Bruce Springsteen Newcastle City Hall 31st March 1981
This was Springsteen’s first real UK tour, his first visit six years earlier being limited to two concerts in London. The Newcastle gig sold out quickly and was the opening night of the UK leg of a European tour to promote Bruce’s new album “The River”. It was an epic concert. Bruce tore the City Hall apart; this is one of the best shows I have ever witnessed in the City Hall, or anywhere else for that matter. We had tickets pretty close to the front, really close to Bruce. The concert was a marathon and a demonstration of exactly how to play rock’n’roll; pure, with passion, honest, joyous. Bruce made it look so easy, so natural, and you just knew that he was enjoying the gig as much as we were. He started with the coolest cover of Elvis “Follow that Dream”. Bruce has a knack of choosing less than obvious tunes to cover, wearing his influences on his sleeve, and making them his own, while retaining the feel and soul of the original. Everything was just right that night, Bruce’s performance, the tightness of the E Street band, the crowd reaction. There was a telepathy between Springsteen, the band and the audience, that brought us all together in an unforgettable experience. At one point Bob Smeaton, who sang in local band White Heat at the time and was sitting down front, jumped up on stage. He was soon escorted back to his seat by the bouncers.
A totally amazing concert. Just writing about it brings back so many strong memories of the energy and power we all experienced in the City Hall that night.
Setlist: Follow That Dream, Prove It All Night, Out in the Street, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Independence Day, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, This Land Is Your Land, The River, Badlands, Thunder Road, Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Because the Night, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Wreck on the Highway, Racing in the Street, Backstreets, Candy’s Room, Ramrod, Point Blank, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).
Encore: Born to Run , Detroit Medley , Rockin’ All Over the World
Bruce Springsteen Newcastle City Hall 31st March 1981
Bruce Springsteen Hammersmith Odeon London 24th November 1975
I’d read the famous report which famously claimed, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen,” and was originally written by Landau’s in a 1974 edition of the USA magazine “The Real Paper”, and I’d also heard the single “Born to Run” booming out of my radio. I read that Springsteen was finally coming to the UK, and was playing a show in London at Hammersmith Odeon on Tuesday 18th November 1975. Should I go? I wouldn’t usually travel to London to see a guy whose songs I didn’t know. But there seemed to be something special about this guy. The reports I’d read suggested that he was the “new Dylan” with shades of Elvis thrown in for good measure. I talked to my mates. No-one really knew who Springsteen was or fancied going to see him. By then the concert was sold out anyway, but a second concert had been added on the following Monday 24th November 1975. I passed on the first gig, but still kept the idea of going to see him at the second concert alive in my mind. I think I may have read a review of the first show, which was ok. I can’t be sure. Anyway something convinced me that I had to see this guy. That is was going to be something special. So on the Monday morning I decided I would make the 500+ mile round trip to London to try and get into the concert. I didn’t have a ticket, and I knew demand would be high, but hey it wouldn’t do any harm to try. I go the bus to town, bought a day return to London, caught a train to Newcastle, and got on the next train to London. As I walked along the street from the tube I could see Hammersmith Odeon. Above the doors the sign proclaimed: “Finally London is ready for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band”. The first thing I noticed was that the posters said that the show didn’t start until 9pm. The time was around 6pm. I’d expected the concert to start at 7.30pm and the late start time worried me. If I did get in, would I make the last train home (which was shortly after midnight). Anyway, I put such concerts to the back of my mind and set about the task of scoring a ticket. I started to talk to the touts outside the venue. “Oh going to be tricky. Yeh, I can get you a ticket but it’ll cost you.” was the answer I got. As the time passed and it got closer to the doors opening around 8pm, I was offered a few tickets. The prices ranged from £20 upwards for a seat, which was a hell of a lot of money at the time, and more that I had with me. Finally one of the tours came up to me. “Are you still looking for a ticket? I have a cheap one here. Its a £1 standing ticket, and you can have it for £10.” That was almost all the money I had, and would leave me just enough for my tube fare back to Kings Cross. So I bought it and entered the venue. There was an air of anticipation in the air. Simon Frith called it “an odd buzz because everyone was expecting something but no one knew what” in Creem (“Casing The Promised Land: Bruce Springsteen at Hammersmith Odeon, Frith, 1975). Springsteen and the E Street Band came on stage at 9pm. My ticket allowed me to stand at the back of the stalls, the view wasn’t too bad actually. They started with “Thunder Road”. Bruce had a wooly hat on his head, a casual shirt and a pair of jeans. The first thing that struck me was how tight the band was. The sax player, Clarence Clemons came to the front a lot, recreating the image from the front cover of “Born to Run”. I didn’t know any of the songs, other than “Born to Run” which came quite early in the set, but I’d read enough reviews to recognise some of them, simply by their title. He played some classic covers, Manfred Mann’s “Pretty Flamingo” and “Baby It’s You (The Shirelles). The main set was quite long, fast paced, and very intense throughout. It’s generally recognised that this night was a much better (and longer) performance than the first concert in London the week before, which got quite mixed reviews from the press. Bruce and the band returned for several encores, which just seemed to go and on for ever. During the encores Springsteen took us through his influences, playing classic rock’n’roll by Elvis and Chuck Berry, and the woderful Jackie De Shannon song “When You Walk in the Room”. Bruce and the band were really into the groove by now, and it was hot, tight, stunning. I started to worry about missing the train home. I left at 11.30pm, just as he was finishing. I ran down the road to the tube, jumped on one. I made my train just in time, and it got me back home around 8am, tired, worn out, but with a feeling that I had witnessed something pretty special.
As soon as I had a little money again, I went out and bought “Born to Run” and played it again and again. I was a convert.
Setlist: Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Spirit in the Night, Lost in the Flood, She’s the One, Born to Run; Growin’ Up; It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City; Pretty Flamingo (Manfred Mann cover); Backstreets; Baby It’s You; Jungleland; Rosalita.
Encore: 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy); Wear My Ring Around Your Neck; For You; When You Walk in the Room; Quarter to Three; Twist and Shout; Carol; Little Queenie
Supertramp Newcastle City Hall 14th October 1977
I first saw Supertramp when they played as support for Ten Years After at Newcastle City Hall in 1971. It was at the time of their second album “Indelibly Stamped”. The thing I remember most was that the album sleeve was quite controversial for the time, as it featured a picture of the tattooed torso of a woman, including her bare breasts. Apparently two gold stars were pasted over the nipples for the US issue of the lp. The line-up of the band at the time was Roger Hodgson (vocals and guitars), Rick Davies (keyboards and vocals), Dave Winthrop (flute, saxophone, vocals), Frank Farrell (bass) and Kevin Currie (drums). They played a solid set that night, but I’d gone to see TYA, and the truth is I remember little about their performance. I next saw them at the 1975 Reading festival. By this time the band had released “Crime of the Century” and were starting to receive major recognition, particularly for “Dreamer” which reached No 13 in the UK singles chart. I made a point of watching their performance that weekend, and was impressed by them. The band’s line-up had changed quite a bit by then with Hodgson and Davies being the only members remaining from the band I saw in 1971. They were joined by John Helliwell who as well as playing sax, flute and singing also took on the role of addressing the audience and cracking jokes with the crowd, Dougie Thomson (bass) and Bob Siebenberg (drums). The next, and last time, I saw Supertramp was at Newcastle City Hall on 14th October 1977. By then they were a major band. They had released two more albums “Crisis? What Crisis?” (1975) and “Even in the Quietest Moments…” (1977), both of which were chart successes. They also hot the UK singles chart with “Give a Little Bit”. Support came from a new artist called Chris De Burgh. Their set is likely to have included: Give a Little Bit, Bloody Well Right, Lady, Dreamer, Give a Little Bit, Bloody Well Right, Sister Moonshine and Crime of the Century. I enjoyed the show, but can’t pretend that I was a big fan. Supertramp went on to even greater success with the “Breakfast in America” album and hits including “”The Logical Song”. I never saw them live again, which I now regret as their music has grown on me over the years, and I realise now how great a band they were. Supertramp last toured a few years ago, although the current line-up does not feature Roger Hodgson, with Davies and Helliwell now fronting the band. I really should try to see Supertramp, and Roger Hodgson, again if/when they next play.
Stretch Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt December 1975
The story of Stretch is strange and fascinating. Stretch were fronted by vocalist Elmer Gantry, from Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, who recorded the excellent late ’60s single “Flames”. I first heard “Flames” on the 1968 CBS lp Rock Machine Turns You On, which was the first UK bargain priced sampler album, selling at 14/11 (£0.75), less than half the price of a normal full price lp at the time. “The Rock Machine…it’s the happening sounds of today….”. The album had some great tracks by Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Moby Grape, Spirit, Taj Mahal, Blood, Sweat and Tears and others. I played it again and again; “Flames” was one of the best tracks on the album, along with Moby Grape’s “Can’t Be So Bad”, and the Zombies “Time of the Season”. Great stuff.
Roll forward six years to 1974 and Elmer Gantry was part of a crazy plan to put together a bogus version of Fleetwood Mac, with the help of Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis and (supposedly) drummer Mick Fleetwood. The plan was for the band, with Mick Fleetwood on drums but no other Mac members, to perform as Fleetwood Mac on a US tour to fulfil an outstanding contract, which the original band were unable to do because several members had left. However, something went wrong and Fleetwood didn’t join the band, denying any knowledge of the plan. The tour went ahead anyway but it was obvious to audiences that this was not the real Fleetwood Mac, and the turnfell apart with later dates cancelled amid threats of legal action. Bass player Paul Martinez is quoted as saying: “Mick Fleetwood pulled out at the last minute claiming not to know who we were!” The band quickly changed into Stretch and guitarist Kirby wrote a song, “Why Did You Do It?”, about the debacle, accusingly pointing a finger at (presumably) Mick Fleetwood: “I’ve been thinking ’bout what you have done to me, The damage is much deeper than you’ll ever see, Hit me like a hammer to my head, I wonder were you pushed or were you led?”
“Why did you do it? Why did you do that thing to me?, Why did you do it? Why did you do that thing to me?, The only one who knows the truth, Man it’s him me and you.”
(Why Did You Do It?, 1975)
“Why Did You Do It” gave Stretch a No. 16 UK hit single in November 1975. I saw the band a month later at this concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt. The place was packed, and there were a pretty hot rock band. Stretch had just released their first album “Elastique” and the set will have included tracks from that. I also have a vague memory that they may have played “Flames”, but that could well be my memory playing tricks, and wishful thinking. The line-up of Stretch changes quite a bit over the next few years. At the time of this gig it was probably Elmer Gantry (vocals), Kirby (guitar), Roshi (guitar), Paul Martinez (bass; he would go on to play with Robert Plant) and Jim Russell (drums). I also saw Stretch the following year at Newcastle City Hall when they supported Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on their 1976 Rainbow Rising tour. I recall that they received a great reception that night. Stretch split in 1979. In 2007 Elmer Gantry and Kirby reformed the band.
Leo Sayer Newcastle City Hall 23rd April 1976 and 5th October 1977
I saw Leo Sayer on two further occasions before I started to loose faith. The first was on 23rd April 1976 at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from Glyder, a band that featured Dave Bronze on bass, who would go on to play with Eric Clapton and many others. Sayer was becoming more and more popular, both in the UK and the USA, and was starting to transform into a middle of the road family entertainer. He was soon to have a massive No 1 hit which would take his career in a new direction and would enable Leo to front his own TV show on BBC every Friday night, guest on The Muppet Show, sing a duet with Miss Piggy, and appear with his idol, Fred Astaire on TV in Hollywood. There was no new album or single to promote for Leo’s Spring 1976 tour; he released his fourth album “Endless Flight” later in 1976. “Endless Flight” featured two US No. 1 hit singles, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and “When I Need You”.
The setlist for the 1976 was something like this: Giving It All Away; I Hear the Laughter; Hold on to My Love; One Man Band; Train; How Much Love; Endless Flight; No Business Like Love Business; You Make Me Feel Like Dancing; When I Need You; Reflections; Long Tall Glasses; The Show Must Go On. No performance of “The Dancer” which will have disappointed me :(
My final Leo Sayer experience took place at Newcastle City Hall on 5th October 1977. Leo’s 1977 UK tour came after massive No 1 success with the single “When I Need You”. “When I Need You” was written by Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager, and first appeared as the title track of Hammond’s 1976 album. Leo Sayer’s version was a big hit worldwide, reaching No 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in February 1977. Leo Sayer performed it on the second show of the third season of The Muppet Show, and his transformation to a successful middle of the road artist was complete. Leo’s 1977 tour was hugely popular, and sold out very quickly. A whole new audience were clammering to see Leo perform “When I Need You”. I went along to the concert with a mate, and we both knew that we had lost the singer-songwriter who created the wonderful “Silverbird” album. The tour was to promote Leo’s fifth album “Thunder in My Heart”, which featured the hit single of the same name. Support came from singer-songwriter Aj Webber, who popped up supporting several acts during the ’70s, played the Reading festival and had a great song “Magnus the lonely gnome”, and Blue, who were a soft-rock band fronted by ex-Marmalade Hugh Nicholson, had a great catchy single “Little Jody” and should have had more success. We saw a different, new Leo Sayer at the City Hall that night in 1977. The transformation had been coming about for some time, but it became very apparent at that concert. Gone were the serious, dark, moody early songs, replaced by singalong hits. Leo had become a song and dance man. Just look at the covers of his albums and you can see how his persona has changed. The sold out audience was also different. Gone were the rock fans who had followed him in the early days, replaced by a crowd who came to sing along to “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and “When I Need You”.
Thinking back about Leo Sayer, his first album, those early hit singles, and his early tours, I remember how much I enjoyed the guy’s music, and how he was respected as a serious singer-songwriter. I think I’ll dig out my vinyl copy of “Silverbird” and play it one more time. I’ll play “The Dancer” first.
Leo Sayer Newcastle Odeon 16th October 1975
It’s funny how certain songs stick in your mind. I loved “Moonlighting” when it was released in 1975. The catchy tune, the story of star crossed lovers. OK cool it certainly wasn’t but there was just something about the song that hooked me and still does. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. We would call it an “ear worm” today.
“He sees her at the same time every night, at the Mexican discotheque. She gives him French kisses, he gives her French cigarettes. They sit at the same table every time, the lights are low, but their eyes shine, just digging the music from those sweet soul bands. She keeps him outta fights, holds on to his hand. He whispers slowly “Tonight’s the night”. Months of planning so it’s gotta be right. Under the table her bag is bursting at the seams. She made sure to bring everything.
Moonlighting, they’re leaving everything. Moonlighting, they’re losing all their friends.
Moonlighting, it’s the only way. It’s frightening, but it means they’ll stay, together. They’re gonna make it together……….
We’re only ten miles to Gretna, they’re three hundred behind….Moonlighting..” (Leo Sayer, 1975)
Looking at the lyrics it really isn’t cool. No excuses, and I have no way of explaining my taste at the time….
“Moonlighting” was Leo Sayer’s fourth UK top ten single, reaching No 2 in the charts in September 1975. He went out on tour to promote his third album “Another Year”, calling at Newcastle Odeon this time. Support came from Max Merritt and the Meteors who were making a name for themselves on the pub-rock circuit at the time. Max Merritt hailed from New Zealand and record “Slippin’ Away” which reached No. 2 on the Australian singles charts in 1976. During the early to mid 1970s he was based in London playing the pubs of the capital.
Leo still played “The Dancer”, which remained by favourite Leo Sayer song and made the concert worthwhile for me, even if I couldn’t get “Moonlighting” out of my head :)
Maybe I shouldn’t feel too guilty in admitting my penchant for the early music of Leo Sayer. Actually thinking about, it was all pretty good, and he was really quite a serious musical artist at the time. His singles and albums were all big successes and reviews of his concerts were positive, and why shouldn’t they have been? After all, the guy put on a great show. Here are some snippets from a review of Leo Sayer’s October 1975 concert at Bournemouth Winter Gardens, written by Harry Doherty for Melody Maker: “musically, Sayer was excellent…..he left nothing to chance and gave a rousing performance of songs from his three albums…..he has a great voice, gutsy one minute, melancholic the next…..he was backed by a very tight four-piece and played a set of his best songs.”
The setlist will have been something like: Giving it all away; Train; In my life; One man band; The kid’s grown up; Only dreaming; Telepath; The last gig of Johnny B Goode; Moonlighting; I will not stop fighting; The Dancer; Long tall glasses; The show must go on.
Johnny Winter New Victoria Theatre London 26th October 1974
I was very sad to hear of the passing yesterday of the great Johnny Winter.
Johnny Winter was an incredible blues guitarist, an amazing performer, and a spectacular rock’n’roll star. He looked great, played and sang impeccable electric blues, and his performance was like being caught in a whirlwind.
The first time I saw Johnny Winter live was at a concert at the New Victoria Theatre, London in 1974. I went with my friend John, and it seemed quite an adventure travelling all the way to London for a concert. I’d been to a few festivals and one day events, but I think this was the first time I had travelled to the capital for a single artist concert in a theatre. Support came from Elf, who were fronted by Ronnie James Dio, but it was Winter we had gone to see. The concert was sold out and we had seats up in the circle, looking down on the stage. I recall that Johnny Winter was late coming on stage, but boy was he worth waiting for. This was Johnny the young rock’n’roll bundle of energy and fire (he will have been 30 at the time, but he still looked young and sharp to us). He wore a flash cowboy shirt shirt with long tassels flowing from the arms, and he twisted, twirled and ran around the stage, his incredibly long white hair swirling around him under his cowboy hat, while he sht fire-fast riffs from his trademark Gibson Firebird. Winter was every inch pure rock’n’roll energy; the renegade electric cowboy, playing dark and fast music from the delta. Flanked by fellow ace guitarist Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter and his band rocked through a set of blues, his own tracks including the ace “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo” (written by Derringer), great covers of the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women”, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven, and Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally”. He was simply stunning and we were blown away.
Philip Norman wrote in The Times of the concert at the time: “Johnny Winter has long white hair and sleeves with red streamers like abandoned conjuring-tricks; his legs are as slim as the caddis-fly’s and, like that nervous insect, he lives in electric storms…effect is not calculated by mere voltage; there was something breathtaking …in this unrepentant chaos”
John’s memories of the concert: “I first got into Johnny Winter after listening to one of the many great lives albums from the early 70′s Johnny Winter and Live. As I recall he did not tour the UK much and certainly no out in the provinces, so when we saw the date in London, we decided to go.The tour was to promote the recently release Still Alive and Well which was recorded after one of his many periods of ill health.The setlist included the title rack and I think Silver Train (the B side from Angie? by the Stones). He did a lot of covers and seemed to especially like the Stones. But the stand out track was his own blues tour de force Mean Town Blues, which remains one of my favorite live cuts from that period to this day.”
Thanks to John for his image of the album of the time and for the photo of his poster which he bought at the concert that night in 1974.
RIP Johnny Winter.