention: I’ll blog on him tomorrow. Setlist: Earthrise; Unevensong; Song within a Song; The Sleeper; Summer Lightning; Tell Me; La Princesse Perdue; Skylines; Echoes; Never Let Go; One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night; Lunar Sea. The Snow Goose Medley: Rhayader Goes to Town; Sanctuary; The Snow Goose; Flight of the Snow Goose; Preparation; Dunkirk; Epitaph; La Princesse Perdue; The Great Marsh. Encore: Air Born