Posts Tagged ‘rock’

Jeff Beck Sage Gateshead 2 June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitesnake, Foreigner and Europe Newcastle Utilita Arena 14 May 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Numan Newcastle City Hall 11 May 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interval

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

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

Robert Plant and Saving Grace Middlesbrough Town Hall 25 April 2022

SAVING GRACE TIXMy head is still reeling with the music and sounds from last night. And the concert raised so many questions for me. Why is the rock legend, rock god, who is Robert Plant playing small venues such as Middlesbrough Town Hall and not singing any Led Zeppelin songs? After all he could reform Led Zeppelin, as many promoters and ex-bandmate Jimmy Page would apparently like him to do, and earn megabucks. Yet he chooses not to. And why do so many people turn out to see Robert Plant sing with a relatively unknown female vocalist, Suzi Dian (who has an exquisite voice by the way), and perform a set of mostly obscure songs which the majority of the audience would not be familiar with? Yet why did I come away from the concert feeling so fulfilled, elated and exhilarated?

It is some years since I have been to Middlesbrough Town Hall. The last time I was there was to see Morrissey with my daughter, Laura. I wondered how I would get in to the venue in a wheelchair. I need not have worried. No longer is there a requirement to walk up a large flight of stairs to take you into the venue. They have built a new accessible entrance around the corner which took me to a lift and upstairs into the, very familiar, main hall; a lovely old panelled building in which I have seen many acts over the years including Siouxsie and the Banshees, AC/DC, Van Morrison, Procol Harem, the Hollies and too many more to list (or remember). Lisa my carer and I were led to our seats close to the stage. I was seated at the end of the role, a little squashed, but with an excellent view of the stage. First up was singer-songwriter Scott Matthews who opened the proceedings with a set of fine tunes which warmed up the crowd well. Following a short interval, during which I chatted to an old friend and colleague and had a lovely cool pint of Guinness, Saving Grace took to the stage.

saveing graceSaving Grace is very much a band. Of course people had turned out to see the main man, Robert Plant. But Robert is simply a singer in the band along with Suzi. The rest of Saving Grace comprises two guitarists and a percussionist; all excellent musicians in their own right and also providing some backing vocals. Lisa mentioned that the main hall may have been a church in earlier days (I must check this out). It certainly has stained glass windows on one side and a large church – like organ behind the stage. Tonight it certainly became “a church” in which we all enjoyed a spiritual and soulful journey led by a man who has explored spiritual themes throughout his career; “Stairway to Heaven” being one obvious example. The set comprised songs which Robert, unashamedly, has chosen because they have influenced him and touched him over the years. So there were the traditional such as “The Cuckoo” and “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down”, old blues songs and classic progressive/psychedelic tracks including “It’s a Beautiful Day Today” by Moby Grape and (one of my all-time favourite songs) “Season of the Witch” by Robert’s old friend Donovan. The stage setup was quite basic with a simple curtain backdrop naming the band and unobtrusive lighting. But the music was exquisite, challenging, soulful and beautiful. Robert shared the vocals with Suzi and, in many cases, took us through the story of the song and what it meant to him. He even forgot which song he was introducing at one point and Suzi came over and whispered in his ear; tactfully correcting his mistake. There were references to performing at Redcar Jazz Club in 1966 with Long John Baldry. Many of the audience clapped, showing their age! “Season of the Witch “, led by Suzi, transformed into “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield at one point; another reference point to Robert’s roots. The final song was an old Richard and Linda Thompson track, again taking us back to the late 60s/early 70s. The lights went up to signify the end of the show. But the crowd weren’t ready to leave just yet. Everyone stood up and cheered until the band returned.

SAVING GRACE 2Oh, and I must not forget that they sang a couple of songs by new American band Low. Robert spoke highly of them; another thing to check out. I learned lots of things last night. The final song was performed a cappella with the band all coming together at the front, arms entwined, singing the beautiful “And We Bid You Good Night”. Robert playfully said “see you soon at Kirklevington country club”. For some moments I believed this to be serious. But then I don’t think the wonderful venue that was referred to as “the Kirk”, and was 10 miles or so south of Middlesbrough, exists any more. Of course, Robert played there with his band the Honeydrippers many years ago. We wandered out into the cool dark Middlesbrough night, everyone chatting and looking at each other, each of us knowing we had just had the privilege of experiencing something very special and unique. The 45 minute taxi ride flew over and I was soon safely back home.

Returning to my questions which I can now partly answer. Why is Robert playing intimate venues with a set of semi-obscure songs? The answer lies in the man that is Robert Plant. He sings because he wants to and he has to; singing lies deep within his soul. And he chooses to share with us some of the songs which are important to him, hoping in doing so that we will enjoy the concert experience and learn a little more about the man and his music. And why do we all turn out to see Robert Plant? Because somewhere over the years his music has touched each and everyone of us in a different place, and a different time. For me it lies in important memories of seeing Led Zeppelin in 1971 at Newcastle City Hall and Sunderland Locarno; in Earls Court in 1975; Knebworth in 1979; more recently at the O2 Arena and solo many other times. There is a magical quality about Robert Plant. Long may he invite us to share evenings of his songs and memories.

Many thanks to Ned my taxidriver, Lisa for accompanying me to the concert, and Chris for helping me back into bed. And thanks once more to Robert Plant for sharing some of his songs, his memories and his soul with me; one more time.

Setlist (something like this, with several missed out!):

Angel Dance; The Cuckoo; I Don’t Wanna Hear It; Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down; Everybody’s Song; It’s a Beautiful Day Today; Monkey;  As I Roved Out; Too Far From You; Chevrolet; Season of the Witch, For What Its Worth; House of Cards.

Encore: Down To the Sea; And We Bid You Goodnight

 

Van Morrison Sage Gateshead 24 March 2022

van tixVan the Man and I go back a long way! I’ve been a fan for many years, since the early 70s when I saw him a few times at festivals and in Newcastle City Hall, once at a particularly triumphant show when he played with the Caledonian Soul Orchestra and was simply tremendous. My last encounter with the great man was on a cold August night on Newcastle racecourse during covid restrictions. It was an outdoor socially distanced “arena” concert and worked quite well. Van was, as he usually is these days, on top form that night.

For me, the guy is simply a genius. I rate him alongside seeing Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and many other great artists from my past. Everyone I go to see is quite old these days, but then so am I, and like fine wine many of these artists have matured with age. They have come to terms with their back catalogues and frequently draw from them; whereas in the 80s they would often neglect some of their own excellent classic songs. Van has a very distinctive voice, and uses it to great effect. I have heard his voice described as transcendental, spiritual; he uses his voice as the true instrument that it is.

van 1The Sage is packed, completely sold out, demonstrating the staying power of Van Morrison. We all know what to expect. The advertised stage times are 8 PM start; 9:35 PM finish and Van sticks to that more or less exactly. The set is a mixture of old favourites and some new songs from his Latest Record Project album. Van looks quite dapper in blue suit and matching hat. He is surrounded by excellent musicians and like any great bandleader a wave of his hand or a simple flash of his eyes signals to a band member to start, or finish, their solo spot. The band open the proceedings before they are soon joined by Van Morrison who is in fine voice and looks well. He plays quite a lot of saxophone, perhaps a little too much for me, but overall the mix is fine. His guitarist, female singer and vibraphone player are worthy of particular mention. The keyboard player also takes a lead on many of the songs, playing what looks to me like an old Hammond organ. The double bass player and drummer are also excellent (apologies if I missed any other band members!) Van accompanies his singing with his usual jerky up-and-down arm movements, choreographed in time to the music.

Classics like “Days like This” and “And It Stoned Me” sound as fresh as ever. Towards the end Van leavesvan 3 the stage, soon to return and delight the audience with the classic tracks “Brown Eyed Girl” and, finally, the Them 60s hit “Gloria”. Van leaves the stage again, this time for the last, and the band continue jamming on “Gloria” for 5 to 10 minutes, each member taking a solo. Of course we all know that that is the end, but everyone stays until the last note is played. As we file out, I see a lot of smiling faces: everyone enjoyed the show. After all, we all know what to expect and these days Van always delivers his best. Me, I would have liked to have heard “Into the Mystic”, “Moon Dance” and “Here Comes the Night”, but maybe I am just being greedy! The concert and the man were as great as ever. Long may he return to sing for us.

van 2Someone once told me that Van Morrison returns home on his private plane back to Ireland every night after the show. I often wonder if this is true. The man is a genius, an enigma and we are lucky to be able to witness him perform his magic. Happy days.

Setlist:(Something like this) Caledonia Swing; Latest Record Project; Deadbeat Saturday Night; Double Agent; Days Like This; Someone Like You; Magic Time; Precious Time; Laughin’ and Clownin’; My Time After a While; Ain’t Gonna Moan No More; These Dreams of You; Sometimes We Cry; And It Stoned Me; Enlightenment; Broken Record; Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria

Many thanks to Jackie, photographer for the night, and Elaine for helping me into bed; the garage beat of “Gloria” still pounding in my head.

Status Quo Stockton Globe Theatre 3 March 2022

Status Quo. A band I have a long, enduring history and friendship with. A night of nostalgia and emotionSTATUS TIX on many fronts. I will recount these below.

The Venue. Stockton Globe is a legendary theatre. I remember hearing of it in the late 60s and the early 70s. Many, many great bands played there before it closed: The Globe is a Grade II listed Art Deco theatre, in Stockton-on-Tees, England. From the 1950s to the 1970s the Globe was a premier venue hosting many famous acts, such as Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Cilla Black, Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard and Chuck Berry. The Beatles twice played at the Globe, the first on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As late as the 1970s, bands such as Mud, Showaddywaddy and the Bay City Rollers played there. Whilst the theatre played host to these famous bands, it was also a cinema. One strange coincidence, the guy a few seats along mentioned to us: Status Quo were the final rock band to play there in December 1974, which is confirmed by Wikipedia. It is strange Francis didn’t mention this. Maybe he was not aware of the fact. The doors of the Globe closed only to re-open as a bingo venue for a few years until closing for good in 1997. However, it has recently undergone a £4 million renovation, maintaining its wonderful art decor features and reopening a few weeks ago. It holds around 3000 people. (Some of this courtesy of Wikipedia).

STATUS 3Status Quo. I must’ve seen Status Quo more than 50 or 60 times since the first time I was lucky enough to witness them close up in Sunderland Locarno in 1971. Since then I have seen them again in the Locarno, Sunderland Top Rank Suite, Sunderland Empire, graduating to Newcastle City Hall where I saw them many, many times on their annual tours, several festivals including Lincoln 1972, Reading many times (including at least one headline appearance), headlining Donington Monsters of Rock, opening Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, splitting up and reforming, and then seeing them at Whitley Bay ice Rink, the Sage Gateshead, back to the City Hall many times, open-air summer shows, Harrogate centre, the return of the frantic four at Manchester Apollo, Newcastle Arena, Birmingham NEC and so many other places over 50+ years. I love this band and their music and they never let me down. Some people view them as a “joke”. But they are a great rock ‘n’ roll band; the best UK boogie band there is.

Francis Rossi. This guy is one of my heroes. His banter with the crowd is well-known; the cheeky Cockney chappie comes through and he always has a bit crack on and joke with the audience, talking to us as if we are old friends (which of course, many of us are). Tonight is no different. He talks about being off the stage for the longest time ever because of that “dodgy cold” (his words, not mine). A few years ago, when STATUS 2Rick Parfitt sadly passed, I felt strongly that Francis should not continue without his old mate. Rick was simply the best rhythm guitarist and one man boogie machine that has ever lived. In many ways I felt the soul of the band was gone; after all it was always about those two friends together. However, I now believe he was right to continue. Francis has assembled a lineup with old and new members, which does continue the rocking soul of the band and plays tribute to Rick and his legacy. It is strange to see new people sing old favourites such as “Rain “, but somehow it works. So more power to your elbow Francis; please do keep this band going for as long as you can. The loud, rocking boogie machine which is Status Quo continues.

STATUS PROG 22Andy Bown. Andy joined Status Quo in the early 1970s and became a full member during the 1980s. He has been playing keyboards and sometimes guitar for the band for almost 50 years. As such, he is the longest serving member after Francis.It was great to see him coming up front alongside Francis and the others. He was up front more this time than usual, I think, which is a good thing; it felt right seeing him up and more in the spotlight. Andy was, of course, a member of the classic 60s band The Herd, alongside Peter Frampton; who produced a wonderful trio of singles; the quite strange, psychedelic, proto-Gothic “Paradise Lost” and “From the Underworld”, along with the much more pop oriented “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die”. Now wouldn’t it be great if Andy sang one of those songs with Status Quo? What do you think Francis?

The Performance. It was as good as ever. The set list was predictable, but so what! Yes, they started with the usual “Drone” intro, followed by “Caroline” and finished with “Rockin’ All over the World”. In between they played the usual mix of old and new, four from the latest album, some very old tracks such as “Softer Ride”, a medley of greatest hits, “In the Army Now”, “Down Down”, and others. The place was packed, which I found quite surprising to be honest; the fan base continues to be strong, all decked in denim and STATUS 1Quo patches. And they were loud, very LOUD: great! Sadly, but understandably, everyone stood up. We were right down the front but I couldn’t see much from my wheelchair with everyone standing around me. But such is life. The encore was “Paper Plane”. Status Quo were simply first-class, as good as ever; everyone strolled out of the theatre into the cold, dark night; happy and satisfied. Another great night with an old friend and a great band. Happy days.

Oh, and a special mention for the excellent support act Laurence Jones, who performed a fine set of blues rock, finishing with an excellent version of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”.

Setlist: Caroline; Rain; Little Lady; Softer Ride; Beginning of the End; Hold You Back; Backing Off; Get Out of My Head; What You’re Proposing / Down the Dustpipe / Wild Side of Life / Railroad / Again and Again; Mystery Song; The Oriental; Cut Me Some Slack; Liberty Lane; In the Army Now; Roll Over Lay Down; Down Down; Whatever You Want; Rockin’ All Over the World

Encore: Paper Plane

Many thanks to Jackie the photographer and Chris for turning out late to help get me into my bed for the evening, my ears still ringing and memories of Quo swirling through my head.

The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 18 February 2022

strangstixWell here I am. Back at the City Hall with The Stranglers. So many memories. Happy days again, yet tinged with mixed emotions, some of elation, some of sadness. So many different perspectives: the venue, the band, myself, family. I will explain each of these below.

The Venue. Newcastle City Hall is almost like a second home to me. I have seen so many concerts there; probably several hundred, maybe over 1000. My first was back in early 1971 when I saw Iron Butterfly supported by Yes and Dada (who included the late, sadly missed, superb vocalist Robert Palmer and Elkie STRANG4Brooks who, of course, went on to much greater success in Vinegar Joe, again with Robert Palmer, and as a soloist). Soon I saw the Rolling Stones there, a few weeks later, and then many more bands over the years including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more over a 50+ year period. For the first time they had somehow managed to remove all of the seats from the downstairs area, allowing a massive crowd of Stranglers fans to jump around and have fun to the music. It was very strange, yet refreshing, to be part of a very different experience in a very differently configured City Hall.

The Band. This is The Stranglers Final Full UK Tour. The tour has been postponed for some time partly due to Covid and partly because of the sad passing of founder member Dave Greenfield; he of the great swirling, driving keyboards that underpinned, and led, all of those Stranglers classics. At one point the STRANG2tour was almost cancelled but fan demand persuaded the members to continue in tribute to Dave Greenfield’s massive contribution to the band and their music. Only Jean-Jacques Burnel remains from the original lineup. Drummer Jet Black retired some years ago. Lead singer and songwriter Hugh Cornwell left many years ago, and after a few line-up changes including one with both a vocalist and a guitarist, his position is filled by local Sunderland lad Baz Warne with Baz taking over vocal and guitar duties and becoming the band’s main front man. The Stranglers were the first punk band to play Newcastle City Hall in 1977, a concert which I attended and was absolutely stupendous. Later in 1977 they returned and after some altercations between Hugh, Jean-Jacques and the bouncers which ended up in a massive stage invasion The Stranglers were banned from the City Hall for a number of years. But the soul of the band remains as does the power of the music. Nothing is diminished, we are overwhelmed by a constant barrage of classic songs: right back to the start with “Grip” and “Peaches”, through the massive hits “Sweet Little Girl” and “Golden Brown” and many, many more along the way. This is The Stranglers at their best and just as I remember them from the many times I have seen them over the years. If this was to be the last time I experience this band, it couldn’t be any better. Jean-Jacques is a joy to see, quietly leading the band, his bass playing as booming and driving as ever. Baz has a bit fun with the Newcastle crowd, in terms of the Geordies/Makem rivalry. There are lots of encores and lots of dancing and moshing down at the front. For the first encore Jean-Jacques and Baz return as an acoustic duo and treat us to a couple of beautiful, more subdued, songs. The pace and volume then return for the second encore and the band finish, triumphant. The crowd go home overjoyed at the experience.

Myself. Even after a few years in a wheelchair I am still getting used to the experience of being different to, and separate from, the majority of the crowd. However there are some benefits. I am sitting with my carer and my sister-in-law (more of this below) perched on a disabled ramp up above the crowd, with a STRANG3great view over the heads of the jumping, swirling, moshing, crazy crowd below us.

Family. In 1977 I was accompanied to the Stranglers concert by my late wife, Marie. We took along her sister, now my sister-in-law, Elaine. Elaine was at the time a young teenager, excited by the new music known as punk. She is now one of my carers, but on this occasion came along to see The Stranglers as my guest. This was the first time she had seen them since that concert back in 1977. So 45 years later she was experiencing The Stranglers again. Her verdict was that they were just as good as they were “back in the day”! Having Elaine with me again, brought back lots of memories and mixed emotions. It is strange the twists and turns one experiences in one’s life.

I must not forget to give credit to the support act, Ruts DC; who are basically The Ruts without their sadly departed singer. We arrived late, but in time to see them perform their hit songs “I’m in a Rut” and RUTTS“Babylon’s Burning”. Both of these were very credible versions and it was great to hear them again.

So, to summarise. A night of very mixed emotions but overall one I greatly enjoyed. The last time I saw The Stranglers was in a muddy field at Glastonbury, once again with my late wife Marie. This time was probably the last, but was another excellent experience. Overall a happy night.

Many thanks to my carer Jackie for taking the photographs and doing a great job too.

Setlist: Toiler on the Sea; Something Better Change; Sometimes; Water ; Skin Deep; This Song; Nice ‘n’ Sleazy; Don’t Bring Harry; Strange Little Girl; Always the Sun ; Peaches; Golden Brown The Last Men on the Moon; (Get a) Grip (on Yourself) ; Curfew; White Stallion; Relentless; Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus); Walk On By; Straighten Out; Duchess; Hanging Around

Encore: The Lines; And If You Should See Dave…

Encore 2: Theme From Get Carter; Tank; No More Heroes

Mike Garson’s Bowie celebration live stream event 8 January 2022

This live stream event was the second produced by Mike Garson, former pianist with David Bowie forScreenshot (194) much of the 70s. I virtually attended Mike Garson’s previous event, which was excellent and consisted of a great collection of contemporary artists, all Bowie fans themselves, performing some of David Bowie’s best songs. This live stream event promised a similar collection of Bowie classics, performed by a different collection of artists including Joe Elliott with Def Leopard and solo, Living Colour, Simon Le Bon and John Taylor of Duran Duran, Noel Gallagher, Ricky Gervais and Gary Oldman, the latter two are of course both actors.

Screenshot (176)This was an equally splendid event with Joe Elliott clearly wearing his David Bowie fandom badge near his heart and Simon Le Bon putting in excellent versions of David Bowie classics. Gary Oldman once again performed astoundingly as a vocalist and Ricky Gervais spoke tenderly of his interactions with David Bowie, particularly in relation to his Extras TV programme. Mike Garson was, as before, an excellent master of ceremonies and compere for the entire event. Living colour, a band I am not familiar with, again surprised me with powerful and passionate versions of selections from David Bowie’s massive back catalogue. The house band, featuring Duran Duran’s John Taylor, gave excellent support to the solo vocalists.

Screenshot (179)Setlist: Fame (WALK THE MOON); Young Americans (Living Colour and David Sanborn); I’m Afraid of Americans (Living Colour); It Ain’t Easy (Judith Hill); Five Years (Gaby Moreno); Space Oddity (Billy Corgan); The Jean Genie (Bernard Fowler); Goodnight Mr. Jones (Joe Elliott); Time (Charlie Sexton and Gaby Moreno); Lazarus (Charlie Sexton); Golden Years (WALK THE MOON); Starman (Gretchen Parlato); As the World Falls Down (Evan Rachel Wood and The Worm from Labyrinth); Drive-In Saturday (Def Leppard); Ashes to Ashes (Charlie Sexton); Slip Away (Gary Oldman); Let’s Dance (Simon Le Bon and John Taylor); Wild Is the Wind (Bernard Fowler and Judith Hill); All the Young Dudes (Joe Sumner); Valentine’s Day (Noel Gallagher); Shadow Man (Gail Ann Dorsey); Under Pressure (WALK THE MOON); Modern Love (Jake Wesley Rogers); Life on Mars?  (Jake Wesley Rogers); Changes  (Rob Thomas); Heroes (Rob Thomas).