I have been watching live music since the Seventies, from pub bands, to Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, and the Rolling Stones in stadiums. Yet The Robin has become one of my favourite venues to see a band play. First at Brierley Hill where I have fond memories of Jess Roden gigs, and now at Bilston, a knowledgeable , friendly and enthusiastic crowd invariably bring the best out of touring bands. Roy Wood at Christmas at the Robin has become a bit of an institution, and tonights’ show had the added personal dimension of Roy making the first single I ever bought, “Fire Brigade”.
Nostalgia shows can be dangerous territory, especially when performed by those whose talent originally was mercurial and whose motivation now is purely cash driven. Neither is true of Roy Wood. His canon of material, first with The Move, and then with Wizard is substantial, and the smile on his face and each member of his nine piece band evidence of pleasure motivating the evening.
Support act were “Big Up the 90’s”, essentially the hugely successful “A Kick up the 80’s” with a different set list. Lead singer and keyboard player Justin Hyde is multi talented and has fronted up several bands playing original as well as cover material. Their set was widely eclectic, comfortable with rock based numbers , less so with pop, particularly those associated with female singers.
As the lights went down, a sell out crowd roared their approval as Roy blasted into “California Man” before steaming headlong into a slew of hits from his back catalogue of which “See My Baby Jive”, “Fire Brigade” and “Blackberry Way” stood out. The band is no ramshackle assembly. Few tour with a four piece brass section, but Roy does, and the sound, particularly in a tight standing venue, richly rewards that commitment. Generally older singers recruiting pretty younger blondes to sing support vocals is vaguely embarrassing, but not here. Shell Naylor has a distinguished singing career in musical theatre. That stage presence and vocal experience shows as her voice blended and complimented, adding to, not subtracting from, the songs. On bass, Neil Simpson from the Climax Blues Band was in imperious form, as was his comapanion in rhythm, Roy Adams on drums.
They finished with “I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day”, forty years on from when it first charted. And it probably has felt like Christmas for Roy every time the royalty cheques come in from one of the most successful Christmas songs of modern times, every year for forty years! He, and the band sang it with love, and conviction without a hint of ennui for a fitting end to a great night.