Siouxsie & The Banshees / The Human League, London Rainbow Theatre, 7th April, 1979

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Shows which are anticipated as Events rarely live up to expectations. This was an exception. Siouxsie was playing the gig as a benefit for the mental health charity Mencap. Raw punk had long since disappeared into the ether, in its place, the more interesting New Wave had taken hold, diverse, adventurous, and bold.

A headliner at the Rainbow was a big deal, with the band’s first album, The Scream, shipping silver at no 12, and single “Hong Kong Garden” making No 7 in the charts. Siouxsie and the Banshees had arrived. The gig had quickly sold out and was eagerly anticipated

Siouxsie had a vision for the band, and was a glorious vision herself. Steve Severin was an inspired arranger and musician. John Mckay was lauded as one of the best, unorthodox guitarists of the era. Kenny Morris on drums just had to keep time. It was a moment when female singers found their voice, Poly Styrene of Xray Spex, Pauline Murray of Penetration, The Slits, and Patti Smith amongst the vanguard. But Siouxsie was in a league of her own.

Support was provided by the Human League, who had supported Siouxsie before, and who would go on to be feted by David Bowie and tour with Iggy Pop. Punk and New Wave had inspired them, they were not New Romantics, more Futurists in the mould of Kraftwerk, and Bowie’s “Low”. NME and John Peel had championed them, and their unusual synthesiser sound gave them an immediate identity.

The audience was an unholy mix of hardcore punk from the early gigs at the 100 Club and the Greyhound, new fans who had bought “The Scream” and “Hong Kong Garden” and the curious drawn by an eclectic bill.

When the house lights came down, and the band appeared on stage to chug into “Being Boiled” the initial reaction was bewilderment and curiosity. The band stood static behind synthesisers, dressed in black playing to an animated backdrop of images and movement supplied by Phillip Adrian Wright as Director of Visuals – no other band had one of those.

The sound was most easily associated with Kraftwerk and Bowie’s “Heroes” and “Low” albums, but with a more left field, psychedelic lyrical content.

Inevitably the lack of visceral energy onstage irritated some, and static figures make ideal targets for missiles which sporadically came their way. But for the overwhelming majority it was a sophisticated, intriguing, beguiling, performance whose highlight was a cover of “You’ve lost that loving feeling”, the best I had heard live, and have heard since. Unquestionably all the ingredients were there, the music, the sublime vocals from Ware and Oakey, and a distinctive identity. The thing that was missing was a self- penned catchy hit single, something which contemporary Gary Numan seized upon within the emerging electro-pop movement, until the Human League mk2 snatched it back with “Dare’s” irresistible pop singles.

The set list comes from a scrawled bit of paper from the day, and an imperfect memory, making it accurate in terms of what was played, but incomplete, and not necessarily in the right order.

Set List

Dance Like A Star
Almost Medeival
Being Boiled
Rock n Roll ( Gary Glitter)
Circus of Death
Empire State Human
Dignity of Labour 1-4
I Don’t Depend on You
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling ( Righteous Bros)
Blind Youth
The Path of Least Resistance

The counterpoint as Siouxsie exploded onto the stage at 9.30pm could not have been greater. A blinding maelstrom of light, sound and kinetic energy as they launched into “Jigsaw Feeling”. The crowd went berserk, a heaving mass, surging over the stalls seats to the front, drawn by her mesmerising force. Huge black spiked hair, frilled neck and cuff white blouse, open battle dress jacket with black trousers and boots she looked fabulous, orchestrating, but barely controlling, the adoring masses in front of her. Spontaneously the stalls seating was torn out, a mixture of the mass surges towards the stage, and wilful vandalism, wiping out the donation to charity with the repair bill.

It was the perfect time to see the band. The set combined the best of their original punk material,  with the best of “The Scream”, and a smattering from the forthcoming “Join Hands”.

The whole set was a triumph. Three singles demonstrated their grasp of a hit tune, “Switch” and “Placebo Effect” showcased McKay’s guitar, “Overground” s staccato rhythm steadied the pace before a majestic debut for “Icon”, and glorious finale of the anarchic “Lord’s Prayer” a staple of their live act since their inception.

Set List

Jigsaw Feeling
Playground Twist
Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)
The Staircase (Mystery)
Placebo Effect
Regal Zone
Switch
Hong Kong Garden
Premature Burial
Suburban Relapse
Overground
Icon (Live debut)
Pure
The Lord’s Prayer
Encore:
Helter Skelter

After a frenetic “Helter Skelter” we spilled out into the cool air of a Finsbury Park evening knowing that we had witnessed something special. We didn’t know that Morris and McKay would have left the band by September, and that this would be the last major London gig of that line up. Nor did we know how the band would metamorphose several times again, gaining strength as they did so.

Equally, we could not have guessed that the Human League would split the following year. As with Siouxsie and the Banshees, it would strengthen them, unlike them, the departing musicians would go on to considerable commercial and critical success as Heaven 17.

What united them both was a vibrant creative force and energy which would lead to far greater success as their respective careers progressed.

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Far East Cruise

And so the adventure begins at Birmingham airport.

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And then, 13 hours later, U-Tapao airport Thailand.

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The Ship

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Relaxing on board, somewhere in the China Sea.

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At sea in the restaurant where we always had our breakfast:

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Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The approach

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Cambodia

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The Beach at Sihanoukville where all needs are catered for

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Vietnam was such a treat

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Restaurant for lunch.

 

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The streets of Saigon

Saigon War Museum

The magnificent and troubling war museum in Ho Chi Minh City

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Penang

The Tower

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Visiting The Mah  Meri, Malaysia

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Singapore

The Approach

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Out and About

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Bay Gardens

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Captain of the Ship

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Langkawi

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Sacred Sites Tarot Cards – Barbara Micklejohn Free and Flavia Kate Peters

sacred sites

 

I read Past Lives Tarot cards. My own deck was created by Doreen Virtue and Brian Weiss. I read them intuitively. They have no specific independent meaning. They are simply a bridge between myself and the client. I have dabbled with using other cards, but never entirely satisfactorily. That deck simply works for me, and my clients.

When I chanced upon the “Sacred Sites” deck by Barbara Micklejohn Free and Flavia Kate Peters in their shop in Buxton, Arnemetia I sensed that I may have found a companion Past Lives deck. I was right.

Past Lives is an all- embracing umbrella term. It takes in reincarnation, universal knowledge and animism. Many friends, associates, and acquaintances are initially sceptical of the ideas, but when explored more fully, their interest invariably increases, rather than decreases.

I liked the idea of Sacred Sites. Landscapes fascinate me. How some landscapes that we have never seen before can seem familiar, reassuring, or threatening. Their mere appearance seemingly portentous.

They feature strongly when I conduct past life readings.

Four years ago I visited the Callanish Stones on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It was a profoundly spiritual experience. Not only did the standing stones cast a spell, but crucially, the landscape around is wholly undeveloped and unpopulated.

What I was seeing was what the people who built the stones saw. No-one knows exactly why they were built, when they were built (probably around 5000 years ago), or what they were for. That only added to the sense of place and mystery. A mystery coloured by numerous myths and legends.

One of our deepest needs is for a sense of identity and belonging. We can find that identity in landscape and place. How many times have you heard someone say “I belong here”?

Landscape therefore is not simply what we see, but a way of seeing: we see it with our eye, but interpret it with our mind and ascribe values to landscape for intangible – spiritual – reasons.

Landscape should not be looked on as simply a pretty picture: rather it is part of a process by which identities are formed.

The connections, therefore, between landscape, identity, memory, thought, and comprehension, are fundamental to our understanding of landscape and a human sense of place.
But memory of landscape is not always associated with pleasure. It can be associated sometimes with loss, with pain, with social fracture and a sense of belonging lost, although the memory remains. The Welsh have a word, hiraeth, for which there is no direct English equivalent. It is used to describe a sense of homesickness and nostalgia for a place, experienced as an earnest longing or desire, tinged with a sense of regret of not being in that place. The Cornish and Breton equivalents are ‘hireth’ and ‘hiraezh’. How such a wonderful word does not exist in modern English I do not know.

The past lives on in art and memory, it shifts and changes as the present throws its shadow backwards. Landscape also changes , but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were, and what we have become. This is one of the reasons why we feel such profound anguish when a loved landscape is altered out of recognition; we lose not only a place, but ourselves, a continuity between the shifting phases of our life.

Landscapes are the repository of intangible values and human meanings that nurture our very existence. This is why landscape, and memory, are inseparable, because landscape is the nerve centre of our personal and collective memories.

We are familiar with relic and fossil landscapes. But cultural landscapes are living landscapes where changes over time result in a montage effect in front of our eyes, or a series of vertical layers, each layer able to tell the human story and relationships between people, and natural processes. Photography and film, in the past paintings best reflect that.

I am very fond of the Heights of Abraham , Matlock, Derbyshire, hills which have been mined for 2000 years and worked methodically since Roman times. When you visit there, you also visit the history of England. Landscape and identity are inherent components of our culture.

A few years ago I visited Welshpool castle with my young grandchildren, the youngest, Jacob, of whom was three. Three is an interesting age, a child is relatively articulate, but unable to read or be influenced by the media. They say what they see and experience. Children love castles, they are big, physical places to be enjoyed, and explored, combining open spaces with mysterious nooks and crannies. Jacob was loving it, until we began to enter a hall which looked no different from any other we had visited before. He scampered up me, holding me around my neck, pressed tight .

 
“I am not going in there,” he declared.

 
”Why not?”

 
“It’s scary.”

 
I gave him to my partner, and ventured inside. It featured displays of torture and punishment from the dungeons. He had no possible way of knowing this – yet he knew.

This demonstrates that a sense of landscapes, and buildings, holding memories is with us from a very early age. It was described by Sir Edward Tylor as animism in 1871, who recognised it as one of anthropology’s earliest concepts, a belief found in tribes and ancient civilisations around the world.

So, do landscapes have memories?

They certainly hold the memories of what has gone before. The rocks in their strata, the soil in its layers, the polar ice in its water content. When we remember past lives, past landscapes are an essential part of that. Often providing a connection between the past, and the present.

The deck comprises some fifty- three cards, loosely divided into North, South East and West, each with their own spiritual bias. I have physically visited several of these locations. What surprised me was that the companion notes for those sites I knew, or thought I knew, each offered new information and guidance. It has been meticulously researched. The card artwork is eclectic, laden with meaning, and divided into three sectors, or worlds. The lower represents the past, the middle the present, the upper the future. Each is rich in meaning and guidance.

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Past Life Regressionist Jane Osborne at the Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis

For the reader the cards are multifunctional. Firstly, they facilitate a past present and future reading. But secondly, they offer inspiration for site visits with the potential for some cards to have a particular calling. By splitting the deck to incorporate only the geographical area, North perhaps if you are British, of the client, the chances of them being able to visit that site are also increased. In the UK, Stonehenge, Glastonbury and the Callanish Stones are included as well as several European sites including the Vatican and Mont St- Michel.

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Mont St Michel

I found that they worked particularly well in conjunction with the Doreen Virtue Past Lives Oracle cards and highly recommend this deck not only for its beautiful presentation, art work, and spiritual integrity, but also for the unusually well written companion notes.

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The Boomtown Rats – Leeds, 1977

 

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The Boomtown Rats Oct 17th, ,1977 Leeds Poly
The summer of 77 unleashed a tsunami of Punk and New Wave debut albums, singles and tours. It was difficult to keep up. It seemed that every week there was something new and exciting happening. Amongst this activity, the Boomtown Rats were front runners for live shows. Over the past five decades later, they have faded in the punk story. That is unjust. They were very good live, far better than the opening salvoes live from The Clash and The Jam. Their first gigs as the Boomtown Rats were in London in the summer of 76.

 

 
Probably only the Stranglers hit the ground running live as strongly. Curiously, both had a previous history as showbands, playing covers at weddings and functions.
We relied upon the music press back then, NME, MM and Sounds, and the John Peel Radio 1 late night show. NME could sell up to 250,000 copies a week, that is twice as many now as the Guardian per issue, more than the Financial Times, and almost as much as the Daily Express. The Boomtown Rats, from Dublin were outsiders to a scene dominated by London,and influenced by New York. The early reviews were strong. They had something. That something was Bob Geldof.

 

 
Yet Geldof, while being the mouthy fulcrum of the band, was not its sole asset. As a showband they had honed an R&B sound, showcased by their cover of the 1965 Robert Parker stomper “Barefootin” which was a staple of their early punk shows, their debt to the sound and stage presence of Dr Feelgood openly acknowledged. The band collaboratively wrote the songs, Johnny Fingers on keyboards gave a more rounded fuller sound than most ( see the Stranglers again). Geldof’s lyrics were sharp and tapped into the times perfectly. The first album, the eponymous Boomtown Rats, had a far stronger range of songs than any of their contemporaries, and crucially, they were written for, and worked well with, live performance.

 

 
Hit single “Mary of the Fourth Form” had a riff lifted from Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” and a lyric featuring a coquettish schoolgirl that would struggle to make a playlist today, but was lapped up by schoolboys of exactly the same age who were buying the records. Great shows need great openers and “Close as You’ll Ever Be” fitted the bill, the punks surging around the front of stage monitors, Geldof leaning forwards over them taunting them that they were as close as they would ever be to him amidst a grinding, hypnotic riff.

 

 
The Springsteen influence was apparent, first with “Joey Is On The Street Again”, but most obviously with “Rat Trap”, even down to the sax solo. It is also an indicator of both Geldof’s ambition, and his talent. Contemporaneously Graham Parker & The Rumour worked with Springsteen, and his pianist Roy Bittan, on the up Escalator”, but failed to emulate him as Geldof did. Listen to Springsteen’s “Backstreets”, “Jungleland” and “Incident on 57th St”, then listen to “Joey” and “Rat Trap”. Ray Davies of the Kinks captured English life and youth culture, but without the bombast that the E Street band offered. Geldof captures British life with the sharp observation of Davies, but the romanticism and bigger sound of Springsteen.

 

 
For a few years they were icons in Eire, with Bono watching them from the audience before forming U2, and Phil Lynnot a huge fan insisting they join them on a Thin Lizzy show as support. In an economically depressed country, Geldof’s songs and attitude resonated, but they themselves were standard bearers for local boys made good. I saw U2 on their first tour of the UK, I saw Thin Lizzy on their Live and Dangerous tour. The Rats in the first couple of years were better than both.

 

 
They blew away a capacity five hundred sell out audience with Geldof memorably taunting: “I’m going to be more famous than any of you will ever be” – he was right. The energy from the show could have powered the entire city, in the student bars in the days afterwards the one question that had to be asked of any stranger, “Were you there?”

 

Set List
Close as You’ll Ever Be
Never Bite the Hand That Feeds
Neon Heart
So Strange
I Can Make It If You Can
Kicks
Joey’s on the Street Again
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Its All the Rage
Do the Rat
Mary of the 4th Form
Looking After No.1
Encore
Barefootin’

 
Dec 12th Leeds uni

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Bob forgetting where the audience is

Barely two months later, they were back in Leeds again. This time playing to a 2000 capacity audience, supported by The Yachts who went on to support the Who and Joe Jackson, a measure of their proficiency live. The Yachts were terrific, the farfisa organ driven “Suffice to Say” the highlight, followed very closely by a wonderful cover of “There’s a Ghost In My House”. It was power pop, it was fun. Musical polymath Henry Priestman here on vocals and keyboards went on to enjoy a distinguished career working in and with the Christians, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Mark Owen and Mel C.

 

 
The Rats? They put on one of the best rock shows I have ever seen. I was at the front of a boiling, surging, ecstatic throng as the pulsing, hypnotic chords to “Close As You Will Ever Be” rang out, and the show never let up. The pivotal moment in a 75 minute musical epiphany was “Kicks”, and its refrain, ‘ I get my kicks from you’. Geldof pointed manically to the fans, the fans as one pointed back. Both meant it.

Set List

Close as You’ll Ever be
Neon Heart
Me and Howard Hughes
Don’t Believe What You Read
Joey’s on the Street Again
Living In an Island
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Like Clockwork
Do the Rat
Kicks
Mary of the Fourth Form
She’s So Modern
Looking After No. 1
Encore
So Strange
Never Bite the Hand That feeds

 
Hammersmith Odeon, Dec 7th 1978

 

 
Just a year later. “Rat Trap” was No 1, this was the big London show, booked before the success of the single could have been anticipated. Sold out,it was an odd gig. Firstly, it was seated, sapping the energy essential to a Rats performance. But secondly, previously it was Geldof who played the part of a pop star, now they all thought they were ( they were). The songs were great, the performance was fine, “Rat Trap” even drew applause from the bouncers, but somehow the magic, the magic which connected the band to their erstwhile fans was missing. As I walked away after, instead of the elation I had experienced after the first two shows, I felt a sense of dejection. It was never going to be the same again.

Set List

Blind Date
(I Never Loved) Eva Braun
Me and Howard Hughes
Close As You’ll Ever Be
Neon Heart
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Rat Trap
Kicks
Joey’s on the Street Again
She’s So Modern
Don’t Believe What You Read
Like Clockwork
Do the Rat
Looking After No. 1
Encore
Mary of the Fourth Form
Never Bite the Hand That Feeds

Hitchin Regal , 1984
I went with a friend. It was the “ In the Long Grass” tour. It was like watching a pantomime, with each actor reading from a different script. The original fans were mostly long gone. “Rat Trap” still sounded good, but “ Mondays” highlighted their problem. It is a great pop song. A crossover piece, mainstream, AOR, shopping mall stuff. But it doesn’t sound like anything else they have ever done. Geldof’s trademark vocal is the only link. And the new fans won’t like the old stuff and the old fans didn’t like the new stuff.

 

 
The band appeared at Live Aid. “Mondays” was one of the entire show’s highlights. But it wasn’t enough to save a band whose RnB origins had long since disappeared.

 

 
The Fab Four 2008

 

 
I saw that they were playing at the Robin 2, Bilston , Wolverhampton. Garry Roberts and Simon Crowe with Alan Perman (ex Herman’s Hermits) and Peter Barton. I expected nothing, but was surprised. The songs sounded great, and the two guitar, bass and drums line up had a stripped back quality, no Johnny Fingers, no keyboards. A great sound.
The Fab Four eventually led to a Rats reunion and a number of subsequent tours. They may not have the kudos of the Clash, Jam and Stranglers, now – but, wow, back then…

 

 

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The Stranglers – Leeds University, 7th June, 1978

 

The Stranglers - Live @ Agora, Cleveland, USA, 03-04-1978
A band that were around Punk at its inception, were also outsiders from its inception. The Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Buzzcocks were the original fulcrum, lauded by the all powerful music press of the time. There were several reasons for this. They were not new, having been gigging since 1974 so they had no claim to having been inspired by punk- indeed their detractors accused them of bandwagon jumping. They were also not young. Drummer Jet Black was 40 in 1978, Cornwell and Greenfield 29, JJ Burnel 26. Cornwell and Burnell were University graduates, Burnell was fluent in French, Greenfield cited Rick Wakeman as a musical influence. They hardly fitted into the “Anyone can play /filth and the fury” pigeonhole, and yet…

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Jet Black had made a fortune running an ice cream van business – a trade known for violent turf wars and enforcement. Burnel was a black belt in karate. Cornwell went on to serve a prison term for drugs offences. They were not hippy pushovers. Burnel epitomised that when searching out the Sounds journalist Jon Savage and knocking him out in the Red Cow pub in front of Jake Riviera, Elvis Costello and sundry music industry luminaries for giving No More Heroes a bad review. It would be true to say that their relationship with the London music press was uneasy – “London Lady” was reputedly Cornwell’s parting shot at Melody Maker’s Caroline Coon.

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Was Melody Maker journalist Caroline Coon “London Lady”?

At the time of the gig, punk was in turmoil. The Pistols could barely find a venue to play at with the Anarchy tour cancelled due to bad publicity. The Clash had struggled for a time too after the chaos of the “White Riot” tour, Sham 69 gigs were frequently abandoned due to crowd violence. The Stranglers suffered similarly with gigs cancelled wholesale for the “Black & White” tour, their third album, an output, and repertoire which put them way ahead of their then contemporaries.

 

 
Fortunately Leeds University came to the rescue by offering them the venue to play a benefit in aid of PROP the prisoners charity. Tickets were £9, when the average admission was around £1.75 and Bowie was charging £5 to see him at London’s Earls Court. Such was the clamour for the band that the gig sold out nonetheless on the back of a tremendous live reputation, seven singles, three of which went top ten, two top five hit albums , and a bad boy notoriety.

 

 

Support were pub rock band the Inmates, recently formed from the defunct Flying Tigers. It was an odd choice – but that is the Stranglers for you.

 

 

The set comprised earlier material first, then new songs from “Black and White” which had been released a few weeks before so were largely unknown. The band tore into “Sometimes” with the ferocity of a band desperate to play, but frequently denied that opportunity. They threw themselves into the show to produce one of the best gigs I have ever seen.

 

 

“Hanging Around” was joyous, “Peaches” was lasciviously celebrated, “Go Buddy Go” burst with energy, “Tank” was an instant hit and “Toiler” immediately demonstrated itself to be a worthy alternative to “Down in the Sewer” as Dave Greenfield’s showcase.

 

 

As a live act, in their prime, they were as good as it gets. Greenfield’s keyboards gave them their distinctive sound, JJ Burnel’s bass was equally as distinctive, and he and Cornwell were a potent, credible front of stage duo. Crucially, they not only had the attitude, they had the songs to back them up.

 

Set List
Sometimes
Burning Up Time
Dagenham Dave
Bring On the Nubiles
Goodbye Toulouse
Peasant in the Big Shitty
Princess of the Streets
Dead Ringer
Hanging Around
Ugly
Peaches
Go Buddy Go
Grip
Curfew
Tank
Outside Tokyo
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
Threatened
Do You Wanna?
Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)
Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)
Toiler on the Sea
Encore
5 Minutes

Nov 3rd 1986 Dreamtime Tour, Wembley Arena, London

 

Eight years on the musical landscape had transformed itself from the bleak days of the late 70’s. it was all big hair, swish clothes and materialism. The Stranglers had transformed themselves too courtesy of “Golden Brown”, written by Cornwell, arranged by Greenfield. Not only was it easily the Stranglers biggest selling song, it was one of EMI’s biggest selling songs. It bankrolled them for the rest of their career.

 

 

It was an odd, uneasy show. They split it into two halves, the first half being stronger. To open they hired a Northern Gay Leather muscleman in body harness and peaked cap to harangue the audience of “Southern softies” for around ten minutes, goading them to boo him off. It was foul -mouthed, it was intended to shock – instead it was just embarrassing.

 

 

Wembley Arena is a soulless box at the best of times. It did not serve the band well. They were playing a venue befitting their then commercial status, not one which would serve their music best. Pretty much full to an eleven thousand capacity, their audience now included the children of original fans and those more used to seeing the likes of the Commodores and Level 42.Their old material mystified their new fans, and sounded anachronistic in the era of synths and pretty boy looks, of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet , Pet Shop Boys and Wham. Their new material nonplussed their old ones.

 

 

The section which worked best was the newer material: “Always the Sun”,” La Folie”, “Strange Little Girl” and “Golden Brown”. Therein lay the problem that beset the Boomtown Rats after “I Don’t Like Mondays” and Bowie with the “Lets Dance Album”. The material which was commercially successful was at odds with their previous, and perceived, artistic direction.

 

 

It was an unsatisfactory gig, strong on musical diversity, weak on coherence. Thereafter I lost connection with the band and was unsurprised when Cornwell left four years later.

 

 
Set List

First Half
No More Heroes
Was It You?
Down in the Sewer
Nice in Nice
Punch and Judy
Souls
Always the Sun
La folie
Strange Little Girl
Golden Brown
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
Who Wants the World?
Second Half
Big in America
Bring On the Nubiles
Shakin’ Like a Leaf
Uptown
Tank
Toiler on the Sea
Spain
Encore:
Peaches
Duchess
London Lady

 

 

 

Hugh Cornwell solo Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton Mar Oct 26th 2000

The Stranglers performed with an array of different artists after Cornwell left, but for me Cornwell WAS the Stranglers so I would not see them without Hugh. Seeing him solo seemed like the obvious loyal act. It was misplaced.

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In order to distance himself from his erstwhile bandmates he elected to tour without a keyboard player. Dave Greenfield’s keyboards were as integral to the Stranglers sound as was the image and vocals of Hugh. Without keyboards it was like listening to a series of demos. The material was unfamiliar, Cornwell had the demeanour of a man who had made a horrible mistake, and a competent, but instantly forgettable, set followed.

 

 
Set List
Miss Teazyweezy
Goodbye Toulouse
Hanging Around
Dark Side of the Room
Torture Garden
Walk On By
Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
Nerves of Steel
Leave Me Alone
Live it and Breathe it
Putting You in the Shade
Long Dead Train,
Spain
Mothra,
No More Heroes

 

 
The Stranglers at O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, Mar 19th 2010
I had vowed not to see them without Hugh, but a mate had a spare ticket which he happily offered me in return for the company, rather than the cash. I went expecting the worst, not wanting to like it, or enjoy it. Those preconceptions were terribly wrong. Baz Warne fronted the band brilliantly. Physically imposing, he was a formidable counterpoint to the always brooding JJ Burnel whose loping bass lines fused with Greenfield’s keyboard arpeggios to stay true to the Stranglers sound.

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They had appeared lost at Wembley, in a 3000 capacity hall they were in their element, and spent the next ten years exploiting that talent by constantly touring. The set list was tremendous, the highlight a joyous “Always the Sun” which trumped Cornwell’s performance of his own song twenty three years earlier.

 

 
Set list
Time to Die
Go Buddy Go
(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)
Curfew
Norfolk Coast
Skin Deep
Always the Sun
Strange Little Girl
Golden Brown
Walk On By
Retro Rockets
Genetix
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
Peaches
Lost Control
Spectre of Love
Down in the Sewer
Encore:
Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus)
Duchess

Encore 2:
5 Minutes
Something Better Change

Encore 3:
Hanging Around
No More Heroes

 

 

 

In May 2020 Dave Greenfield died. This was to be the year of the band’s farewell tour, cancelled owing to the Covid 19 pandemic. Will they continue? Springsteen survived the loss of keyboard player Danny Federici and iconic co -frontman, saxophonist, Clarence Clemons. With JJ Burnel the only original member left ( Jet Black has retired) it looks odds against, but Warnes has been with the band for longer than Cornwell, and survives, and shows that gross £100,000 a night are a rare commodity.

 
Whatever happens, forty five years of headlining tours is a rare achievement, inevitably encompassing some highs and lows, but with far more of the latter than the former. Scoring some 23 UK top 40 singles and 17 UK top 40 albums in a career spanning four decades is a considerable achievement whatever the genre.

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The Buzzcocks / Slits/ Gang of Four / John Cooper Clarke, Leeds University Refectory. Mar 18th 1978

 

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In the summer of 76 only three bands mattered, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks. Two years on the Buzzcocks still mattered. Their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen had been released a week earlier. Love Bites, their second, was only six months off, such was the prolific output of main songwriter Pete Shelley. Their debut album release was behind their contemporaries, but the wait was worth it. Well produced, excellent songs, with wit alongside the energy. The Buzzcocks were the arch protagonists of Punk Pop.

buzzcocks-1978
The John Peel radio show had ensured that their material was well known, their opening salvo of singles “Orgasm Addict”, “What Do I Get” and “I Don’t Mind” building on the seminal Spiral Scratch EP featuring “Boredom”.

GangofFour

Gang of four

Bottom of the bill were the Gang of Four in one of their earliest live performances. Their debut album Damaged Goods is very good, their performance that night was not. Shambolic, under rehearsed and lacking stage craft, they limped through twenty minutes to widespread disinterest before leaving the stage. Few noticed. The Slits boasted the novelty of an all- girl band with significant music press coverage. Unfortunately they too decided that this was to be a night of shambolic performances.  The wonderful Viv Albertine could not save the day on looks alone. A sound similar to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” provided temporary respite, but when they were canned off stage, they looked relieved.

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The Slits – Viv Albertine on right

It would be easy to assume that this was not the moment for a spot of poetry. You would be wrong. A gangly Mancunian ambled on stage with his notebook and performed what we would now call performance poetry. The two previous acts had meant that the can throwers in the audience had found their range. Any fairground coconut stand would have had their prize supply wiped out by these assassins. A solitary, stationary figure – he was a sitting, well standing, duck. But he survived. So appalling had been the acts previous, that his wordplay, good humour and courage won him a reprieve with “Kung Fu International” still ingrained in my consciousness today.

JCC

John Cooper Clarke to the rescue

Without John Cooper Clarke the Buzzcocks would have been in trouble, angry crowds tend to develop a bloodlust. Instead, an uplifted, expectant 2000 fans were treated to forty five minutes of dazzling brilliance. The highlight of which was a glorious piece of schadenfreude. I have previously mentioned that the can throwers were in deadly form that night. This was never more so when, perfectly timed to coincide with Pete asking ‘ What do I get’ ?, a can hit him full in the face. Professional to the core he integrated ‘you bastard’ seamlessly into the lyric, carrying on undaunted.

Pete

Pete Shelley in his prime

Unquestionably Manchester’s melodic answer to the Ramones, a breathless finale closed a memorable night.
Set List
Boredom
Fast Cars
No Reply
You Tear Me Up
Get on Our Own
Love Battery
Whatever Happened To
Sixteen
I Don’t Mind
Fiction Romance
Autonomy
I Need
Moving Away from the Pulsebeat
Orgasm Addict
Oh Shit
Encore
Breakdown
What Do I Get
Ever Fallen in Love

The Buzzcocks were at the peak of their powers. Two hit albums in 78, and lauded by the music press, and their contemporaries. Here with Debbie Harry, equally in her prime, the hottest woman in rock then.

debbie h

 

Market Tavern, Kidderminster, Sept 5th 1992
Fourteen years later, the teens were now in their mid 30’s. The pub back room, holding 250 had around 400 in it and was dangerously overcrowded, the security overwhelmed. The band wisely decided to play – and get out .Barely three years into their reformed entity, sans Maher replaced by Tony Barber on Drums, and Garvey replaced by Phil Barber on bass. They could still do it, such that they played the prestigious Town and Country club in London later that year followed by the Hammersmith Odeon the next. It was good to have them back.

 
Set List
Fast Cars
Who’ll Help Me to Forget
Last to Know
Get on Our Own
When Love Turns Around
Why Compromise?
Trash Away
Noise Annoys
Harmony in My Head
Sixteen
Autonomy
Hollow Inside
Promises
Nostalgia
What Do I Get
Encore
Orgasm Addict

papa smurf

Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall 22nd Jan 2009

 
Twenty years on from reforming, the band had become a reliable, successful, stalwart on the touring calendar. The Wulfrun is the smaller hall from the more prestigious Civic, and it wasn’t sold out, with around 500 there. Nonetheless they blasted through a set which has served them well. Shelley was unrecognisable, portly, and with a large grey beard which resembled that of Papa Smurf. He never much cared for image when the songs carried him through.

Set List
Boredom
Fast Cars
I Don’t Mind
Autonomy
Get on Our Own
What Ever Happened To?
Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore
Sick City
Sometimes
Why Can’t I Touch It?
I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life
You Say You Don’t Love Me
Noise Annoys
Breakdown
Promises
Love You More
What Do I Get?
Harmony in My Head
Encore:
Oh Shit!
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?
Orgasm Addict

And that was the last time. Pete Shelley died in 2018, nine years later. They only had one crossover hit, “Ever Fallen in Love ( With someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with)?”. But at their heart they were a great live act, with fabulous three minute pop songs. Incredibly, from when they formed in 1976, as a band they only failed to tour between 1982 and 1988, during which they were pursuing solo projects and playing live individually, and in 1995. That is thirty- five years on the road, a testament to their endurance, hard work, and talent.

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Magazine, The Venue, Victoria, London 24th Nov 1978

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1978 was one of the most exciting years in popular music, the year the pretenders found their feet, and new diverse talent emerged. Amongst the vanguard was Magazine. The old guard had been thrown out in 76/77, now the new musical order was establishing itself.

 

 

Howard Devoto was an integral figure in the original Buzzcocks line up that had recorded the seminal Spiral Scratch ep. For New Wave fans his departure doubled the fun. The Buzzcocks debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen” veered off in one direction, Magazine’s “Real Life” in another.

 
John Peel promoted both bands heavily on his late- night Radio 1 show. Real Life was clearly special, and one of the best of the Punk/New Wave Era. Devoto’s clever lyrics, McGeogh’s dexterous guitar, Adamson’s fluid bass lines, and above all Dave Formula’s keyboards fused in wondrous alchemy behind Jackson’s drums.

 
They were the antithesis to the punk mantra that “anyone can pick up a guitar and play”. They were all consummate musicians, their compositions textured and complex. Dave Formula was to Magazine, what Dave Greenfield was to the Stranglers, giving them a flexibility and distinctive musical signature. Unfortunately hit singles did not come out of that alchemy for Magazine.

 
The Venue, in Victoria was a new music venue, holding around 800, opened only earlier that month, but a fabulous one. Originally the Metropole cinema, it was laid out like a night club, with elevated rear terrace and table seating, and a lower dance floor with stage. Magazine were doing two shows that night, no support. We had tickets for the first show at 8pm. Beforehand we had enjoyed a pint in a local pub and met John Peel who was drinking on his own. A real gent. Happy to talk. Star struck, we made no sense and I can remember nothing of the conversation.

 

 

Support was provided by  Ludus,  formed in Manchester earlier that year. It featured artist, designer and singer Linder Sterling playing  a mix of  jazz-, avant-garde- and punk, with Morrissey a devoted fan from the start. The band was founded by Linder , who was a player in the Manchester arts and music scene, having designed the cover of Buzzcocks’ single “Orgasm Addict” and Magazine’s debut album Real Life. It comprised  Arthur Kadmon, formerly of Manicured Noise, ex-Nosebleeds drummer Philip “Toby” Tomanov and bassist Willy Trotter. The show represented their London debut, was solid and promising, and at twenty minutes, the set was enough to arouse interest without giving too much away. Interval performer Johnny Rubbish lived up to his name.

ludus

Ludus

 

 
It remains one of the finest gigs I have seen. Devoto was a man possessed, the music was sensational, and there was a layering of sound absent from their contemporaries. It was Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, blended into three minute soundbites with lyrics by Nietzsche. It was as far away from The Filth and the Fury as you can imagine, but with an inventiveness and urgency that made it utterly compelling and modern. I started off on the terrace with a perfect view, but soon threw myself into the frenzied mass at the front soaking up every second of the glorious atmosphere.

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Just occasionally, a gig is not about the songs, but the set- such was that night. We could have hung on to see their second set, but wanted nothing to disrupt the memory of musical perfection and headed off, dazed into the night.

 

 

Set List
Definitive Gaze
My Tulpa
The Great Beautician in the Sky
Boredom
Burst
My Mind Ain’t So Open
Thin Air
Back to Nature
Motorcade
Rhythm of Your Cruelty
Give Me Everything
Goldfinger
The Light Pours Out of Me
Encore

Parade
Shot by Both Sides

Howard-Devoto-Magazine-The-Light-Pours-Out-Of-Me-1978
The Guildhall, Northampton May 2nd 1980
This should have been a great gig. Bauhaus were the support act and their third album, The Correct use of Soap. had just been released, but all was not well. McGeogh had just left the band for Siouxsie & The Banshees, Robin Simon coming in to take over on guitar. The new material was fine, but Simon was not familiar with it. The songs were also played at a much faster tempo thn previously. This worked well with “Feed The Enemy”, but not with the rest. The set was weak, no “Parade”, “Back to Nature” or “Motorcade”, the encores ill judged. “Model Worker” was strong, but just as you thought things were on the up, off they went.

lancaster uni 1978 John McGeoch

John McGeogh 1978

McGeogh left reputedly because his guitar skills were being under- utilised, and the band’s music , whilst artistically praised, was failing to make commercial traction with sales. He had a point. The Clash had broken through with London Calling, The Jam with All Mod Cons, the Thompson Twins , Ultravox and Adam and the Ants were similarly poised to crossover into mainstream sales, something Magazine never achieved. The Play album from that tour is very good, with a far better set selection, but a year later they were finished, disbanding after their farewell album Magic, Murder and the Weather.
Pete Shelley helped to launch the first stage of Magazine, he wrote “Shot By Both Sides” and “The Light Pours out of me”, McGeough was pivotal in the edge he gave those first three albums. What remained of the band at a time when image was everything, with the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham dominating The Face which had usurped NME and MM, was not enough. Their moment had come and gone, but their legacy was a fine one.

 
In the crowd that night, as a die hard Magazine devotee, I could sense that it was Bauhaus who now captured the zeitgeist, not their mentors. We stood towards the back, trying to achieve a positive perspective on the night. We couldn’t. The band seemed edgy, out of sorts, uncomfortable, the audience becoming restless until the closing numbers. It was a love affair that had lost its lustre.

 

 

Adamson, Formula and Doyle went on to work with Visage. But although Steve Strange had the image for the times that Devoto lacked, they still could not find a hit record alchemy beyond “Fade to Grey”.
Set List
Feed the Enemy
Stuck
I’m a Party
Permafrost
The Light Pours Out of Me
Because You’re Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Sweetheart Contract
Shot by Both Sides
I Want to Burn Again
A Song From Under the Floorboards
Model Worker
Encore
Twenty Years Ago
Definitive Gaze

Encore 2:
Give Me Everything
My Mind Ain’t So Open

Feb 17th, 2009 Manchester Academy
When some reunion dates were announced almost thirty years later, I hesitated, bruised by Northampton, yet still listening to the albums. I opted for the Manchester Academy show, a hometown gig for the band. I am so glad I did.

howard_devoto_1294257c

Older & wiser

I was on the front row, the set list was perfect, the sound extraordinary, the band relaxed and clearly having fun. It is what musicians do, play live. Noko was on guitar and was able to replicate McGeogh’s lead guitar while still providing some original flourishes, respectful to the original, but not slavishly so. It bookended that first Magazine show forty years previous, one where the whole was everything.

Set List

The Light Pours Out of Me
Model Worker
The Great Beautician in the Sky
Because You’re Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Rhythm of Cruelty
I Want to Burn Again
This Poison
A Song From Under the Floorboards
Permafrost
The Book
Twenty Years Ago
Definitive Gaze
Parade
Shot by Both Sides
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
(Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Motorcade
Encore
Feed the Enemy
I Love You, You Big Dummy

There were some follow up dates. The reunion was successful, with a new album to accompany it, No Thyself, but then Dave Formula was involved in a car crash and everything came to a halt again. Probably permanently. Magazine will not go down as one of the greats, but instead as an interesting part of the rich tapestry of the music of that time.

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The Jam -Debut Tour, California Ballroom, Dunstable, 9th July, 1977

Revisiting-The-Jams-riotous-performance-of-In-The-City-from-1977

In action

 

This was my first ever punk gig. An avid reader of the music press it was quite clear that something was happening . I lived in provincial Bedford at the time, there were no venues putting on punk gigs. Being still at school posed a number of problems. Financially things were tight. Educationally my parents wouldn’t let me go on a school night, and physically getting to venues was a challenge. A Saturday job at Sainsbury, my friend Pete passing his driving test, and a Saturday night gig at nearby Dunstable solved all of these problems. The Jam, supported by Chelsea for £1.75 it was to be.

 
I went not as a Jam fan, they were pretty much unknown apart from the “In The City” single, but as an eager music fan, keen to experience sounds for my generation, not the hippy one. That single, with its B side the distinctly unpunk “Takin My Love” was the only Jam music I knew. The audience were not die- hard punks or mods, nor were they the travelling London/ Home Counties crowd. The stereotypical punk was not fully formed yet beyond London. We were there to experience what the media hype was all about, almost everyone aged 15- 19, most schoolkids.

 
The California Ballroom itself was a legend in its own right. It survived on disco nights and soul bands, particularly, American ones. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and the Four Tops had played there earlier that year, the Commodores the year previous. Punk was still relatively new. This was only “The Cali’s” fourth ever punk gig, but the rollcall for the year so far was impressive, The Damned / Adverts, The Stranglers/ London, and most infamously the last night of the White Riot Tour featuring the Clash/ Subway Sect/ Slits/ Prefects, fortunately that had been five weeks earlier. Enough time had elapsed for the place to be repaired… Wayne County & The Electric Chairs were the only other punk band to play the Cali, two weeks after The Jam.

 
Support band Chelsea were surprisingly good. Despite the loss of Tony James ( Generation X, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Sisters of Mercy) and William Broad, aka Billy Idol, James Stevenson on guitar and Gene October on vocals were a formidable, talented and credible combination. With their debut album still two years away their set was brief but sparky with atypical punk titles like “Decide”, “Government” and “Free the Fighters” augmented with a rather good cover of “Many Rivers to Cross” and a searing “Right to Work”, which vied with “In the city” as the best song of the night.

 
Several beers necessitated an interval visit to the Gents. I did what men do, stand at the urinal, and gaze aimlessly at the wall. When I became aware of a sharp dressed feller in a ( Burton?) suit at the next trough. A surreptitious sideways glance confirmed that it was indeed the same man who was on the cover of the single I had bought a few weeks previous. “Alright, Paul” I ventured with as much cool as I could muster with our cocks both ejecting cheap lager. “Yeah, man” came the muttered reply. So started and finished my only encounter with Paul Weller.

 
At first glance a fifteen strong set list seems pretty impressive for a band on their debut tour promoting their debut album. However, no song lasted for more than three minutes, most were closer to two. It was all over in 45 minutes – and they played “In the City” twice. Great song though…

 
From their first recorded gig at the Hope and Anchor London , barely a year before on May 8th,1976, they had played over fifty shows. Although they were light on repertoire, they were strong on live performance. The energy, volume, speed and attack were pure punk. The songs and performance less so. The Rnb and Mod attitude differed from the aggressive political punk of Chelsea. Weller was obviously more nuanced than October in both star quality and song choice. The Jam were different from the start. What was apparent was their instant connection with the fans and Weller’s defiant claim that ‘this is the new art school’. And so it proved to be. An exhilarating, sweat drenched, synchronised pogoing evening never to be forgotten.

1.I’ve Changed My Address
2.Time for Truth
3.All Around the World
4.London Girl
5.Sounds from the Street
6.So Sad About us
7.In the City
8. Slow Down
9. Takin My Love
10.Slow Down
11.Bricks and Mortar
12.In the City
Encore
13.In the City
14.Batman Theme
Encore
15.Art School

Leeds University, 19th November, 1977

 
I next saw them only four months later in front of 2000 fans at a sold out Leeds University Refectory.  Everything had changed. Punk was already morphing into New Wave, and The Jam were in pole position to capitalise on that with a growing live reputation, an established first album, a second album released the day before this gig,  slavish press coverage in the NME and MM, and radio coverage by John Peel.

 
At that time I was going to two or three punk gigs a week. The Jam had moved away from that sound and any association with the movement. Weller had the foresight, and talent, to deliver that change. Ironically the covers list anticipates the Style Council for anyone with 20/20 hindsight. They were slick, they were professional, and they were just an album away from commercial stardom with the third album All Mod Cons.

 
It was an in between moment. Frankly, they were not as good as many of their contemporaries at that time, but subsequently few of the same contemporaries could match their song output and commercial success for the following four years. I guess it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Set List
I’ve Changed My Address
Carnaby Street
The Modern World
Time for Truth
So Sad About Us
London Girl
In the Street, Today
Standards
All Around the World
London Traffic
(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave
Sweet Soul Music
Bricks and Mortar
In the City
Back in My Arms Again
Slow Down
In the Midnight Hour
Sounds From the Street

Encore:
Takin’ My Love

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David Bowie – Earthling Tour,Que Club, Birmingham,1997

q club

I did not normally buy the Birmingham Evening Mail. But that day I needed to check the property pages , bought it at lunchtime, and sat down to read it with a sandwich. Tucked away, in a small box advert at the back, amidst hundreds of mundane adverts , the reverse block copy read ‘David Bowie, Que Club, Birmingham August 1st £15’. I rang the telephone number.
“Is this the real David Bowie and not a tribute?” I asked.

The Que club is in an Old Methodist Hall, magnificent Victorian building opposite the Law Courts in central Birmingham. It held 800 for the night. Walking up to it was a strange feeling. Obviously there were no crowds, but there were no promotional posters, no signs that anything out of the ordinary was going to happen. But it was.

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The Earthling Tour was an oddity. It came at around the commercial, and celebrity, nadir, of Bowie’s career. Brit Pop was in full swing, Blur, Massive Attack , Primal Scream, Pulp, Shed Seven and Daft Punk all played the venue, there was a lot going on. Bowie was definitely not where it was at. But his decision to play small venues was an artistic masterstroke. Die hard fans only were present which meant he could play what he wanted to. This was the real David Bowie at the time, not a commercial projection.

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I had a standing ticket and opted for around 12 feet back from the stage, which had an extended platform at the front, in the middle. Close enough to see the man , far enough back to see the whole band on the small stage, and get the PA, rather than monitor, sound. It was a fabulous venue.

The band comprised ;Reeves Gabrels – guitar, backing vocals, Gail Ann Dorsey – bass guitar, vocals, keyboards, Zack Alford – drums, percussion, Mike Garson – keyboards, backing vocals.

q in

I can only describe the atmosphere as surreal. No-one could quite believe that they were there in a club venue watching a global superstar. At 8pm on the dot, David sauntered on stage alone, white shirt, acoustic guitar in hand to open with “Quicksand”. It could have been in your front room. The Victorians, and Methodists, knew a thing or two about acoustics. A century on those skills reaped dividends. Never have I heard him sounding better, every stroke of the strings crystal clear.

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It was no vintage crowd -pleasing set. Earthling predominated, Gabrels dictated a Euro drum and bass sound as per the album which he co-produced. Those tracks were tremendous. Perversely, what fascinated was the other material which he chose to include.

Bowie-clear 3

“The Man Who Sold the World” featured Dorsey’s bass and backing vocals, stripped back, bare and haunting. Bowie teasingly introduced the following track as being inspired by a John Lee Hooker blues riff which he played himself, slowly morphing into “Jean Genie”. Magic.

 

 

“Fashion” seemed perfectly at home with its bass rhythm, and sharper than ever before Savage, not celebratory. “Fame”, twenty years on assumed a weight not immediately apparent upon its release. In 1975, as a teenager, I was not overly concerned with the angst that drugs, hookers, and loads of money apparently caused rock stars. Twenty- three years on the song had been transformed into a melancholic reflection on his career, and the raft of popular celebrities who met a premature demise. Just four weeks later Lady Diana died.

 
“Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow”

 

 

“Stay” has long been a favourite of mine. Reeves Gabrels on lead guitar did not let me down. To hear it stretched out, and funked out, in a club setting was as close to heaven as it is possible to get this side of the grass. Gail Ann Dorsey is no hired hand. Not only did she have a featured role in “The Man Who Sold The World” earlier, she also duetted with David on “Under Pressure” and sang an encore number, “ Oh Superman”, solo. My only disappointment was that the imperious Mike Garson spent his time on keyboards hammering out block chord accompaniment, with no opportunity for his piano dexterity available in the set whose highlight was “Halo Spaceboy”, a terrific epilogue to “Space oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes” ( not performed on the night) delivered as a sonic barrage which could have sunk an alien spaceship fleet.

 

 
The ‘encore”, a mini set in its own right, was over half an hour long. “White Light/ White Heat” has featured in his set, on and off, for thirty years. Seeing him perform it for fun, just because he could was a rare treat. Inevitably it varied in pace and mood but climaxed in a rousing, thrilling, “Look Back in Anger”. And he was gone.
Since his Earls Court shows, I had acquired tickets for both the Serious Moonlight and Sound & Vision tours which I had subsequently been unable to attend. I am so pleased that the last live performance I saw was with him up close, relaxed, playing what pleased him, a solo star, but very much part of a band. What a man. What a star. What a night.

The Set List

Quicksand
The Man Who Sold the World
The Jean Genie
Outside
I’m Afraid of Americans
Battle for Britain (The Letter)
Fashion
Seven Years in Tibet
Fame
Stay
Looking for Satellites
Under Pressure
The Hearts Filthy Lesson
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
Hallo Spaceboy
Little Wonder

Encore:
Dead Man Walking
Strangers When We Meet
White Light/White Heat
O Superman
Telling Lies
Look Back in Anger

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David Bowie – Stage/ Isolar 2 Tour, Earls Court, London 29/6 & 1/7/78

Bowie ec
It had been barely two years since I had last seen Bowie, on the Isolar / Station to Station tour. During that time he had released another two albums which had changed the musical landscape, Low and Heroes. Simultaneously, punk had arrived in the summer of 76, just after Station to Station, and by 78 New Wave was in full flow with Magazine’s Real Life released in the summer, and Visage and Tubeway Army gigging. From being at risk of being a Rock Dinosaur, Bowie was ahead of the game, again.

bowie2
When Bowie had played Earls Court in ’73 it had been organisational mayhem, and musical farce, with an inadequate sound system, and below par staging. His triumphant Wembley Empire Pool shows had righted the memories of that wrong, with all three shows for this Earls Court run selling out immediately. I was not a fan of Earls Court, it was a poor auditorium acoustically, badly laid out for rock shows, but conveniently located in central London.

 

 
I rarely take in more than one show at a venue, or tour. When I do, I am invariably struck by how different they are. This was no exception. By coincidence my seat was in an almost identical position for both nights, front row of an elevated side stand, around 50 feet in front of the stage. Strip white lighting, evolved slightly from the Isolar 1 tour worked impressively on a set empty, save for the musicians and their instruments. He was probably still paying for the extravagant Diamond Dogs staging! The view was superb.

 

 
This tour was the first outing for Low and Heroes, albums which had delighted, infuriated, mesmerised and alienated his fans in equal measure. The first half of the show, which was divided into two sets would showcase those albums, new material previously unheard live before. It was a bold move.

 
Even bolder was opening with “Warszawa”, a brooding, beautiful, melancholic instrumental to a crowd desperate to celebrate their hero’s return. “Warszawa”, teasingly then segued into “Heroes”, a song that had not yet gathered the kudos to acquire its subsequent iconic status. Nothing can touch the album recording of “Heroes”, Eno’s masterful production and treatments, Fripp’s inspired guitar work create a sonic treatment impossible to replicate live. But that night the song came alive as I have rarely seen it since. Dennis Davis’s drums thundered behind Bellew’s lead guitar lines, Roger Powell and Sean Mayes on keyboards and piano, and Simon House on violin delivered an alchemy quite different from the recorded version, but one which exuded muscle and energy.

 

 

In fact, the whole first half came alight, the new songs, together, made sense, with “Blackout” in particular an absolute highlight, and not at all in the shade of the previous “Jean Genie” played as the only old song in the first half to keep the fans onside. It was a mesmerising set which had Bowie beaming as he left the stage for the interval.
The second half “Ziggy Sequence” was conceived as a reward to the fans for the new first half material. However strangely, the second half failed to ignite. It was almost as if the brilliance of the first set had made the second one redundant. Of course it was good, but somehow the heights of earlier were not scaled. A closing one two of “Stay” and “Rebel Rebel” sent the fans home happy, but remembering the earlier part of the evening, not the latter.

 

 
The last night inverted that experience. The first half was good, with “Heroes”, “Black out” and an extra “Sound and Vision” again amongst the highlights, but somehow the magic of the first night was missing. Everyone now knew that the second half was the “Ziggy section” and as the lights went down, several spontaneous surges saw fans from the terraced tiers flood the arena floor, such that as Bowie returned to the metronome beat of “Five Years” he was greeted with a heaving, frenzied,  mass stage front. And it took off. “Soul Love “ was a melodious gem. “Star” and “Hang on to Yourself” shameless rabble rousers before a towering “Ziggy Stardust” exploded into an incendiary “Suffragette City”. “Art Decade” and “Moon of Alabama” offered everyone a chance to catch breath, “Station to Station” plodded a bit, before an exhilarating home straight with “TVC15” a heady, crazy, pulsing joy.

 

 

So if you could stitch the first night’s first half, and the third night’s second half , together, we would have approached perfection. Belew was enigmatic on guitar. At the age of 27 he had been snatched from relative obscurity, and just months with Frank Zappa, to play to audiences he could only ever have hallucinated about, and at times it showed. His experimental guitar style lacked the fluidity of Fripp, his rock guitar was no Earl Slick or Ronson. Eno had been down to tour, but “ill health” kept him away. I do wonder what a difference he would have made from his more conventional replacements. Alomar assumed the role of MD is his absence, a very safe pair of hands indeed.

 

 

The shows, and tour, were an unquestionable success with Bowie himself at ease, and in control. The global stardom of Lets Dance was not too far away now- it showed.

Set List

Warszawa
Heroes
What in the World
Be My Wife
Jean Genie
Blackout
Sense of Doubt
Speed of Life
Sound and Vision (1/7 only)
Breaking Glass
Fame
Beauty and the Beast
———————————– Interval———————–

Five Years
Soul Love
Star
Hang On to Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Art Decade
Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
Station to Station

Encores
TVC15
Stay
Rebel Rebel

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