Posts Tagged ‘classic rock’

Kula Shaker Newcastle Wylam Brewery 23 January 2023

kula tixI have wanted to see Kula Shaker for some time. When they emerged from the indie pop scene some 20 or 30 years ago, I was quite taken by their psychedelic/Indian/transcendental musical style. Imagine late 60s/early 70s Quintessence merged with Deep Purple and remnants of punk, pop and the Beatles, and you start to get the idea of the band. Now, the leader and front man of Kula Shaker is none other than Crispian Mills, son of child star, and a personal hero of mine, Hayley Mills. I still absolutely love the film Whistle down the Wind, where a group of school children find an escaped criminal in hiding and believe him to be Jesus. I still find the film mesmerising, and quite spooky in some ways. Now Crispian must’ve had quite a bizarre upbringing. Imagine having Richard Attenborough and Lawrence Olivia as family friends, coming around regularly for tea. Crazy!

kula1“One of his (Mills) earliest musical memories was “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, which he believes “summed up [his] childhood… However, it was hearing “You Really Got Me” by…The Kinks that inspired him to become a guitarist. “It was like walking into a temple, a moment when my life changed… Chung! This is your destiny! …I was a guitar worshipper.” Through the guitar, Mills also discovered Deep Purple, and has cited their lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore as a major influence on his style. Later, Mills started to delve deeper into psychedelic music, and spent most of his A-Level years taking LSD and listening to The Doors. … but he soon realised that drugs alone would not bring him the enlightenment he sought.“ (From Wikipedia)

So, the scene was set for quite an enlightening and bizarre evening. The venue itself was a revelation. We took a road past the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, up into Exhibition Park and around a meandering dark road past a lake complete with swans into an old pavilion, now the Wylam Brewery. My carer Elaine and I were led into the hall, at the back of the crowd, surrounded by a full hall of a younger group (at least compared to what I am used to) of say 30/40-year-olds some clearly off their heads on drink, weed or acid. The kind people let us through down to the front, towards the side of the stage (there are some advantages of being in a wheelchair!) We were just in time to catch the last song of support act.kula wrist

After a short wait, at 9 PM prompt, Kula Shaker took the stage emerging from a mist of dry ice, everyone twirling their hands and fingers to the psychedelic vibe. We were situated towards the left of the stage right behind the keyboard player who had the most wonderful long, perfectly straight, mane of blonde hair, playing (what else but) a 60s Hammond organ. Over to his right we could catch glimpses of Crispian playing a series of Fender Stratocasters, each heavily painted with multicoloured psychedelic swirls, jumping in the air, shaking his head and blonde tassels of hair and waving his hand in suitable twirls. The songs were a mix of acid-tinged music, Indian influenced psychedelia, and heavy rock. Perfect.

kula2I even recognised several songs: the John Lennon classic “Gimme Some Truth” the lyrics spat out by Mills with appropriate venom, the Kula Shaker signature tune, “Tattva” and the Deep Purple (originally Joe South) classic and closer “Hush”. Along the way we were treated to songs with references to the 60s: “Grateful When Your Dead” and “Jerry Was There” (Jerry Garcia?) A compelling and quite bizarre take on “Ginger Bread Man” (yes, the lyrics were actually “Run, Run As Fast As You Can, You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the Ginger Bread Man”: just wonderful). Add some appropriate namedropping. Crispian: “I stole the next riff from George Harrison. I rang George one evening (you would, wouldn’t you, after all your mum is Hayley Mills) “Hey George, I hope you don’t mind I borrowed that riff from you”. George: “of course that’s okay, Crispian, but actually it’s not my riff, it’s Eric’s (Clapton, of course). Surreal., Then they were gone. It was almost 10:30 PM.

kula setThey were soon back for a trio of encores concluded with the wonderful “Govinda”, very similar to a Quintessence song of the same name. I loved every minute of it. Then things started to get crazy. A friendly guy, completely off his head, got me a set list (see image) from the stage. He then went on to offer to steal a guitar pedal for me.” No!” I shouted. He persisted “hey man, it’s cool”. I replied “it’s okay, I’m cool. The set list is just fine for me”. The guy gave me a couple of peace signs and disappeared into the crowd. Elaine and I made a hasty retreat through the crazy throng and got into our taxi, which was there waiting for us. The craziness continued, we drove through a tunnel where groups of young people were congregated making fires and settling themselves down for the evening, a couple of guys entertaining them with fire sticks which they were twirling around their heads.

I got home wondering if this had all really happened or whether I had somehow had acid strategically placed into my medication. But no, it was all real. Elaine and I caught up on Coronation Street and a Vivian Westwood documentary I had recorded. I soon drifted into a psychedelic sleep. “It’s All Too Much” as the Beatles said. “The Walrus was Paul”.

Setlist: Hey Dude; Sound of Drums; I’m Against it; Infinite Sun; Gaslight; Temple of Everlasting Light; Grateful When Your Dead; Jerry Was There; Gimme Some Truth; Ginger Bread Man; Beautiful Dreamer; Into The Deep; Waves; Taxes; Narayana; 302; Tattva; Hush.

Encore: Gokula; Great Hosanna; Govinda

UFO Newcastle Mayfair 23 June 1978?

ufoNow in this post, and the ticket pictured within, lies a mystery. Was this a concert I attended at Newcastle Mayfair? My friend found the ticket on eBay and bought it for me (thank you John). I did not already have the ticket but that is not to say I was not at the concert! Indeed I may well have been there. I would go to Mayfair with my late wife Marie on many Friday nights during the 1970s and other nights when there was a good band playing. I was also a massive UFO fan at the time. I had seen them many, many times at Sunderland Locarno and almost as many times at Newcastle Mayfair around this period. In 1978, UFO had just released the Obsession album which opens with the classic track “Only You Can Rock Me ”.

ufo1At the time the band were playing such classics as the great rock ballad “Love to Love”, and other rockers including “Lights Out”, “Rock Bottom”, “Too Hot to Handle”, “Shoot Shoot” and the amazing rocker “Doctor Doctor”, one of my favourite rock songs of all time. They also of course played the aforementioned “Only You Can Rock Me”. A clutch of catchy rock songs that should have ensured massive success for the band. Although UFO did become very popular in the UK, and worldwide, they never quite reached the levels of success of some of their contemporaries. I never understood why they are not seen as seminal as other bands of the time such as Judas Priest. On a good night, after a few drinks, in a nightclub such as Newcastle Mayfair there was nothing better than witnessing UFO at the height of their powers. The line-up at the time was the classic collection of Phil Mogg (vocals), Michael Schenker (amazing Flying V guitar), Pete Way (bass guitar around his knees), Paul Raymond (keyboards and second guitar) And Andy Parker (drums).

The band was soon to release the great live album Strangers In the Night. “Some critics, and the fans marked it as one of the greatest live rock albums of all time. Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 47 among the “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time”.” (From Wikipedia)

Mayfair_Ballroom_Newcastle_-_Dance_Floor

My guess is that I was at this concert and, I either paid at the door and never had a ticket (most likely), or alternatively I did have a ticket which was handed in at the door. Either way, in my mind, I am there singing along with those great songs and marvelling at Michael Schenker’s guitar playing particularly on “Doctor Doctor”. Fantastic. This band were, without question, one of the top rock outfits of all time. Period!

UFO_–_Hamburger_Harley_Days_2015_02I was lucky enough to see UFO many more times over the years. In recent years it seems the band may have come to the end of their long road. “In May 2018, vocalist Phil Mogg announced that UFO’s 50th anniversary tour in 2019 would be his last one as the frontman of the band, who may also either split up or move on with a replacement for him. Mogg explained, “This decision has been a long time coming. …. I don’t want to call this a farewell tour as I hate that word….” (From Wikipedia). I was lucky enough to see them on that particular tour. However, the run of concerts also saw the passing of several current and former members of the band.

Only a few days after seeing the band in Newcastle, long-time keyboard player Paul Raymond passed away from a heart attack on 13 April 2019 at the age of 73. Paul Raymond was replaced by Neil Carter who re-joined UFO for the remainder of the tour. Sadly, former guitarist Paul Chapman also passed on his 66th birthday, 9 June 2020. Chapman’s passing was followed two months later by that of original bassist, the late great Pete Way, who passed from an accident at the age of 69. Too many of our heroes are passing at early ages.

2022_Lieder_am_See_-_UFO_-_by_2eight_-_7DS2429Then, in August 2022, Phil Mogg himself suffered a heart attack. Phil was advised by doctors to stop performing and this resulted in the remainder of the tour being cancelled. Does this mean the end of the great rock ‘n’ roll band that was UFO? If so, their like will never be seen again.

A typical set list from 1978 was something like this (from setlist .com): Hot ‘n’ Ready; Pack It Up (And Go); Cherry; Love to Love; Only You Can Rock Me; Let It Roll; Doctor Doctor; Lights Out; Rock Bottom; Too Hot to Handle; Shoot Shoot. How’s that for a great night out!

Was I at the concert? Who knows? I wish I had kept a diary! Anyway, this ticket, and John’s gift of it, has given me the chance to write a blog entry during the quiet season around New Year before I get back to serious gig going again in February 2023! Thanks again John.

Thanks to Frank Schwichtenberg for providing the image of UFO performing in Hamburg, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons. Thanks also to Stefan Brending for providing an image from 2022 of UFO performing at the Hellfest, Germany. And I couldn’t resist including a lovely photograph of the interior of the Mayfair ballroom. This was from 1961, but it didn’t look much different in the 1970s! From Wikimedia Commons: “The Mayfair Ballroom and Concert Hall was one of the most popular venue’s in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, hosting a rock club, which became the largest and longest-running of its kind in Europe. Situated on the corner of Newgate Street and Low Friar Street, it closed in 1999 to make way for a leisure complex, now known as The Gate. 22 November 1961 photographed by Turner’s. Please cite ‘Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums'”

Rod Stewart Newcastle Arena 17 December 2022.

rod tix 22My search for Rob the Mod continues. Or, to put it another way, has Rod the Mod survived Las Vegas and returned to the UK intact? Rod Stewart is one of my heroes and always will be. As long as he is out there performing, and as long as I am able to go along and see him, I will do so. The guy is now 77 years young, and still touring as he always has done. It is in his blood. Since I first saw The Faces in those heady days of the early 70s, I have been a dedicated fan going to see him almost every tour. Sometimes along the way I questioned my allegiance particularly around the time of “Da Ya Think I’m sexy” and his American songbook era. But deep down I knew that, somewhere in Rod’s soul lay that mod that I first heard on the Jeff Beck album Truth in the late 60s. If you haven’t heard Truth, please do listen to it. Rod is simply fantastic on versions of classics such as “Shapes” and “Morning Dew”. Along with the first Small Faces album this was the prototype on which Page and Plant based Led Zeppelin.

rod3 22Every time I go to see Rod, I go in the hope that he will return to some of the old classic songs. And he never lets me down. Newcastle Arena is packed with 10,000 Rod Stewart fans on a cold winters evening. Christmas looms and everyone is out to have fun. The set list is a mix of old and new, as always. The show is clearly a paired down version of his recent Las Vegas run, complete with big stage set including screens, a first-class backing band suited and booted and great girl backing singers. The introductory music is the classic Depeche Mode track “Just Can’t Get Enough” (great choice) followed by “Scotland the Brave” (as usual Rod includes a lot of Scottish flags, and Celtic icons throughout the concert, displaying his allegiances to the joy of the Scottish contingent within the crowd).

rod 10Rod opens the show with an excellent cover of the late, great Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” complete with girls in black dresses and playing white guitars, emulating Palmer’s video. Classic! A great opener. Then the years roll back and Rod sings “You Wear It Well”. See, I told you, the mod is still in there! Another Faces classic follows: “Ooh La La”, you know the one that goes “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger” and was written by Ronnie Wood and the late, sadly missed looner Ronnie Lane. Memories of seeing the Ooh La La tour at Newcastle Odeon, surrounded by the Newcastle football team, flood back. A few more classics follow: an excellent cover of the Isley Brothers “This Old Heart of Mine”, “Forever Young” and Rod’s version of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest”. Now Rod looks great, sounds great and is as active as ever. The guy is simply 110% energy, dancing along while he sings those great tunes. The crowd loves it and sings along, hanging on to every word.

rod8Then what I’m waiting for comes, as I knew it would and always does. Rod sings “Maggie May” and explains it was about his first encounter with an older lady at a folk Festival in the early 1960s. And he can still do the song justice. “I’d Rather Go Blind” is dedicated to Christine McVie and her days in Chicken Shack, the lady sadly having recently passed. Too many of our heroes are leaving us. The first set ends with the girls singing Donna Summers’ “Hot Stuff” while Rod has a break and a costume change.

rod6An acoustic set follows with everyone taking a seat at the front of the stage, Rod in the centre. This includes “I Don’t Want to Talk about It”, “Tonight’s the Night” and “Have I Told You Lately”. Rod leaves the stage for another break and final costume change while the girls deliver an excellent version of “Lady Marmalade”…… “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”. You know the one.

rod7We are on the home straight now. Rod do you really need to sing “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy”? Is it still appropriate today? I think not, but anyway he does sing the song opening with a typical late 70s picture of Rod “back in the day” on the screen. “Baby Jane” (still a favourite of mine) follows and the inevitable singalong “Sailing” closes the proceedings with the curtain dropping around Rod and his band. In a few moments the curtain rises and the years roll back once again for “Stay with Me”. Everyone sings along. And then it is over. Everyone finds out, happy and fully satisfied by a great performance.

rod4So, in conclusion, Rod the Mod remains intact and didn’t let me down. The guy is a powerhouse who just keeps on going. Till the next time. Thanks to Jan for the photography for the evening.

Setlist: Addicted to Love; You Wear It Well; Ooh La La; Hole in My Heart;  Some Guys Have All the Luck; This Old Heart of Mine; Forever Young; The First Cut Is the Deepest; Maggie May; I’d Rather Go Blind; Young Turks; Rhythm of My Heart; Hot Stuff (Backing Singers On Vocals).

Acoustic: People Get Ready; I Don’t Want to Talk About It; You’re in My Heart; Tonight’s the Night; Have I Told You Lately; Lady Marmalade (Backing Singers On Vocals).

Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?; Baby Jane; Sailing.

Encore: Stay With Me

Richard Hawley Fire Station Sunderland 12 December 2022

HAWLEY TIXNow this guy is a bit of an enigma. I guess you would say he has a very dedicated cult following. And rightly so. However, everyone I told I was going to see Richard Hawley, including some quite up-to-date music aficionados, said “Who Is he?” Yet this show sold out very quickly, even after the venue had removed all of the seats from the downstairs area in order to allow entry to more people.

HAWLEY3The last time I saw Richard Hawley was probably over 10 years ago when he was the support act for one of my personal heroes (and his apparently), Nancy Sinatra at the Sage Gateshead. I have missed the last few times he has been in the north-east and I thought it was about time that I picked up on him again, particularly when the show was local and in such an intimate, new, lovely, purpose-built concert venue. We arrived in time to catch the support act Katie Spencer who, not unlike Hawley, has her own individual style which is difficult to describe. On her website she describes herself as: 

HAWLEY2“Uk progressive folk singer-songwriter & guitarist. And using the words of others: ‘Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song.’ – Ralph McTell​. ‘Her articulate picking, with suggestions of folk and jazz, frames intelligently written songs and is the backbone to her music.’ – Guitarist Magazine. ‘One of the most satisfying and spellbinding singer-songwriter collections I’ve encountered in some time.’ – RnR Magazine”

HAWLEY4During the interval I managed to have a pint of Guinness and catch up with some friends who are also fans of Richard Hawley. Soon the guy took the stage. Richard has his own style. With his quiff hairstyle and American college boy cardigan, he looks every bit the 1950s rockabilly star. Indeed, his guitars, which he seems to change after each song, are also old 50s and 60s instruments, such as a Gretsch semiacoustic with large tremolo, a Burns (Hank) Marvin and various other lovely guitars.

HAWLEY BADGBut there is much, much more to this guy than a simple 50s/60s influenced singer. Sure you can hear those influences now and then, but Hawley has his own style transcends easy description and blends rockabilly, 60s music and blues, with more modern sounds. The Fire Station website describes his music, influence and collaborators thus: 

“In the two decades that have elapsed since Hawley jettisoned band life, first with The Longpigs and then as Pulp’s guitarist, the 52-year-old songwriter has forged one of the most singular and diverse careers in modern music…. Hawley has worked with a host of impressive collaborators – such as Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Texas and Paul Weller, alongside personal heroes that include U.S guitarist Duane Eddy, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Lisa Marie Presley and British folk royalty Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson.”

HAWLEY TOWLNow with collaborators like that, you really can’t go wrong, can you? The only song I really know is “Tonight the Streets Are Ours “, but the rest of the set is excellent. Hawley has surrounded himself with an excellent band including a second guitarist who complements Richard’s own style and a great blues harp player who emerges from the side of the stage at various times to add his rasping harmonica. Some of the songs are quite dark and the lighting in the venue is set up well to emphasise this. My carer for the evening, Jackie, sees some of Nick Cave in Hawley. I don’t disagree. Hawley, like his support act, is a true northern guy, wearing his Sheffield style and accent proudly on his chest.

HAWLEY BOXOn the way out I buy some merchandise which is also quite individual and quirky. As you can see, I get a tea towel, a couple of badges and a natty little musical box which, when turned, plays a Richard Hawley tune (you can choose which one). No programme or T-shirt for this guy. Too conventional, I guess! A great show by a wonderful artist whose cult following is no doubt growing and at one stage we may see him break through to the mainstream. But maybe Richard Hawley is just fine the way with things the way they are.

Setlist: Off My Mind; Alone; Further; Standing at the Sky’s Edge; I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me; Emilina Says; Tonight the Streets Are Ours; Coles Corner; Galley Girl; Don’t Stare at the Sun; Time Is; Open Up Your Door; Down in the Woods; Is There a Pill?

Encore: There’s a Storm Comin’; Heart of Oak

The Sweet The Boiler Shop Newcastle 24 November 2022

sweet tixAnother night of memories and revisiting a band I followed many years ago. The Sweet are a much maligned and misunderstood band. Behind the hits and all the glam rock glitter, hid a classic heavy rock band. Guitarist Andy Scott had been in a string of bands in the 60s and would always bring a heavier side to The Sweet particularly on their album such as the epic Sweet Fanny Adams, which I recently purchased again just to listen to some of their classic heavier tracks. If you listen to their hits such as “Blockbuster”, “Ballroom Blitz” and “Action” there was always a driving riff, emanating from both Andy Scott’s guitar and Steve Priest’s bass.

SWEET FANNY ADAMSI first saw The Sweet live back in 1973 or 1974 when they were at the height of their fame and success, at Newcastle City Hall along with a good friend, Dave, who I have lost touch with and a hall full of screaming teenage girls. It really was a “Teenage Rampage” and lots and lots of fun! A few years later, after the hits had started to fade away, I saw them with my friend Norm and a few others on a very cold, wet evening at Sunderland Locarno. The venue was far from full but the show was excellent, very loud and quite heavy. Next time I saw them I was with my late wife Marie in a very empty City Hall. This was around 1981, and singer Brian Connolly had left the band to pursue I think a solo career. The Sweet continued as a three-piece band with Steve Priest taking on vocal duties and fronting the band. They still sang all of the hits but it wasn’t quite the same.

sweet lpRoll-on 10 years or so and I saw Brian Connolly’s Sweet performing at Sunderland Polytechnic Students Union Wearmouth Hall at a packed Saturday night dance. This was Brian’s version of the band with a completely new set of musicians. Nevertheless, and of course, all the hits were performed well and the crowd went crazy. Then move forward another 20 years or so I saw Andy Scott’s Sweet performing as part of a 70s package tour alongside Slade (minus Noddy and fronted by guitarist Dave Hill alongside original drummer Don Powell).

sweet 5The Boiler Shop is exactly what the name suggests, an old warehouse which in the past was an industrial workplace, situated behind Newcastle train station. My carer Jackie and I had a great view of the proceedings, sitting on a wheelchair platform overlooking the crowd with a direct view of the stage. Well by now, Andy Scott has achieved his dream and transformed The Sweet into a heavy rock band with new musicians around him all of whom look like they could have come from a true Hard Rock heavy metal band. Andy is the only surviving member of The Sweet. Brian Connolly sadly passed away in his early 50s, from alcoholism. Drummer Mick Tucker sadly passed away recently as did bassist and he of the bright ginger hair and crazy voice Steve Priest, who fronted his own version of the band situated in the USA.

sweet 3 So, Andy remains out on his own, to fly The Sweet flag high, having rejuvenated the band as out and out rockers, no longer closet heavy metal contenders. I buy a T-shirt and a couple of signed posters, one for me and one for my friend John in the USA. Soon the band take the stage and they are loud, heavy and I mean very LOUD. Great! They crash into “Action” and then follow this with a couple of heavier tunes. And that is the format for the evening: a hit followed by one or two heavier album or new tracks followed by another hit and so it goes onward.

SWEET POSTER SIGNEDAndy Scott looks great. All the heavy-metal hero with a long mane of pure white hair. Respect. He bangs away at his red Fender Stratocaster. “The Sixteens “(my particular favourite) soon follows and then we are treated to hit after hit. “Wigwam Bam”, “Little Willy”, “Hellraiser” and another classic “Love Is like Oxygen”. Just fantastic. Each one delivered in a new heavier, louder manner. These are no longer pop classics they are heavy metal songs!

The encores are “Blockbuster” and finally “Ballroom Blitz”! It don’t get any better than this. Happy days.

Wishbone Ash Whitley Bay Playhouse 1 November 2022

wish tixAll of my blog entries are tinged with memories which linger from many, many years ago. This was the 50th anniversary tour of Wishbone Ash playing the Argus album. It is now 50 years since this legendary rock band released their classic third album, Argus. So many memories flood back. I am back in Newcastle City Hall in 1971, prior to the release of Argus, probably around the time that Wishbone Ash released their second album, Pilgrimage. They were still an upcoming band with lovely, melodic twin guitars featuring Andy Powell and Ted Turner. Front man Martin Turner (no relation to Ted) was on bass and also sang many of the songs. Standout tracks of the time were “Blind Eye”, the wonderful “Jailbait” and the epic “Phoenix”. It was clear from the early days that this band was something special; they blended folk, progressive rock and the twin guitars were synchronised in a unique melodic way which showed other bands, such as Thin Lizzy, the way forward.

ARGUS COVERA year later. Wishbone Ash have just released Argus. I am at the Lincoln Festival and standing high up on a lighting tower, the breeze blowing in my hair, watching the band perform a clutch of new songs which were to become classics: “Blowin’ Free”, “Time Was” and the tremendous “The King Will Come”. Other tracks from the album such as “Warrior” and “Throw down the Sword” took us back to the days of knights, battles and days of mediaeval England. Magical, powerful, stuff.

wishbone 1A few months later. I am upstairs on the balcony in Sunderland Locarno with a group of friends looking down at the majestic Wishbone Ash performing Argus again. Such happy days, carefree and exploring new sounds and experiences.Roll forward 50 years, and I am in Whitley Bay Playhouse. Only Andy Powell remains from the original band. There have been so many twists and turns along the way, with Andy waving the Wishbone Ash flag high and proud. His latest incarnation of the band does all of the old songs proud. I think sometimes they have become a little too heavy and rocky, losing some of their melodic magic along the way, but hey that is a minor concern about what remains a relevant and epic rock band. Wishbone Ash remain great and are out on the road playing a clutch of songs which they weave around the Argus album in its entirety. This is a night of reminiscences and reunions. I bump into some old friends Ian, Ian and Pete as I arrive. We have a chat about the old days and happy times from so many years ago.

wishbone4I take my seat close to the front with my carer Jackie (thanks for the photographs). The band are on stage a little later than promised, I think there have been some technical sound problems. Nevertheless the sound is great and Andy is clearly the front man, still sporting his wonderful Flying V guitar. We are treated to a clutch of songs old and new including the classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Widow”. Then the years roll back again and “Time Was” (one of my all-time favourite songs) heralds the start of the ArgusWISH COVER album. The classic songs follow: “The King Will Come”, the (almost hit) “Blowin’ Free”. The album closes with “Throw down the Sword”. Wonderful. Magical. Thank you so much Andy for taking us all on a journey which you yourself have travelled on so many roads along the way. The encore is F.U.B.B. (F**ked Up Beyond Belief!). Sadly, probably because of the late start, we are not treated to “Jailbait” which the band have been playing on other nights of the tour. Still, this does not detract from what was a perfect performance of a wonderful, landmark album which I bought back in 1972 and played played and played. I still have a copy.

WISH SIGNAnd then another reunion! To top a great night I hear a cry “Smithy” and soon I am being hugged by my old friend Pete who I have not seen for probably 30 or 40 years. We spent so many days and nights travelling up and down the country together seeing classic bands. Memories of us together at the Reading Festival and in Charlton football ground witnessing a classic Who performance flood back. It is great to be in contact again, my good friend. A lovely touch to a wonderful evening. Thank you Andy for making this all possible and for selling a signed copy of your autobiography. It doesn’t get much better than this! Happy days.

wishbone3Setlist: In the Skin; We Stand as One; Coat of Arms; Rock ‘n Roll Widow; Standing in the Rain.

Argus: Time Was; Sometime World; Blowin’ Free; The King Will Come; Leaf and Stream; Warrior; Throw Down the Sword.

Encore: F.U.B.B.

John Cale Whitley Bay Playhouse 31 October 2022

cale tixAs legends go, they don’t get much more legendary than John Cale. The man is an enigma and to be admired. Of Welsh origin, Cale studied art at Goldsmiths College London and then, in 1963, relocated to New York where he became part of the alternative music and art scene, meeting the likes of none other than Andy Warhol. In 1968 he hooked up with Lou Reed and formed the Velvet Underground. Respect!

Since then, Cale has collaborated with many great alternative artists including Iggy and the Stooges, Patti Smith and others. His solo work explores dark themes of alienation, pain, fear and the soul. His work is intriguing, sometimes almost impenetrable, but always worthy of exploration and of taking the time to listen to the messages he is giving us.

I last experienced John Cale live at the Sage, Gateshead some years ago with my son, David. It was a concert that was memorable, intriguing and exciting and David and I both enjoyed it. So, I was looking forward to seeing him live again. The concert was part of the annual Mouth of the Tyne Festival, and had been postponed for some time due to Covid.

j cale 1The Playhouse website announced the arrival of Cale thus: “Legendary musician John Cale is to play a special, intimate show at Playhouse Whitley Bay as part of this year’s Mouth of the Tyne Festival. One of the founder members of The Velvet Underground alongside Lou Reed, he was instrumental in the band’s early years and enjoyed acclaim stateside under the management of Andy Warhol. Cale brings over 6 decades of avant-garde music with him, having released over 30 albums, with his solo record ‘Paris 1919’ perhaps his best-known work. Cllr Sarah Day, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure said, “It’s a real coup to secure a show from one of rock’s most enduring performers. With a music style that’s hard to pinpoint, artists like this are real one-offs and I can’t wait to see him take to the stage at our Playhouse theatre this summer.””

The Playhouse was packed with a crowd who (judging from the eclectic range of T-shirts and dress sense in evidence) obviously enjoyed a mixture of musical genres ranging from punk, new wave aficionados to general classic rock fans. It was great to catch up with old friends Pauline and Rob from local legendary band Penetration in the bar for a chat prior to the show.

j cale 3We took our seats, carer Jan and I, close to the front. We had missed the performance by the support act (apologies) but were more than ready to see the main man perform. John Cale was backed by an excellent band and stood stage right behind his keyboard, performing a mixture of songs from throughout his career. Sadly, he did not perform any Velvet Underground tracks. On other nights of the tour the crowd were treated to a version of “Waiting for the Man”. The guy is 80 years old, still looks great and is still uncompromising in his music and performance. He did not speak to the audience but then it was enough just to be in the presence of a true legend. He took us through songs of angst, fear and lost love, finishing with a dark take of Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. And then he was gone. Leaving us with swirling psychedelic wailing tunes in our heads and the knowledge that we had been in the presence of one of the legends of art rock and new wave. And that, for me, was enough.

j cale 2Cale has just released a new album which is advertised: “MERCY, Cale’s first full album in a decade, moves through true dark-night-of-the-soul electronic torment toward vulnerable love songs and hopeful considerations for the future with the help of some of music’s most curious young minds. Cale has always searched for new ways to explore old ideas of alienation, hurt, and joy; MERCY is the latest transfixing find of this unsatisfied mind.” (Musicdirect.com site).

Setlist:  Jumbo in tha Modernworld; The Endless Plain of Fortune; Chinese Envoy; Dirty Ass Rock ‘n’ Roll; Mercy; Ghost Story; Pretty People; Guts; Villa Albani; Half Past France; Hanky Panky Nohow;     Moonstruck; Heartbreak Hotel

Uriah Heep Sage Gateshead 8 October 2022

HEEP JOHNThis was a special, emotional evening for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, my friend John came over from the States for a short trip with his wife, Susan, to see family and friends. Now John and I have been friends for many years and one of the first bands we went to see together at Newcastle City Hall in 1971 or 1972 was, none other, than Uriah Heep. So it was great to see John again, for real rather than virtually (which we do regularly and often), after many, many years. And to share Uriah Heep together in concert was something special. And this was their 50th anniversary tour although it had been postponed for three years because of Covid! To think that we were seeing one of our favourite bands together some 50 years or more later just seems incredible!

HEEPTIXNow as it was their 50th anniversary tour, Heep had chosen to do something quite different. The concert was in two parts, the first being an acoustic set, something I have never seen them do before. I arrived with my carer, Jan, in plenty of time to meet up with John before the show, swap stories and generally catch up on things. Then came showtime. The night opened with a video screen showing many other famous classic heavy bands, and artists, congratulating Uriah Heep on their 50th anniversary: Alice Cooper, Francis Rossi, Pete Agnew of Nazareth, Paul Stanley of Kiss, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Vanilla Fudge and many others. Now the only original, and surviving member of Uriah Heep is guitarist Mick Box who looks just great, really fit, lovely pure white long hair, and plays guitar just as he always did.

HEEP SHIRTThe rest of the band have joined some time along the way, the singer Bernie Shaw has been a member for many years and does a great job of singing those classic, almost operatic, tracks from the 70s and onward. The other members also are great musicians: Phil Lanzon on keyboards, who joined at the same time as Bernie in 1986, Russell Gilbrook on drums and Dave Rimmer on bass, both of whom joined more recently.

HEEP1The acoustic set comprised several songs which were unfamiliar to me, some which were old favourites and lend themselves to acoustic treatment such as “The Wizard” and closing number “Lady in Black”. A surprise and great track from the first album, which John and I agreed we had never seen them play before, the haunting “Come Away Melinda” (also made famous by the great Tim Rose). A very pleasant change and surprise. Excellent for starters.

During the interval I had another chance to catch up with John (we bought tickets separately, at different times and hence were not seated together), another Guinness, and John and I both agreed the acoustic set was different yet excellent. We saw a very different side of the band.

HEEP3After a short break the band were back for the electric set, more in their usual format. To open the second set the video screen displayed images of all the past members, too many to mention. Members I would highlight for various reasons are keyboard player and writer of many of those classic songs, the late Ken Hensley; he of the magnificent operatic voice from the classic line-up, the late, great front man David Byron; surprisingly to me, local Sunderland hero (now a long-term member of Elton John’s band) drummer Nigel Olsson (who played on two tracks of the debut album); John Lawton who became singer after David Byron left and did a great job; former Spider from Mars, and also a member of Wishbone Ash at one point, the late great bass player, Trevor Bolder; another sadly passed bassist from the classic years Gary Thain and long-time more recently passed drummer Lee Kerslake.

HEEP7In a similar way to the acoustic set, the band played old and new songs, some familiar, some new to me. Some which I absolutely love: the very atmospheric, operatic “Sunrise”, the rocking “Stealin'” and the great rock ‘n’ roll of “Sweet Lorraine”. Closing song “July Morning” is, as it always was, the closest Uriah Heep get to a ballad and just wonderful. Other familiar tracks were “Traveller in Time” and “Free ‘n’ Easy”. For the encore Mick Box took us right back to the start and the very basic, heavy metal riff of “Gypsy”. So simple and yet so great and just pure genius! The final song was another great rocker “Easy Livin'”. Congratulations to the band on 50+ great years. Long may they continue.

HEEP8I met up with John on the way out. We both agreed that the show was excellent in every way. By the way, thanks to Jan for her photography and she is now a Uriah Heep fan! And thanks to John for a picture of his T-shirt!

Setlist:

Acoustic set: Circus; Tales; Free Me; Come Away Melinda; Confession / Rain; The Wizard / Paradise / Circle of Hands; Lady in Black.

Electric set: Against the Odds; The Hanging Tree; Traveller in Time; Between Two Worlds; Stealin’; Too HEEP2Scared to Run; Rainbow Demon; What Kind of God; Sunrise; Sweet Lorraine; Free ‘n’ Easy; July Morning.

Encore: Gypsy; Easy Livin’

Don McLean Sage Gateshead 24 September 2022

 

don tixThe great song “American Pie” is etched in my memory for reasons, which sleep after time I will explain below. Don McLean bills himself as “The American Troubadour” and this performance at the magnificent Sage concert hall demonstrated just how well he deserves that title. The Sage announced the concert as below:

“The American Troubadour has had Top 20 singles worldwide with American Pie, Vincent, Cryin, And I Love You So, Wonderful Baby, Since I Don’t Have you, It’s Just The Sun & If We Try . He is an inductee of the Grammy Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and is a recipient of a BBC Lifetime achievement award. This year he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which can be found in front of The Pie Hole Bakery, between Hollywood and Vine.

don4American Pie was recorded in May 1971 and a month later received its first radio airplay.  Thirty years later, it was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Issued as a double A-side single in November 1971 and charted within a month. Interest from the media and public sent the single to #1 in the USA and Don to international superstardom. Every line of the song was analysed time and time again to find the real meaning. Don refused to sanction any of the many interpretations, so adding to its mystery” (Sage Gateshead website).

So why is “American Pie” so important to me? Roll back 50 years and the Lincoln Festival in May 1972. I was 15 years old and this was my first pop festival. I was so excited going along to a festival at such a tender age. I went with a couple of schoolfriends and we met up with a bunch of lads (“boys” as we called ourselves) from Sunderland. We built a festival base out of bales of hay which we slept in, danced on and generally had a great time around after hippie throughout the weekend. The reference to “boys” is quite important. “Boys” were cool, and as in the words of the David Bowie song “Boys Keep Swinging”… “Boys always work it out!”. There are other references to “boys” in the literature and songs such as the Thin Lizzy hit “The Boys Are Back in Town”. For me being a boy meant knowing which concerts and festivals to be seen at and being a cross between a mod, hippie, “a face” and young man about town. However I always felt a little bit of an impostor and not a real “boy”. I never really hung out with the boys and just hooked up with them on certain key occasions, particularly at festivals. Anyway for this weekend I was a trainee boy and proud to be so.

lincolnprogThe Lincoln Festival had a magnificent lineup with Rod Stewart and the Faces, the Beach boys, Rory Gallagher, Humble Pie (now Steve Marriot was definitely a boy), Genesis, Strawbs, Status Quo, Joe Cocker, Monty Python!, Stone The Crows with Maggie Bell, Lindisfarne, Nazareth, Atomic Rooster, Slade and many others. Anyway, appearing on the Sunday afternoon, as I recall, was a guy called Don Maclean sandwiched between excellent performances by Status Quo (who were busy transitioning from a pop band to the number one boogie machine) and the magnificent Humble Pie (with Steve Marriot excelling himself as a great soul and blues singer “my skin is white, but my soul is black”). “American Pie” had just been in the UK singles chart and was, by then, a global hit with its very enigmatic lyrics, which we all know now are loosely based around the death of Buddy Holly, a hero of Don McLean. The festival had been plagued by showers of torrential rain but, just at the point Don started singing “American Pie” the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was a truly magical moment and we all stood up (the boys singing and dancing on the top of our hay barn). From that point on I was a fan and I went to see Don McLean several times after that at Newcastle City Hall. He went on to have many other hits including the beautiful “Vincent” about Vincent Van Gough.

don2So roll forward 50 years and my carer Jan and I are seated at the back of the Sage waiting to see Don McLean. This was Jan’s first Don McLean concert and for me, it was probably around 40 years since I last saw him. I lost touch with him, sadly, along the way. Support act was Elles Bailey who won the crowd over with an excellent set of Americana tunes. Don came on stage with acoustic guitar and took us through a set that you would expect from an American Troubadour. A mixture of his own classic songs, traditional American folk and crooner songs; some of which were familiar to me, others less so. I had forgotten “Castles in the Air” and it was great to hear his version of songs such as “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right down and Write Myself a Letter”. Excellent. He looked well and was in fine voice. He finished, of course, with “American Pie”. We all sang along again and the words seemed just as touching, powerful and enigmatic as they ever did. For a moment, in my mind, I was back on the hay barn, with the boys. Soon it was all over and we left the hall humming and singing “American Pie” which has earned its place in rock ‘n’ roll mythology. The troubadour returned to the road, with a handful of songs, and one particular piece of magic which touches the hearts and souls of people around the world. Don told us that he was going to cut back on touring and will only visit a handful of places in the future; however to our delight, he announced that he loved the Sage concert hall and would include it on his shorter touring schedule in the future. Great news. Happy days.

don3Thanks to Jan for her photographic skills.

Setlist (something like this, partly from memory, the order may be wrong!): Lotta Lovin’; Botanical Gardens; The Lucky Guy; Crossroads; Tulsa Time / Deep In the Heart of Texas; Prime Time; Winterwood; Empty Chairs; Castles in the Air; Choose to Pay; I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; Mountains o’ Mourne; I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; And I Love You So; American Boys; Vincent; Midnight Special; American Pie

Steve Hackett Sage Gateshead 22 September 2022

HACKETTIXIt has been some time since I saw in York, on which occasion he played a great selection of early Genesis classics. Now I much prefered Genesis when the great Peter Gabriel fronted the band. I have many happy memories of seeing Genesis. The first time I saw them was at Newcastle City Hall where they were bottom of the bill on a CHACKET 1harisma package tour featuring Van Der Graaf Generator, Lindisfarne and then Genesis. After that I saw them several times within a year during the period 1971 and 1972 including performances at the Reading Festival, the Lincoln Festival and Sunderland Locarno supporting Mott the Hoople! I foolishly missed the Foxtrot tour because I had seen the band so many times. I remember my friend Ian went along to see them at the City Hall and came back raving about the gig and Gabriel wearing a fox mask! Is it really 50 years since the release of Foxtrot? I then saw them at Newcastle City Hall supporting Lindisfarne, the Reading Festival again at the time “I Know What I like” was hitting the charts, and finally on the Lamb Lies down on Broadway tour. The next time I saw Genesis Phil Collins was front man on the Trick of the Tail tour at Glasgow Apollo. All of those shows were magnificent. Steve Hackett left the band around that time and I saw the And Then There Were Three tour at Knebworth, supported by Jefferson Starship. Happy days.

HACKET4Steve Hackett was an integral part of the band throughout those days, sitting quietly on a stool, weaving magical music from his Gibson Les Paul. I also saw Steve on a couple of solo tours at Newcastle City Hall and was quite impressed by his own material.

I have foolishly missed Steve Hackett the last couple of times he has played the north-east. I have promised myself not to do so again and to see him every time he plays close by in the future. It was great to run into some old friends, the aforementioned Ian, our mutual friend another Ian and Peter. We chatted about old gig experiences and very happy times. I also ran into a friend from my blog community. A great night already!

The concert comprised two sets. The first was a selection of Steve Hackett solo material. I recognised some of the songs, but many seemed new to me. I enjoyed them much more than I expected. And Steve stood up throughout the performance! Very much the front man with an excellent band supporting him. The second half comprised the entire Foxtrot album, HACKET3starting with the wonderful “Watcher of the Skies” and finishing with the magnificent, multifaceted “Supper’s Ready”. I had forgotten just how great the album was; particularly the opening track and the closing epic. Great credit must be given to vocalist Nad Sylvan who brings the songs to life without totally recreating Peter Gabriel. The guy has his own style, flowing locks and some wonderful elements of showmanship which hark back to the Gabriel days such as the red light eyes at certain points in the songs. Magical. Yet, Steve Hackett remains the front man, reminding us of how much the band and their music was down to him at the time. The encore comprises “Firth of Frith” from the Selling England by the Pound album and ends with another song I recognise from the Trick of the Tail album: “Los Endos”.

HACKETPROGA great night with a great musician to whom prog rock fans (such as me!) and Genesis owe a lot. I bought a programme and a signed copy of Steve’s autobiography! Happy days really are here again!

HACKETBOOKSet 1: Hackett Highlights: Ace of Wands; The Devil’s Cathedral; Spectral Mornings; Every Day; A Tower Struck Down; Camino Royale; Shadow of the Hierophant.

Set 2: Foxtrot: Watcher of the Skies; Time Table; Get ’em Out by Friday; Can-Utility and the Coastliners; Horizons; Supper’s Ready. Encore: Firth of Frith; Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos.