Posts Tagged ‘classic rock’

Francis Rossi Whitley Bay Playhouse 19 May 2023

rossi tix 23This tour was entitled “Tunes and Chat” as opposed to the previous Francis Rossi tour which was called something like “I Talk Too Much”. So, this time round Francis was accompanied by another guitarist, his guitar technician I believe, and the emphasis was more on the songs, and less chatting. Francis is a cheeky chappie, that we all know and love, and tonight was no exception. Plenty of quips, jokes (some of the ruder variety) and general chitchat about his past.

rossi flyerArrived in time to have a nice double whiskey. No merchandise this time around. Accompanied by carer Elaine and old mate Norm.So Francis started at the beginning with some tales of his Italian origins and Italian songs such as “Papa Pickalino” (or something like that) and how they introduced him to music, songs and the guitar shuffle which would be the backdrop to many of the Status Quo tracks. He talked about how psychedelia and pop led him to write “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and then moved on to explain how Status Quo became more rocky and the shuffle became songs like “Spinning Wheel Blues” and “In My Chair”. Then we got the great “Gerdundula”, “Down the Dustpipe” and others. “Burning Bridges” (“some people like it, some people hate it” said Francis) closed the first set. Time for ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s; lovely)

Francis-rossi-2007-07-18During the interval the merchandise stall was selling the latest Francis large format coffee table signed book, which I already have courtesy of his website. Before I forget to mention it, the second guitarist was excellent and played quite a lot of lead guitar; both men on similar looking electric guitars. The second set comprised more tunes and some questions from the audience. One in particular sticks in my mind. Francis’ sidekick read the questions from cards collected from a pile placed on the stage by audience members. “What makes you so successful and to have continued success over so many years?” After a little thought Francis replied “Well I am basically insecure. I always wanted to be famous and to feel loved. And I still do feel that way. So to fulfil my dreams and overcome my insecurities I have to keep coming out and performing to audiences like yourselves”.

Francis_Rossi,_Bula_Quo,_London,_2013_(straighten)Another question. “Which do you prefer? Large arenas or small theatres?” Again, after a pause, “I suppose I like the intimacy of smaller venues where I can actually see the audience and sing and talk directly to them”. Then we are into the final stretch and Status Quo favourites “Margarita Time”, “Rockin’ All over the World” and finally “Caroline”. All good fun. Elaine, Norm and I all enjoyed it. But hey Francis time to get the Quo back on the road.
Photography was not allowed so the images are stock photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

640px-Status_Quo_-_2019156201319_2019-06-05_Zeltfestival_Rhein-Neckar_-_Sven_-_1D_X_MK_II_-_0370_-_AK8I5331Setlist: Set 1: Pictures of Matchstick Men; (April) Spring, Summer and Wednesdays; Spinning Wheel Blues; In My Chair;  Gerdundula; Rock ‘n’ Roll; Claudie; Break the Rules; Down the Dustpipe; Burning Bridges

Set 2: What You’re Proposing; And It’s Better Now; Nanana; Tongue Tied; Marguerita Time; Rockin’ All Over the World; Caroline

Joe Bonamassa Newcastle Utilita Arena 13 May 2023

joe tixIt is some years since I first saw Joe Bonamassa perform at Newcastle City Hall. So I figured it was about time that I went to see the man again. And some man he is. Joe is a blues guitarist extraordinaire, to say the least. This time he has moved up to the Newcastle Arena, although the setup was designed so that it did not quite take up the entire arena. This made the show quite intimate in terms of the cavernous venue. Still, I can remember when he was playing local blues clubs in pubs in the North-East. The guy has worked consistently, diligently, to build his craft and his fan base internationally over the years. And much credit to him for doing so. He deserves his success.joe 1
I was perched, with my carer Jan, up towards the back of the arena with a great view overlooking the entire stage. We arrived just in time for me to have a tray of chips and a pint of lager. Not being a true aficionado of Mr Bonamassa, to my shame his songs are unfamiliar to me. Unlike the rest of the audience who hang on to his every note, are familiar with every song and give him loud cheers and applause for each solo. For some reason I always try and locate artists in my mind by comparing their work to that of others. In the case of Joe Bonamassa there are so many comparisons I could make.

joe 3The obvious one is Eric Clapton. My friend, John who hails from the North-East and now lives in the USA, is a massive Joe fan and has seen him many times. He feels that Bonamassa is on par with Clapton at his best and I can’t disagree. I also see and hear music that reminds me of all of the great blues guitarists: Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Lee, Peter Green, Jeff Beck and, of course, Paul Kossoff. Joe Bonamassa is a big fan and disciple of Paul Kossoff and owns at least one of his guitars.

Joe spoke about his influences in an interview (Guitar Messenger, 2014): “You know, my heroes were the English guys – Paul Kossoff, Peter Green, Eric Clapton. There’s so many – there’s Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher – another Irish musician who played the same things, but don’t tell him that. But those guys were my guys – Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page. There’s a certain sophistication to their approach to the blues that I really like, more so than the American blues that I was listening to. B.B. King’s a big influence – he’s probably my biggest traditional influence. joe2I love Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker and stuff like that, but I couldn’t sit down. I was always forcing myself to listen to whole records by them, where I’d rather listen to Humble Pie do “I’m Ready” than Muddy Waters, you know? I think, the English interpretation of the blues just hit me a lot better, you know?”

Joe has assembled an excellent band of musicians to accompany him comprising of two wonderful female singers, a second guitarist, drummer, bass player and a keyboard player who pulls out some 1970s swirling tunes from his Hammond organ. Of course, they are all there to support the leading man.

joe4His songs are his own, yet firmly grounded within the tradition of the old blues man alongside the aforementioned 1960s and 1970s artists who brought the blues to a wider international audience. There are many guitar changes from Stratocaster to Les Paul to Gibson Flying V, and many long but enjoyable guitar solos. Each solo takes the audience away on a journey deep into the blues, returning to the song with Joe delivering lyrics himself, accompanied by the lady singers. He closes the set by proudly talking about the first time he played at London’s Royal Albert Hall, a UK memory of which he is clearly very proud, and rightly so. The encore is a slow soulful blues ballad entitled “Mountain Time”. I really enjoyed the concert and I intend to invest more time getting to know Joe Bonamassa’s songs before I go and see him next time round.

Many thanks to Jan for taking the photographs.

Setlist: Evil Mama; Dust Bowl; Love Ain’t a Love Song; Self-Inflicted Wounds; The Heart That Never Waits; I Want to Shout About It; Double Trouble; I Didn’t Think She Would Do It; A Conversation with Alice; Happier Times; Lonely Boy; Just Got Paid

Encore: Mountain Time

John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett Durham Launderette 5 May 2023

Otway is a pop star. Well he must be because he says it’s true. After all he resigned himself to his future as a pop star icon when he otway tixwas young watching Top of the Pops. He didn’t dare reveal his true ambition to his mother who would not have believed him so he kept it quiet until he met his friend Wild Willy Barrett and the two of them embarked upon a lifelong career, all with the ultimate aim of making John Otway a true pop star. Sometimes along that journey the two would fall out but destiny would bring them back together again as they are today. The strange marriage has now reached its 50th birthday (wow! Can it be true) and the odd couple are travelling the roads of England singing their songs to cult followers old and new.

otway3Now it is long long time since I witnessed Otway and Barrett. I have seen Otway advertised solo many times over the years but have passed on the opportunity of joining our true pop star in concert until now. The last time I saw the duo was probably in Newcastle Cooperage on a tour where to gain entry, free, you had to take along their latest 45 rpm single. Or maybe it was at Maxwell’s nightclub in Tynemouth (long since gone). Whatever, it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. So, time to renew my acquaintance with the one and only true pop star, John Otway.

OtWAY 1Jackie, my carer, and I arrived early and on time to snatch a couple of seats close to the front (well actually everyone is close to the front in the Launderette). In fact, the kind man on the door made sure that I had plenty of room in my wheelchair and that we had a great view of the stage. Soon our heroes took to said stage and it was not long before Otway delivered his hit, which made him a pop star “Really Free” and brought the duo into our living rooms on the Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops. Otway was on top form, really getting into the angst of his ballads, ripping his shirt open, and being, well, a pop star.

otway 2After a short interval, during which I was pleased to meet my old friend Mitch, who would often comment on my blog, we were away again with “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, “Two Little Boys” (yes the song which became a hit for he who shall not be named, but Otway sang it before that) and the wonderful “Beware of The Flowers… Coz You Know They are Going To Get You… Yeah!”. Soon we are close to the end and Otway tears out his heart in front of us to the beautiful Bob Lind ballad “Cheryl’s Going Home “; I can feel the emotion in his voice and his typically over-the-top melodramatic performance is well; just wonderful.” Choo-Choo “goes the train down the track taking Otway’s love Cheryl away for ever. My heart goes out to my favourite pop star. Melodramatic magic.

otway4Now I must make mention of the many guitars and other instruments including a violin and a set of Bagpuss bagpipes played largely by Wild Willy and sometimes by Otway. And I just have to mention Wild Willy’s brown dustbin which he opens frequently to reveal a loud amplifier hiding within. Willy closes the set by sawing his guitar in rhythm to the music, hitting the same guitar with a claw hammer (I kid you not) and then stamping on it. He sells the guitar to a guy in the audience for £31.99 and promises that if you bring two of his smashed guitars along to a gig, you will be admitted free. And he means it. A couple of encores and then our two heroes are gone. Jackie is now convinced that Otway is indeed a pop star.
Thanks to Jackie and Mitch for the photos and Mitch for the set list (thanks, much appreciated)

Set List: Louisa on a horse; Gypsy; Really free; Best dream; If I did; Separated; Misty mountain; Bluey green; Body talk. INTERVAL. Somewhere over the rainbow; Two little boys; Real tears from both eyes; Beware of the flowers; 21 days; The snowflake effect; Come back darling; Cheryl’s going home.

Encores (sort of) – Racing cars; Geneve.

Billy Ocean Newcastle City Hall 22 April 2023

ocean tix“Billy is a Geordie”. So the chant went from the Newcastle crowd. Billy joined in and danced around while the crowd kept chant going. This occurred halfway through the set and demonstrated the love and respect the Newcastle crowd have for Billy Ocean. He has appeared at the venue several times before and to my shame, I have always thought about going, but for some reason always passed up the chance.

ocean4This time I went along and the impetus came from the man himself. I saw pictures of him and he looks so cool these days. He is reborn as a Rasta Man with long grey dreadlocks right down his back, almost to his waist. Completely unrecognisable from cool soul singer of the 80s. So when I saw recent pictures of Rasta Billy I decided I should go and show my support for the cool guy. And after all, I do know lots of his songs.

ocean suppThe City Hall was packed. Carer Jan and I arrived during the set of the support act, a young female singer Anthonia Edwards who was just great. I discovered afterwards that she was the winner of the UK TV show The Voice in 2022. She warmed the crowd up well. After a short interval Billy took to the stage and everyone was up on their feet singing and dancing from the start. The hits just kept on coming. I had forgotten how many hits this guy has had over the years. Some great songs and some really massive worldwide smashes. The second song in is “Love Really Hurts Without You”. Lots of singing along and dancing. Billy is Mr Cool, with a cream suit, collar and tie, natty little jacket pocket hanky and those wonderful dreads going right down his back. Respect. A few more songs in and another massive smash that we all singalong to: “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car”. Roll forward a few more and “Red Light Spells Danger” is another fantastic crowd pleaser.

ocean2Then he returns to his true roots, Bob Marley, and he does justice to “no woman, no cry”. My thoughts run back to the hot summer of 1976 when Marie and I were dancing along to Bob Marley performing that very song in Leeds Students Union Refectory. Billy brings back magic memories. The ballad “Suddenly” is just lovely. Billy the Geordie leaves us with, of course, “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going”. Another massive singalong, the capacity crowd simply love the guy and his performance is superb. For many of the songs he holds his microphone towards the audience who take over the singing.

ocean progNow sometimes I don’t like it when an artist allows the audience to take over, but the vibe between Billy and the City Hall crowd is so strong and there is so much love for the guy, it works well. It is like we are all with him, the artist and the audience together as one; as it should be. A few moments later and he is back. There is only one song left to perform: “Caribbean Queen”. We all singalong with Billy the born-again Rasta man Geordie. Magic.ocean3
So that concludes my three days of concerts: Mike and the Mechanics, Matt Goss and Billy Ocean. Three very different acts and all excellent in their own way. A bit of a rest before my next concert.

Setlist: One World; Love Really Hurts Without You; Nights (Feel Like Getting Down); There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry); Love Zone; Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car; “Billy Is A Geordie”; The Colour of Love; Red Light Spells Danger; No Woman, No Cry; Mystery; Suddenly; Loverboy; When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going.

Encore: Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)

Mike and the Mechanics Sage Gateshead 20 April 2023

mike tixMike Rutherford has come a long way since I sat cross-legged on the ballroom floor in Sunderland Locarno watching Peter Gabriel and the rest of Genesis unfold magical tales such as “The Musical Box”, “Return of the Giant Hogweed” and climaxing in the rather spooky, swirling tones of “The Knife”. Somewhere in the background keeping the beat was the tall slender form of Mike Rutherford. And of course he also co-wrote the material. Roll forward 52 years and I have the pleasure of being in the company of Mike Rutherford once again, this time as front man and leader of Mike And The Mechanics, a band I have never, to my shame, witnessed before. At my time of life, I have decided to try and see as many people as possible including bands I have foolishly passed on previously.

mike4The announcement on the Sage website told me: “Mike & The Mechanics who have sold over ten million records worldwide – announce their  ‘Refueled! 2023 Tour – all the hits and a drop of Genesis.” Now the mention of a drop of Genesis intrigued me and further enticed me to attend the show.

mike2The website went on to introduce the band: “Mike + The Mechanics are Genesis founding member Mike Rutherford (Guitar) – one of the UK’s most prolific R&B singer, Andrew Roachford – Lead and backing vocals – (whose previous hits include Cuddly Tour and Family Man) and Canadian-born singer, Tim Howar – lead and backing vocals – who formed and toured with his band Vantramp, with the likes of Rod Stewart and Paulo Nutini. Tim shares vocal duties with Roachford and they both add a new soulful dimension to the band’s already established sound.” In fact the band also included, in another drop of Genesis, Phil Collins’ son Nic Collins on drums.

mike1Finally, I was promised: “The ‘Refueled!’ Tour in 2023, will include tracks from their critically acclaimed latest album ‘Out of the Blue’ plus some Genesis.  Their ninth album features re-workings of some of the band’s best loved tracks, including  ‘The Living Years’ and the unforgettable  ‘Over My Shoulder’, along with three brand new songs: ‘Out Of The Blue’, ‘One Way’, ‘What Would You Do’.”

The show is in two parts with a short interval. Set 1 consists of some new Mechanics material along with some more familiar. Also a hint of Genesis creeps in in the form of “Jesus He Knows Me”. The closing song is “Silent Running”. A great opening set.
mike3Set 2 starts off with some acoustic versions of familiar songs including the Genesis hit “Invisible Touch”. We move forward and back into an electric set with more Genesis in the form of “Follow You, Follow Me” and “I Can’t Dance”. Great versions of great songs.The band is excellent with exceptionally strong vocals from the duo of Tim Howart and Andrew Roachford.

mike5Roachford gets to sing his massive hit “Cuddly Toy” and then we move forward and towards the end with the wonderful, moving epic that is “The Living Years”, “All I Need Is a Miracle” and closer “Over My Shoulder”. The band return to a standing ovation and play a much deserved encore: “Word of Mouth”.
Throughout the evening’s proceedings the mighty Mike Rutherford stands quietly leading his band forwards through a wide-ranging set of classic songs that he has written with colleagues over the years. Now wouldn’t it be great if they had finished with “The Knife”. I can but dream


Set 1 Get Up; A Beggar on a Beach of Gold; Another Cup of Coffee; Are You Ready; Try to Save Me; Jesus He Knows Me; Let Me Fly; The Best Is Yet to Come; Silent Running;

Set 2 Wonder; Invisible Touch; Don’t Know What Came Over Me; Everybody Gets a Second Chance; Follow You Follow Me; I Can’t Dance; Cuddly Toy; The Living Years; All I Need Is a Miracle; Over My Shoulder.

Encore: Word of Mouth

The Damned Newcastle NX 7 April 2023

DAMNED TIXAnd so the mighty Damned continue forward into another chapter. Support came from the Nightingales. I must admit I am not familiar with their music but was quite impressed by them. After a short break The Damned took to the stage. I must admit there were a lot of new songs with which I was not familiar but it is some years since I last experienced The Damned live. Big mistake on my part. Anyway I was glad to be in a packed NX (formerly known as the Academy) watching the crowd go crazy for one of the best live bands around on the circuit. At one point close to the end The Captain said something like “Thanks to Brian James for putting the band together: thanks to us for inventing Punk, thanks to Dave for inventing Goth and to me for inventing Rap” now this might be a overstatement but I guess it isn’t too far from the truth. After all The Damned did release the first punk single “New Rose”, maybe Dave Vanian did sort of invent Goth, and I guess The Captain is referring to his single “Wot” which was a sort of early rap song. Whatever the truth the music business and we fans have much to thank The Damned for!DAMNED2
The first song I recognised was “Wait for the Blackout” and then there were a lot of new (to me anyway) songs. Dave was wearing a black hat with a large round brim (very stylish), dressed all in black, no white make-up (no need for it) and charged around the stage with as much energy as ever. The Captain was, as always, like a kid in a sweet shop just enjoying life and going crazy. He still wears his characteristic Tam and a hooped jumper. I recall meeting him in 1977 in Newcastle Poly. He looks just the same and is still that crazy kid who devoured a packet of crisps including wrapper in front of me! Respect!

DAMNED4The current line up of The Damned consists of: Dave Vanian; Captain Sensible; Paul Gray (on bass: I remember that name, yes he was in Eddie and the Hot Rods); Monty Oxymoron (crazy on keyboards) and Will Taylor on drums. And pretty great they remain!

DAMNED5We were soon on the home strait and the band crashed into classic after classic.”Love Song”, “Neat, Neat, Neat” moved into a mix of old songs including “Be Bop a Lula”! Class! Then “Eloise” (one of my favourite songs from the 60s, but hey guys, no one tops Barry Ryan and his version: the guy was my hero and role model when I was a kid!) “Smash It Up” and finally right back to the start and “New Rose”. These guys still know how to rock. Long may they do so.

DAMNED1Setlist: The Man With the Golden Arm; Street of Dreams; The Invisible Man; Wait for the Blackout; Lively Arts; Bad Weather Girl; You’re Gonna Realise; Western Promise; Beware of the Clown; Wake the Dead; Follow Me; Motorcycle Man; Leader of the Gang; From Your Lips; Born to Kill; Love Song; Second Time Around; Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow; Neat Neat Neat / 1969 / Folsom Prison Blues / Be Bop a Lula

Encore: Eloise; Smash It Up (Part 1 & 2);

Encore 2: Girl I’ll Stop at Nothing; New Rose

An evening with Priscilla Presley Newcastle Tyne Theatre 6 April 2023

pricilla tixNow this was a strange one. Should I go or not? What would she do/say? What would it be like? In the end I decided the only way to find out was to purchase a ticket and go along and see the lady myself.

Priscilla_Presley_&_Jack_Soden_-_Conversations_(4)The press release for the UK tour told me: “Actress and businesswoman Priscilla Presley today announces her first UK Tour; ‘An Evening with Priscilla Presley.’ Priscilla is the former wife of Elvis Presley, as well as co-founder and former chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the company that turned Graceland into one of the top tourist attractions in the USA. She has starred in many classic film and TV Series including ‘Naked Gun’ and ‘Dallas’. In intimate conversation with Radio and TV presenter Edith Bowman, Priscilla will share personal stories from her illustrious career, life and marriage to the King of Rock n Roll. Audiences will be treated to never-before-seen home footage of Priscilla and Elvis Presley.”

Elvis_Presley_and_Priscilla_with_Lisa_Marie_February_1968As it turned out it was a very enjoyable evening. The night was in two parts. The first half was Priscilla being interviewed by Edith (see above) who had been with her for the entire UK tour (and Newcastle was the last night of the tour). They sat beside each other in lovely comfy chairs while Priscilla talked about how she first met Elvis in Germany in the early 60s. She was over there because her father was in the military and he was stationed in Germany at the same time as Elvis was serving as a GI over there. Somehow through a mutual friend Priscilla was invited to a party which Elvis was also attending. Her parents would not let her go, but somehow, she managed to get along and she and Elvis met and a relationship began. At first her parents would not let her meet Elvis but eventually they relented, but only on the condition that Priscilla’s father or mother accompanied her. She was 14 years old at the time.

Events_marking_designation_of_Graceland_Mansion,_home_of_Elvis_Presley,_Memphis,_Tennessee,_as_National_Historic_Landmark,_with_appearance_by_actress_Priscilla_Presley_-_DPLA_-_b7d9c55b37ad1daf8593eea53b980d (1)Priscilla told us “there was no physical relationship until much later.” Anyway, the friendship blossomed into a love affair and when they returned to The States the couple were married. All of the above was accompanied by some video footage of the time. Priscilla continued to talk about her life with Elvis, the birth of her sadly recently passed daughter Lisa Marie, and how things started to go wrong during the Las Vegas years, which saw Elvis having parties with lots of friends and girls in attendance. She talked about her love of Graceland and how, for financial reasons, they had to open the gates to the public. She is clearly still very involved with, and very protective of, the Graceland estate and Elvis’ heritage. She also spoke of her time in Dallas and showed some footage from the programme.

priscilla bookThe final session took the form of questions from the audience. You could write a question on a card and Edith selected a few which she asked to Priscilla. One that sticks in my mind was “what was it like to have Michael Jackson as a son-in-law?” Priscilla paused to think a little. She revealed that she actually saw very little of Michael, and that he would purposely hide from her if she was visiting Lisa Marie. You got the impression that she was not entirely comfortable with the relationship. Throughout the evening she was a perfect lady, she looked lovely at 77 years old and clearly was enjoying her visit to the UK. The house was full and the first few rows of attendees all had lovely little booklets; they had clearly bought VIP tickets which included meeting Priscilla for a considerable premium. In some ways I wish I had done it. Photography was strictly outlawed so the pictures I have here are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I purchased a book about Elvis from eBay just out of interest.

Steve Hillage Newcastle University 23 March 2023

hillage tix1 is, in his own quiet way, a guitar innovator. His pedigree is strong and impressive and last night, reminded me just what a great guitarist the man is. As usual, and no apologies, the night brought back many memories of the man himself and of the venue. Steve Hillage currently has two identities (in fact, probably more): (1) as a reborn trance hero in the band System 7 and (2) he is now out on the road fronting a new Steve Hillage band, drawing from his classic mid – 1970s albums, such as my favourite L.

hillage adFirstly, memories of the venue came flooding back partly as I tried to work out in my head where Newcastle University Students Union Ballroom (or equivalent) might be these days. The last time I frequented said venue was during the 1980s witnessing great performances by bands such as Rip, Rig and Panic (featuring a fledgling Neneh Cherry, who had just left the Slits, and sometimes her father Don), Haircut 100 and The Cure. All of those concerts took place in the larger upstairs ballroom; a venue where I witnessed some great punk gigs during the 1970s including the Clash White Riot tour. (Tour advert from Steves site)

hillage picSome of the concerts including Sandie Shaw (rejuvenated by a collaboration with Morrissey at the time as I recall), Punishment of Luxury and the Au Pairs took place in a lower, smaller, hall named “The Canteen” (because that is exactly what it was during the day!). I was told that wheelchair access was via a lift through the students union building and the Co-op shop! Actually, those directions worked well and some helpful students directed me and my carer Jackie towards a lift which took us downstairs to the venue; I half recognised the hall, it may have been what I once knew as the Canteen. Anyway, sorry for going around the houses to say that we managed to get to the concert okay. However, by the time we arrived the hall was full and the best vantage point we could find was at the side of the stage. (picture of Steve from my ticket)

hillage 4Secondly, Steve Hillage, psychedelic guitar wizard and inventor of the “glissando guitar” as exemplified by Steve’s wonderful soloing on his reinvention of the Donovan classic “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. I have seen Steve Hillage several times over the years and he always strikes me as a quiet unassuming guy, and yet he has in his own quiet way achieved so much and forged a rich career along the way. I first came across Steve Hillage when he was a member of Khan, an early psychedelic band who I think I saw supporting Caravan in the early 1970s. I then saw him as a member of Gong and as part of Kevin Ayres band.

He soon ventured out on his own and released a clutch of great albums including the aforementioned L. During this period, I saw him headlining Newcastle City Hall on a couple of occasions, supporting Queen at their free concert in Hyde Park and somewhat bizarrely, joining Sham 69 on stage at the Reading Festival, a concert that was marred by fights in the crowd, although Steve’s performance with Jimmy Pursey of Sham was meant to signify that progressive rock and punk/skinhead music can stand together (“If the Kids Are United”).

hillage 3Roll forward to the Steve Hillage band 2023 in concert. Shortly after we arrived the band took to the stage, with lots of colourful lighting, wailing saxophone and electronica/psych keyboard wizardry courtesy of Steve’s long-term partner Miquette Giraudy. I am unsure who the rest of the band were, but I suspect they consisted of some current members of Gong, who continue to perform without any original members but with the blessing of Hillage and founder member, the late great Daevid Allen. After some wonderful twirling, swirling sounds the music soon took shape and morphed into Steve’s cover of the Beatles “It’s All Too Much” from L.

hillage blueAn excellent start to an evening of great music mixing tracks from throughout the band leader’s career. Some I recognised, several not, but they all featured great guitar dexterity from Mr Hillage. One he introduced as a Kevin Ayres song, in tribute to his former band leader. I suspect there was also a Gong track or two in the mix. Steve stood quietly centre stage sporting a short haircut (very unlike the 1970s proto-hippie Hillage we all know and love) and an intriguing looking guitar with no top stock. Soon we were at the end which featured further excellent guitar on “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. The first encore started with some techno psych leading into The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”.

hillage 5As we left, the band came back for a second encore (I think from reports of other shows on the tour this may have been Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”). The lift we came down on didn’t seem to work anymore, however a friendly guy soon took us to another much smaller lift, which we squeezed into, arriving at a different part of the University. We followed a few ramps and soon found our taxi, waiting to take us home.

Support came from Utopia Strong featuring none other than Steve Davis snooker star (thanks to Terriersfan for pointing this out to me: see comment below)

Graham Gouldman – Heart Full of Songs Fire Station Sunderland 07 March 2023

gouldman tixThis man is a walking jukebox! Not only did he write/co – write all of the hits of the magnificent 10CC, he also penned many of the hits, all songs I loved and still love, from the 60s. So, when I saw he was appearing at the Fire Station in Sunderland I just had to go along.

The Fire Station announced the concert thus: “It is only between 10cc’s sell-out, bi-annual UK tours that the band’s co-founder Graham Gouldman is able to fully indulge his Heart Full of Songs project and take it on tour. The semi-acoustic four-piece performs a broad spread of Graham’s song-writing catalogue, including chart hits for 10cc, the Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck and his time in Wax with Andrew Gold. The band line-up comprises Graham, 10cc live band members Iain Hornal and Keith Hayman, and Dave Cobby. When Graham formed what became Heart Full of Songs nine years ago, it was purely for the pleasure of playing his songs in their simplest form, acoustically. For lovers of perfectly-crafted music performed by the composer, a Heart Full of Songs concert is truly an exquisite experience.”

Gouldman2Graham started acoustically with one other guitarist Andy song which I didn’t know he had written: “Pamela, Pamela” which was a UK hit for the late Wayne Fontana. A simple song with a very catchy tune. Lovely. Then he started to sing a series of songs which mean so much to me and were such an important part of my youth. With each song, Graham introduced a new band member until the stage was full of a set of four excellent musicians. And so he delivered: “Heart Full of Soul” which was a hit for the Yardbirds, the late great Jeff Beck’s guitar solo still jangling around my brain; the bittersweet tale that the note in a milk bottle can bring (Graham explained his father brought him the title for the song after seeing a milk bottle with such a note one day): “No Milk Today”, a hit for Herman’s Hermits, and then moving forward to a 10CC hit “Good Morning Judge”. It doesn’t come any better than this.

640px-Graham_Gouldman_2010A few more songs in and then another classic, again inspired by a conversation with a family member about looking through windows as the bus passed by each house: “Look through Any Window” a big hit for The Hollies, one of my all-time favourite bands. Graham explained that when he was inducted into the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame there was only one song he could choose and that had to be his favourite (and mine) “Bus Stop” which he wrote, again for the Hollies. Another excellent 60s pop song. Somewhere in there he sang a big hit which, to my shame, I had forgotten: “Bridge to your heart” which he co-wrote with the late great Andrew Gold in their short lived collaboration band Wax.

Of course, he also had to sing: “I’m Not in Love” the epic 10CC song which he co-wrote with Eric Stewart. And it sounded great, even without the 1000 or so over layered voices that featured on the original single. “For Your Love” again by the Yardbirds was his first big hit and deserved to be so. Other hits followed, ending with another story “Dreadlock Holiday”.

Pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Setlist (maybe not in this order, however): Pamela, Pamela; Heart Full of Soul; No Milk Today; Good Morning Judge; Sunburn; Love’s Not for Me; Look Through Any Window; Daylight; Dancing Days; Bridge to Your Heart; Floating in Heaven; I’m Not in Love; That’s Love Right There; Bus Stop; Ariella; The Things We Do for Love; Standing Next to Me; Memory Lane; For Your Love; Ready to Go Home; Dreadlock Holiday.

Black Star Riders Newcastle City Hall 24 February 2023

blacktixSometime in 1971. Sunderland Locarno upstairs bar. I see a tall black guy in the corner of the bar and wonder who he is. I go up and have a quick chat. An hour or so later the band take the stage and the same tall black guy is fronting them. They are called Thin Lizzy and are pretty good too! The black guy is, of course, Phil Lynott. I am 14, Phil is 21.

whiskey1973 and I’m watching Top of the Pops. Thin Lizzy appear, playing “Whiskey in the Jar” which is in the chart at the time. I go out and buy the single.

1975 – late 1970s. The Lizzy, with a new line – up featuring twin lead guitars, one of whom has really cool, long, blonde hair and is an American called Scott Gorham become absolutely massive. I see them many times at Newcastle City Hall and headlining the Reading Festival. They are an absolutely first class live band. “The Boys Are Back in Town” becomes an anthem for us all.

Phil_Lynott_Statue_at_Bruxelles_Dublin 2023Early 1980s. Middlesbrough Town Hall. Quite empty. Phil Lynott’s Grand Slam are appearing. Phil doesn’t look well. His face is bloated. The performance is not very inspiring.

4 January 1986. Phil Lynott passes away. He is 36. The cause is heart failure and drugs. Such a waste.

10 years or so later. I visit Dublin once a month for several years through work. I proudly have my picture taken next to a statue of Phil. Somewhere along the way I lose the photograph. However, I include here an image of the start you courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

black6Early 2000s. Thin Lizzy are headlining Newcastle City Hall again. This new version of the band comprises Scott Gorham, drummer Brian Downey and front man Ricky Warwick, who sounds quite a lot like Phil Lynott. They are surprisingly good and do justice to the Lizzy legacy.

black52012 and Thin Lizzy become Black Star Riders after writing new material and the departure of Brian Downey. Somewhere along the way Scott retires and the band continues. The new material sounds true to the Lizzy style and they continue flying the Lizzy flag high. They have become the natural progression in the next part of the Thin Lizzy saga.

2023 and Black Star Riders are headlining Newcastle City Hall. It is their tenth anniversary tour and Scott has re-joined his bandmates for this tour. Support acts are Michael Monroe (formerly from Hanoi Rocks) and Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons (Phil Campbell was guitarist in Motorhead).

black7We arrived late and Michael Monroe was already on stage climbing up onto the balcony. By the time I said to my carer Jackie “Quick. Take a photo” Michael was hanging down from the balcony and dropping back onto the stage. He was just as I imagined, a manic blonde showman. I never got to see Hanoi Rocks but I can imagine them as a crazy glam punk power rock band. The closing song is Credence Clearwater Revivals’ “Up around the Bend”. I tell my daughter Ashleigh who was a big Hanoi Rocks fan. That’s a Hanoi Rocks song she tells me so I figure they must have recorded it! It gets a great reception from the crowd who probably also think of it as a Hanoi Rocks song rather than a classic by Credence Clearwater Revival. John Fogarty is one of my heroes and one of the best gigs I ever went to was seeing him at Manchester Apollo. But that’s a story from a past blog entry! I buy Ashleigh a signed Michael Monroe CD and she is over the moon with it!

black4After a short wait, at 9:30 PM spot-on time, the Phil Campbell backdrop disappears and is replaced by a very impressive Black Star Riders drop. I suppose I’m amazed how much of a following the band has amassed in its own right. This is not the remnants of Thin Lizzy or a Thin Lizzy tribute band. This is a fully fledged rock band of its own right, led by the very impressive Ricky Warwick who continue the Thin Lizzy legacy in their own way, producing new songs which hark back to Lizzy and yet have a significance of their own. Magical. Phil must be up there proud of how his legacy continues to thrive and move onward and forward.

black3A few songs in and they perform a wild heavy version of the Osmond’s “Crazy Horses”. Well, I always knew it was a heavy rock song! After a few more songs they are joined by Scott Gorham who looks older, and yet cooler and still playing great guitar. His long mane of blonde hair has somehow been transferred to the young guitarist in Black Star Riders. There really is some sort of magic in the air! At one point in the set, they are joined by Phil Campbell and later on Michael Monroe comes on for one song also.

black2A few more songs into the set and we are treated to Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word”. Class; it all takes me back to the 1970s. Towards the end they play “Jailbreak”. One more song and then it is 11 PM and time to go home, content in the knowledge that the legacy of Thin Lizzy remains safe in the hands and voice of Ricky Warwick and the rest of Black Star Riders. You have done a great job Scott, continuing to fly the Lizzy flag and somehow, miraculously, managing to hand it safely over to the Black Star Riders. I wonder what that young 21-year-old Phil I chatted to over 50 years ago would make of it all? Happy days

Setlist: Pay Dirt; Another State of Grace; Better Than Saturday Night; When the Night Comes In; Riding Out the Storm; Wrong Side Of Paradise; Crazy Horses; All Hell Breaks Loose; Bloodshot; Soldierstown; Don’t Believe a Word (with Phil Campbell); Blindsided; The Killer Instinct; Before the War; Testify or Say Goodbye; Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down (with Michael Monroe); Kingdom of the Lost; Bound for Glory; Jailbreak; Finest Hour.