Posts Tagged ‘rock n roll’

Cliff Richard 80th birthday tour Sage Gateshead 15 October 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showaddywaddy Sunderland Locarno 15 November 1974

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bell + Arc Sunderland Locarno 1971

bell 1

Now this recollection has a story about it. This took place in the early days of my starting to attend gigs at the local Mecca, the Sunderland Locarno ballroom. Now every Friday they had a great band on, and I with many friends, would congregate to see the latest and best live music. This particular band was not well-known, but nonetheless, were absolutely excellent live. But first to the story.

I was walking over the bridge on my way to the Mecca when I ran into a semi-familiar face, who will remain nameless (in order to protect the (perhaps not so) innocent). “Are you not going to the Mecca tonight?” I said to the person. “No” they replied, “I have already been and I have pinched the band’s wah wah pedal, so I am going home with it in case I get caught!” At this point, they opened their Levi denim jacket to reveal a Cry Baby wah wah pedal; which were state-of-the-art and very cool at the time. “Wow” (or something equivalent) was my response. They made me promise not to say anything, and I continued my way over the bridge and into the Mecca.

Sure enough, shortly after I arrived in the ballroom, I heard announcement over the PA speakers “someone has stolen the band’s wah wah pedal and they will not perform until it is returned!” Well of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be returned as it was hidden under their jacket and on its way back to their house. I told all my mates this, of course, and we all had a good laugh about it; wondering if the band would actually appear that night. After a significant wait, by which time they would be safely home with said pedal, and the band had obviously realised that it was not going to be returned, they finally took to the stage very late in the evening.

My recollection of the performance was Graham Bell’s powerful and soulful vocals soaring over a mix of rock, blues, pop and psychedelia. The backing band itself, were tremendous. John Turnbull and Nicky Gallagher were both already becoming local heroes and went on to provide the unforgettable rhythm and blues which is still The Blockheads. An excellent band, and a memorable evening, for several reasons!

bell 2

“Bell & Arc was a British pop group that existed from 1970 to 1972. It was formed when singer Graham Bell teamed up with the group Arc, whose original lineup was John Turnbull (guitar, vocals), Mickey Gallagher (keyboards, vocals), Tommy Duffy (bass), and Dave Trudex (drums). (Trudex was replaced by Rob Tait, who was then replaced by Alan White.) Arc made an album, Arc at This (1970), before joining with Bell and recording Bell and Arc (1971). The group then split. Turnbull and Gallagher later joined Ian Dury and the Blockheads.” (Artist Biography by William Ruhlmann)

I decided to treat myself to a copy of the Bell + Arc album, courtesy of eBay. The photographs are of the album which I bought and arrived the other day. Now I really must get round to playing it and see if I can remember any of the songs from that night (which, given my memory, is extremely unlikely).

The Nashville Teens and the Downliners Sect? Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1971?

The_nashville_teens

Now this one is something of a conundrum. I will explain why shortly.

Every week, on a Saturday night in the early 70s my friends and I would venture down to the Saturday night dance at Sunderland Polytechnic in Wearmouth Hall, which was the students union building. We would never know which bands to expect; all would be revealed written in chalk on a blackboard in the entrance. So every Saturday was something of a great surprise. We would come along and see famous names written on the board: Arthur Brown, Screaming Lord Sutch, Shaking Stevens and the Sunsets, the Wild Angels, and many more. Some of these I have already blogged on; some I will write about in the weeks to come.

Well one Saturday night we came along and the names on the board were “The Nashville Teens” (who I had heard of) and the “Downliners Sect” (who I had vaguely heard something about).

“We were quite influenced by the Downliners Sect” – David Bowie referring to David Bowie and the King Bees in Q Magazine. “The first British R&B I heard was the Downliners Sect. It was at the Ken Colyer Club, they were really doing it then. I heard the Pretty Things later but the Downliners Sect were IT “- Van Morrison (Official site)

Now The Nashville Teens were a band from the 60s who had been in the charts with their big hit “Tobacco Road“, so I was quite excited about seeing them. And the Downliners Sect were a legendary rhythm and blues band, also from the 60s. Now here comes the conundrum. Everything I’ve read about the Downliners Sect tells me that they split up in the late 60s, around 1968, and didn’t reappear until the later 70s, reforming off the back of the pub rock and punk movement. But my memory tells me that I definitely saw a band called the Downliners Sect that night. Whether I did or not, and who the personnel were, is, as they say, lost in the mists of time and in my failing memory.

I recall, the Downliners Sect played a set of rhythm and blues standards and were quite good. But the main attraction for me was witnessing the legendary Nashville Teens and seeing them play “Tobacco Road”. I do remember thinking that all of the members, other than the singer (who was presumably the original singer Ray Phillips) looked quite young, had long hair, and looked a little out of place in a 60s band. Nonetheless, they played a great version of “Tobacco Road”.

So there we go. A good night was, as they say, had by all. But the conundrum remains in my mind. Such things drive me crazy every now and then; but then I realise there is nothing I can do about it. Unless someone out there can enlighten me?

“I was born in a trunk.
Mama died and my daddy got drunk.
Left me here to die alone
In the middle of Tobacco Road.” (John D Loudermilk, 1959).

Picture of the Nashville Teens courtesy of Pop Weekly, via Wikimedia Commons

Ducks Deluxe Marquee club London 20 June 1975

ducks marqueeI am now at the point of adding entries to my blog, when I suddenly remember a concert from many years ago that I have yet to write about. This comes about for two reasons. Firstly, I created the blog by working systematically through my tickets and programmes. Secondly, however, this means that I missed concerts along the way if I did not have a ticket or a programme or a strong memory of the gig. So every now and then one pops into my mind. This gig, is one such example. Some of these are already listed briefly in a post entitled “Other Memories”. But now is the time to write about those other memories!

This gig was the night before a group of us went to see Elton John (with strong support from the Beach Boys and Eagles, among others) at Wembley Stadium. I drove down to London early with a friend in my small red MG Midget sports car and we were staying at a friend’s flat in Acton. He had just moved to London and we were keen to go down and see how he was getting on in the big city. He would regularly go to the Marquee Club, which made us very jealous, as it was a legendary venue from the 1960s onward. The image above, courtesy of Picachord via Wikimedia Commons, shows the site of the original club in Wardour Street. 

“The Marquee Club was a music venue first located at 165 Oxford Street in London, when it opened in 1958 with a range of jazz and skiffle acts. Its most famous period was from 1964 to 1988 at 90 Wardour Street in Soho, and it finally closed when at 105 Charing Cross Road in 1996, though the name has been revived unsuccessfully three times in the 21st century. It was always a small and relatively cheap club, located in the heart of the music industry in London’s West End, and used to launch the careers of generations of rock acts. It was a key venue for early performances by bands who were to achieve worldwide fame in the 1960s and remained a venue for young bands in the following decades. It was the location of the first-ever live performance by the Rolling Stones on 12 July 1962.” (Wikipedia, accessed 28 June 2021)

ducks1And so it was that I, and two friends (who shall remain nameless for reasons which will become obvious); one from Sunderland who had come down to London with me, and another who had recently moved to Acton, went along to savour the delights of the Marquee Club and the pub rock band Ducks Deluxe. I had heard of Ducks Deluxe, although I had never seen them before and I had also heard of the developing pub rock scene, which saw new rock, blues and country based bands playing small clubs and pubs across the capital. This was offering a welcome alternative to seeing our heroes and idols in massive arenas, such as Earls Court (where I had recently seen Led Zeppelin) and Wembley Stadium (where I was about to see Elton John, the following day). The pub rock genre took music back to the basics, back into the pubs and clubs, and back to the people.

I was quite surprised how small the Marquee Club was and how ordinary the entrance appeared. It was a small door and frontage in Wardour Street, Soho. Nevertheless, it was exciting to become part of the London scene, even if only, for one night. I was also surprised that the venue was far from packed. We arrived early to catch the support band and waited for Ducks Deluxe to take the stage. 

“One of the first pub rock bands, the Ducks played basic American-style blues and boogie with remarkable panache and thorough disregard for convention. They were hugely popular but their records sales did not compare with their live success. Nevertheless, they had a heavy influence on the English punk scene that was right around the corner before their members went on to found other far more prominent bands like Graham Parker & the Rumour, the Motors and the Tyla Gang.” (Ducks Deluxe site, accessed 28 June 2021)

I recall Ducks Deluxe performance as being a mix of country rock and rock ‘n’ roll, led by the guitarist Martin Belmont, who had been a roadie for Brinsley Schwarz. This was at the time of their second album Taxi To The Terminal Zone. However, I was not to see the full performance by Ducks Deluxe that evening. As the evening progressed, my friend who had come down to London with me, disappeared into the toilets. He was later to reappear, telling us that he was not feeling well and that he had taken a tablet which later, he admitted, was probably some (presumably bad) acid (that is, LSD). He soon became very unwell to the extent that we were concerned enough to call for an ambulance. The ambulance soon arrived and we were taken to a nearby hospital (I don’t recall which one). The doctors soon recognised the problem, and told us not to worry and that he would soon be okay. However, we spent the whole night in the hospital while he shouted for me, asking for help. By the time the morning came he was okay, discharged from hospital, and we made our way back to Acton for a few hours sleep before leaving for Wembley ducks2Stadium and the Elton John concert (a story which I have already blogged on).

And so, that was my introduction to the Marquee Club, pub rock and London nightlife. Quite fun looking back, although quite worrying at the time. Ducks Deluxe were, from what I saw, excellent. This was, in a way, the start of things to come for me. The following year I would see the Sex Pistols for the first time and my eyes would be opened to a new form of rock music, born out of the likes of Ducks Deluxe and the pub rock scene. “Nostalgia for an age yet to come” (Buzzcocks, 1978). Happy days.

Stan Webb and Chicken Shack The Cluny Newcastle 27 April 2018

Stan Webb is the Man! Although best known for their rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind”, featuring Christine Perfectchicken tix (later McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame), the man behind Chicken Shack was, is, and always has been the great Stan Webb. Stan is, without question, one of the greatest and most underrated guitarists of all time. For me, he stands up there with the UK greats including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee and Peter Green. His use of tone, dynamics and his dexterity on the fretboard is second to none. Stan understands, and feels, the blues just as much as any of the great old black bluesman. His reinterpretations of classics such as “Thrill Is Gone” and “If I Were a Carpenter” are excellent; he starts off quietly; with long, meandering guitars solos which lead into loud, heavy, introductions to the songs accompanied by Stan’s unique vocals.

Now celebrating over 50 years of Chicken Shack, Stan continues to play and tour and on this evening, graces the Newcastle Cluny with his presence. Entering the Cluny in a wheelchair is pretty straightforward; the staff turn up at the door, expecting me, and place a ramp over the step so I can enter the venue. My carer Jackie and I are then led through a small door at the side of the bar which takes us into the lower part of the concert room, not far from the stage. And with a great view of Stan and Chicken Shack.

Stan treats us to an evening of the blues, with his usual guitar dynamics. Sometimes he will hold his hand to his ear in the style of the old folk singers.

I recall him opening with “Thrill Is Gone”, much to my delight and playing two of my favourites: “Poor Boy” which utilises the aforementioned guitar dynamics, building from a quiet start to a rousing, almost deafening climax and “Daughter of the Hillside”, a Chicken Shack favourite which is also quite loud. We were also treated to a great version of “Nightlife”, the B-side of “I’d Rather Go Blind”. Excellent. The rest of the set comprises a mix of blues classics. Stan closes, as he often does, with the Chicken Shack hit record from 1969 “I’d Rather Go Blind“. Another great evening with a classic rock and blues guitarist.

Set list (something like this!): The Thrill Is Gone; Going Up Going Down; You Shook Me; (You Are) The Sweetest Little Thing; Prisoner; Night Life; Poor Boy; Too Late to Cry; Doctor Brown; Daughter of the Hillside; Encore: I’d Rather Go Blind.

KISS Newcastle Arena 14 July 2019 The End of the Road Tour

kiss tix“James Bond has a license to kill, rockstars have a license to be outrageous. Rock is about grabbing people’s attention.” “I was never interested in being a rock star. I always wanted to be Boris Karloff.” (Gene Simmons).

“A KISS concert experience is like sex or anything else that’s done with more that one person. It’s the give and take that makes it so great. When the audience takes it to the next level, we can kick it up another notch.” (Paul Stanley).

I saw KISS on their first UK tour, so I guess I had to see them on their last! Now I never took them too seriously, but then I guess they never took themselves seriously either. KISS are not, never were and never will be, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world; but they are a great rock ‘n’ roll experience and one of the best nights out you can have. So, some 43 years since I first saw them at Birmingham Odeon, there I was in Newcastle Arena with my carer, Lisa, witnessing what will probably be my last ever KISS experience.

kiss 1 phoSo I went along, no preconceptions, not expecting too much and more out of interest than anything. And what did I get? Probably in terms of a concert, and experience, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza you can imagine. You think of it and KISS do it: loud (and I mean LOUD) rock music, rising drum kit, Gene Simmons spitting blood and breathing fire (and playing some loud, fast bass), Paul Stanley coming round the crowd on a mini stage hoisted on a small crane, explosions, fireworks, rockets: you name it and KISS give you it. A total over the top experience. Wow and double Wow!

Now KISS wear their influences on their sleeves. The intro to the concert is Led kiss 2 phoZeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” (quite fitting). They march on stage and original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley get massive cheers from the crowd. Gene Simmons still has the longest, funniest tongue in the business and Paul Stanley remains the ultimate rock god caricature. “Lick It up” contains a short segment of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (the Who). The songs are not the greatest, nor the most memorable, but they are great rock ‘n’ roll tunes and the spectacle overpowers the music. Of course we all know and sing along to “Crazy Crazy Nights” and (Argent’s) “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You” and for the rest of the night we get lost in the loudness, craziness and showmanship. In many ways the best rock ‘n’ roll night out you could have. Even Lisa, new to the band, came away with a big grin on her face.

kiss progSetlist: Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin song as intro); Detroit Rock City; Shout It Out Loud; Deuce; Say Yeah; I Love It Loud; Heaven’s on Fire; War Machine (Gene breathes fire); Lick It Up (with short segment of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” ); Calling Dr. Love; 100,000 Years (with drum solo); Cold Gin; God of Thunder (Gene spits blood); Psycho Circus; Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll; Love Gun (Paul on stage in crowd for this song and the next); I Was Made for Lovin’ You; Black Diamond. Encore: Beth; Crazy Crazy Nights; Rock and Roll All Nite; God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You

Many thanks to Lisa for the photographs and Chris for converting them for me.

Status Quo Newcastle City Hall 6th December 2017

Francis has done some naughty things lately, in my view. Firstly, I miss Rick. In fact I miss Rick to the extent that I thought Status Quo shouldn’t continue when he passed away. I am a long-term Status Quo fan since I first saw them in 1971 and I must have seen them at least 30 times since then, maybe even 40 or 50; I have lost count. I thought I couldn’t bring myself to go and see Status Quo without Rick, but there I was in the City Hall quo tixwaiting to see what the new band was like. And secondly, Francis told us that the Last of the Electrics tour, would be just that; the last electric rock Status Quo tour. In fact, if you look at the ticket, you will see that the show was originally announced as an acoustic tour, Aquostic. Somewhere along the line, Francis decided to go back to the rock show. Now I was partly looking forward to the acoustic concert, but I was also secretly pleased that this was going to be a rock tour. Anyway, as I said, there I was, a little against my better judgement, sitting in my chair at the end of the row waiting for my first dose of the new Status Quo, with my carer Jackie.

The band are heralded onto stage with the usual drone, which leads into those opening chords of “Caroline” which always hit me emotionally and new guitarist, Richie Malone, does justice to Rick’s power chords. The set is a mixture of old favourites such as “Little Lady” and “Softer Ride”, and new (and now becoming classics in their own) “Creepin’ up on You” and (the mildly racist) “The Oriental.” The usual Status Quo medley of hits quo progcontains some other old favourites “Down the Dust Pipe” and “Railroad” and is swiftly followed by the loud, driving chords of “Down Down” and I know we are on the home strait now. They end with, as they always do now, “Rockin’ All over the World.” The encore starts with the classic “Don’t Waste My Time “from the equally classic album Piledriver, followed by (the little too middle-of-the-road/poppy for me) “Burning Bridges” and they finally end with, as always, “Bye Bye Johnny.” Well you know what, that was actually pretty good, and I forgive you Francis for all your recent naughty deeds (as referred to above). So Status Quo are back, and you know, they are actually pretty good. I even bought tickets to see them again at the Sage Gateshead later this year (if we ever get out of this crazy lockdown safely) and I am really looking forward to it. And…… I even rejoined the fan club. So, in the lyrics of “Beginning of the End”, “Happy days are here again.” 🙂

Setlist: Caroline; Something ’bout You Baby I Like; Rain; Little Lady; Softer Ride; Beginning of the End;    Hold You Back; What You’re Proposing / Down the Dustpipe / Wild Side of Life / Railroad / Again and Again; Paper Plane; The Oriental; Creepin’ Up on You; Don’t Drive My Car; In the Army Now; Roll Over Lay Down; Down Down; Whatever You Want; Rockin’ All Over the World. Encore: Don’t Waste My Time; Burning Bridges; Rock and Roll Music / Bye Bye Johnny.

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
brewery-arts-centreWhen I was a teenager I would listen intently to “In Concert” on the radio. There are three broadcasts that I recall very strongly. The first was by Led Zeppelin, recorded at the Albert Hall; the second Fleetwood Mac; and the other was Soft Machine. It will have been 1970 or 1971. Of the three, the Soft Machine concert was, for me, the most memorable. I still remember the impact it had. The strange sounds coming out of my radio intrigued me; I immediately became a fan. The music was so different to that of other bands, and to anything else I was listening to at the time. If I remember correctly, the concert was introduced by John Peel, who championed Soft Machine at the time. Their “songs’ sounded like long improvisations; however I now realise that was the nature of the band’s music and the songs were probably more planned than I thought. I think they may have played “Moon in June”, “Facelift” and a few other tracks from “Soft Machine 3”.
I only got to see Soft Machine live twice. Both occasions were in the mid-70s; by which time Soft Machine had completed its transformation from psychedelia to jazz-rock. The first time I saw the band was at the Reading Festival, and the second at Newcastle Guildhall as part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. Last night I took up on the chance of seeing Soft Machine again; when the latest line-up performed at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre.
The current line-up of Soft Machine was launched (initially as Soft Machine Legacy) in 2004. The line-up consisted of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Etheridge and John Marshall: four long-time members from different eras of the legendary group. In 2006 Elton Dean sadly passed away and his place on sax and flute was taken by Theo Travis, who has an association with Gong and David Gilmour and is a long time fan of Soft Machine’s music. Hugh Hopper sadly passed away in 2008. His place was taken by veteran bass player Roy Babbington, who first joined the group in 1970. This reunited 3/5ths of the 1975-77 Soft Machine line-up. SoftMachine_2016Since 2010 the band has recorded a new, and highly acclaimed album “Burden of Proof” and they continue to tour. “Burden of Proof” is (from the venue website): “a collection of songs that basically has something for everyone; challenging jazz-fusion, adventurous prog-rock, bits of chaotic free-jazz, atmospheric instrumental pop-jazz, and even a little hard rock. Extraordinary!”
I had an uneventful drive over to Kendal, and took my seat in the Malt Room of the Brewery Arts Centre. Last time I was here was to see Marianne Faithful; which was some years ago. It’s a great venue and regularly features some classic acts. I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Soft Machine; I guess I thought I might find the jazzy instrumental nature of the songs a little hard going. But I also knew that it was going to be worth the effort in order to reacquaint myself with the music of Soft Machine.
The band came onstage just before 8.30pm and launched straight into “The Steamer” from the 2006 Soft Machine Legacy album “Steam”. The sound was clear, crisp. The music a mix of jazz and prog. Guitarist John Etheridge introduced the songs and seemed to be taking the lead. He explained how the last incarnation of Soft Machine had seen former members put old disputes behind them, and how time had allowed that to happen. He also explained that veteran Soft’s drummer John Marshall was unwell, suffering from a bad back and unable to make this tour. The guy standing in did an excellent job.
FullSizeRender(7)The concert comprised two sets and drew from Soft Machine’s extensive back catalogue, going back to 1970 and “3” for “Facelift” and to “4” for “Kings and Queens”. The music was much more varied than I had imagined, and ranged from guitar-riff-driven hard rock, through jazz (with mucho sax) to atmospheric flute-led prog; the latter songs being my own favourites. The musicianship was excellent, and Etheridge joked and talked to the audience a lot more than I had anticipated. In fact, he explained that “back in the day” the members of Soft Machine would never speak to, or acknowledge, the audience. The evening passed quickly, and I realised that I had after all enjoyed it; actually a lot. It was very much a concert; rather than a rock gig; but hey that’s just fine for me these days.
The concert finished shortly after 10.30pm; I was back home around 12.30am. I’ve spent this morning playing my vinyl copies of Soft Machine “3” and “4”. Happy days.
Set 1: The Steamer; Hazard Profile; Chloe and the Pirates; Voyage beyond Seven; Song of Aeolus; Grape Hound
Set 2: Burden of Proof; Facelift / the Last Day; Kings and Queens; Relegation of Pluto / Transit
Encore: Gesolreut

The Who Wembley Arena 13th Feb 2016

The Who Wembley Arena 13th Feb 2016
imageLast night The Who returned to their home turf to play a one-off gig at Wembley Arena. Roger Daltrey has been suffering from viral meningitis, which resulted in the postponement of the last leg of their American Tour, and this gig was slotted in by way of a warm-up before the band returns to the USA to play the rearranged dates. I’m pleased to report that Roger looks and sounds well, although he did tell us that he wasn’t 100% and that his “legs weren’t fully there”. Well it didn’t show. This was another classic Who performance, easily on par with, if not surpassing, their Hyde Park show last Summer. A sold-out crowd of locals and die-hard Who fans from across Europe gave the band the rousing London welcome they deserve. The Who Hits 50! Tour is a celebration of the amazing legacy of a legendary band who have given us so much over the years. This was my 21st (I think) Who live experience, and the third time I’ve seen them on the current tour, having caught the first leg of the tour at Newcastle Arena in late 2014 and the Hyde Park gig last summer. The set is largely the same, although it has become slightly shorter with openers “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” being dropped, as has their early attempt at a mini opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away)”. Last night we were treated to the inclusion of the instrumental “The Rock” as part of a trio of songs from “Quadrophenia”.
imageThe evening started with a slide show which took us through the history of the band, and featured many great images of the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle. This tour is a celebration of their legacy and contribution, as well as a run through of some of the Who’s greatest songs. The band walked on stage and launched straight into “Who Are You?” and away we went on another amazing journey through so many classic tunes; a history of this extraordinary band, and also of our own lives and memories. The giant screen behind the stage displayed powerful full-face images of Roger, Pete, Keith and John, along with clips of the Who in the ’60s and the ’70s and clips from Quadrophenia. The sound was crisp; I was sitting halfway back on the terrace to the left of the stage, and every note was very clear. The first part of the set featured early classics: “The Seeker”, “Picture of Lily”, “The Kids are Alright”, “My Generation” and my personal favourite “I Can See for Miles”. Then we moved swiftly to the ’70s and the haunting “Behind Blue Eyes” followed by “Bargain” from “Who’s Next”, “Join Together”, and “You Better You Bet”. The aforementioned segment from “Quadrophenia” followed. “Eminence Front” is not my favourite track, so I took the opportunity to have a walk around the arena, finding a spot downstairs on the floor towards the back. I spent the rest of evening there, enjoying the band and observing the crowd singing along, dancing and generally going crazy. imageThe songs from “Tommy” followed, culminating in a powerful crowd singalong to “Listening to You” which always gets me. I knew we were on the home stretch. Roger’s voice was holding out fine, and Pete was full of power and angst, twirling and twirling his arm, and squeezing great solos out of his Fender Stratocaster. The familiar minimalist synthesiser intro signalled “Baba O’Reilly” which then lead into closing song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”; as raw and relevant as ever. Pure class. Pete introduced the band, and they left the stage at around 10.30pm. I took the 2 minute walk across the road to the Wembley Hilton. Pete said at the end “Hope to see you again.” Yes indeed, hope so.
Setlist: Who Are You; The Seeker; The Kids Are Alright; I Can See for Miles; My Generation; Pictures of Lily; Behind Blue Eyes; Bargain; Join Together; You Better You Bet; I’m One; The Rock; Love Reign O’er Me; Eminence Front; Amazing Journey/Sparks; Pinball Wizard; See Me Feel Me/Listening to You; Baba O’Reilly; Won’t Get Fooled Again
I’m typing this on a very slow train (engineering works on a Sunday) which is gradually taking me back home ‘up north’. Next stop is York. I’m feeling quite tired and stiff this morning; must be starting to feel my age.