David Bowie: A Celebration; Orchestrated by Mike Garson. 10 January 2021

bowie 1Yet another streaming event. Well it is all that is available the moment. This one was a bit different. We were promised a 3 hour extravaganza celebrating David Bowie’s birthday and featuring artists from around the world all performing together through the power of modern technology. The whole event was orchestrated and planned by Mike Garson, David Bowie‘s piano player from around 1973 and then throughout his career. The artists ranged from those who names I recognised: Duran Duran, Macy Gray, Boy George, Rick Wakeman, Ian Hunter, Ian Astbury, Joe Elliot, Adam Lambert and Peter Frampton and many others who were less familiar to me (probably because they are more recent and up-to-date than my old guy musical tastes and knowledge). We were also promised a band consisting of musicians who accompanied David Bowie throughout his career: Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, Tony Visconti, Tony Levin and many others.

The event was originally set to be screened at 2 AM UK time on 9 January (it was being streamed from Los Angeles). So I set my alarm for 1:45 AM and woke up ready, excited and intrigued, for the ongoing proceedings. Unfortunately, after a short delay of a few minutes Mike Garson appeared only to tell us that thebowie mike g event was postponed by one day, due to difficulties relating to Covid. “We’ve been working around the clock for months putting together an amazing show for you. Due to the difficulties in the world and the situation with COVID in Los Angeles, we’ve had to move the show 24 hours to tomorrow at the same time. Hang in there with us – just for one day.” So back to sleep I went.

Now the deal was that you had a 24-hour slot in which to view the three-hour event, so this time I decided not to rise at the early hour of 2 AM. Rather, I settled for watching the event later in the day on Sunday 10 January.

The event itself exceeded all of my expectations. It really made the most of modern technology, seamlessly drawing together artists from all over the world; some live, some I suspect recorded, all on different screens yet all playing together. Fantastic. Mike Garson took us through the whole event, introducing each artist and the song and played piano on all, but one (I will explain this later) of the songs.

bowie duranThe concert started with Duran Duran playing “Five Years”, the opening track of Ziggy Stardust and one of my favourite Bowie songs. I suspect this choice of opener paid tribute to the fact that Bowie sadly passed away almost five years to the day, a few days after his birthday. Now I have lost touch with Duran Duran. It is many years since I have seen them and I used to be a fan in the 80s, back in the day. I was pleasantly surprised how well they delivered, no nailed, this classic track; Simon Le Bon almost spitting out the vocals. A great opener. But there was more to follow. An electric version of “Moonage Daydream”, followed by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins meandering around the screen in his own TV, lost in a “Space Oddity”. An excellent version of “The Man Who Sold the World”. Gary Barlow punching above his weight throughout “Fame “. And so it went on. Bowie classic after classic, mixed with some less familiar tunes, Mike Garson constantly present on a grand piano. Macy Gray popped up on a screen to the left singing one of my Bowie favourites “Changes”, doing it full justice. A tribute to Mick Ronson and his wonderful version of “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” performed by Kevin Armstrong, bringing back memories of seeing Ronson perform it on his solo tour, in Newcastle City Hall many years ago. bowie joBowie fan, and Def Leopard front man, Joe Elliott sang “Ziggy Stardust” paying tribute to a hero of his youth, as he often does. Ricky Gervais popped up for a moment to introduce “Little Fat Man” harking back to Bowie’s performance of that song on his TV show Extras.

Actor Gary Oldman performed a highly emotional version of “I Can’t Read”, soon followed by a great rocking version of “Suffragette City” performed by none other than Peter Frampton. Ian Astbury of the Cult performed “Lazarus” and then Mike Garson handed over his piano stool to Rick Wakeman who appeared in a virtual box delivering the introduction and wonderful background to “Life on Mars” as he did on the original version so many years ago; the song being performed by new voice Youngblood. Boy George delivered a highly theatrical performance of a trio of classics: “Lady Grilling Soul”, “Time”, “Aladdin Sane”. Then my hero Ian Hunter appeared to the left of the screen and performed his tribute to Bowie “Dandy”, followed by “All the Young Dudes” (of course). Current Queen front man and star in his ownbowie ian h right, Adam Lambert, performed an appropriately dramatic version of “Star man”. I can’t claim to recognise the name Bernard Fowler, but I did recognise the man as a long time singer for the Rolling Stones. He performed a number of songs during the show, and closed the event with a powerful rendition of “Heroes”. A fitting end to an incredible event. One which finally realised the potential of streaming and modern technology. An excellent tribute to a genius who I feel so privileged to have seen in performance several times. David if you were watching somewhere out there I’m sure you would have approved. Mike Garson is to be applauded for doing a wonderful job in putting together an excellent event. After the show the team behind A Bowie Celebration tweeted: “Thank you David. And our thanks to you all for coming together in a world where that has been so difficult. This couldn’t have been done without you, the amazing Bowie alumni family, our special guests and wonderful behind the scenes team at @rollinglivepro.” I even bought a signed copy of Mike Garson’s book! I will post an image of it here when it arrives.

bowie stones singerThe reviews in the press were almost all extremely positive. “In almost impossible circumstances, Garson pulled off a herculean task, doing Bowie proud, at a distance.”(Mark Beaumont in The Independent). “All that was missing was the star himself and the global audience, who were surely out there, singing in their homes.” (Dave Simpson in The Guardian).

Setlist: Five Years (Duran Duran); Moonage Daydream (Lena Hall and Lzzy Hale); Space Oddity (Billy Corgan); The Man Who Sold the World (Perry Farrell and Etty Lau Farrell); Bring Me the Disco King (Anna Calvi); Fame (Gary Barlow); Young Americans (Corey Glover); Can You Hear Me (Gail Ann Dorsey); Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing (Bernard Fowler) ; Let’s Dance (Charlie Sexton); Lady Stardust (Judith Hill); Changes (Macy Gray);  Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (Kevin Armstrong); Conversation Piece (Catherine Russell); Rebel Rebelbowie rick w (Charlie Sexton); Win / Ziggy Stardust (Joe Elliott); Quicksand (Taylor Momsen); DJ / Blue Jean (Charlie Sexton); Where Are We Now? (Michael C. Hall); Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (Dave Navarro, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Chaney); Little Fat Man (Corey Taylor; introduced by Ricky Gervais); Hang On to Yourself (Corey Taylor, Dave Navarro, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Chaney); I Can’t Read (Gary Oldman); The Jean Genie (Jesse Malin); Strangers When We Meet (Gail Ann Dorsey); Suffragette City (Peter Frampton); Fantastic Voyage (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross); Fashion     (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Mariqueen Maandig); Lazarus (Ian Astbury); Life on Mars? (YUNGBLUD and Rick Wakeman); Lady Grinning Soul / Time / Aladdin Sane (Boy George and Charlie Sexton);  Dandy /All the Young Dudes (Ian Hunter); Starman (Adam Lambert); Under Pressure (Judith Hill and Andra Day); Heroes (Bernard Fowler); Ashes to Ashes (Instrumental over credits).

Patti Smith Birthday live stream 30 December 2020

patti4An invitation from Patti Smith dropped into my mailbox:

“The winter solstice filled me with new energy, I hope for you as well. I am writing to thank you for your support, and spending time with Tony, my daughter Jesse Paris and I on Black Friday. We hope to feel your presence again on my birthday, Wednesday, December 30th. There will be the full band beneath a full moon.”

How could I resist? Celebrating Patti’s 74th birthday with herself and her band in the comfort of my own room. Excellent! There was one small drawback, however. This time the concert was at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time (USA) which was 2 AM UK Greenwich Mean Time. Still a man has to do what a man has to do; so I pressed the button and bought a ticket.

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So it was that, last Wednesday, both Alexa and my nightshift carer Jackie were given precise instructions to wake me up at 1:45 AM so that I was ready for the start of Patti’s concert. The plan worked precisely and I was awake, remarkably refreshed, ready for the show. This time Patti was accompanied by her band including long time member Lenny Kaye, who had also celebrated his 74th birthday only a few days earlier. A small tot of whiskey surprisingly helped keep me awake and was an ideal accompaniment for the early morning (or late evening, depending on your perspective) concert.

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The set was a collection of Patti Smith favourites from throughout her career. She started with “Grateful” dedicated to Jerry Garcia, followed by “Kimberly”. Then we were transported right back to the start with a wonderful “Free Money”, building up to its majestic climax, Patti’s voice sounding as strong and unique as ever. “My Blakean Year” was followed by a short poetry reading. Then it was back to familiar Patti Smith territory, with a number of favourites including “Dancing Barefoot” which she dedicated to her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith; both of their children performing with her.

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The set climaxed with a great rendition of her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night”, which she also dedicated to Fred “Sonic” Smith. Hughes in Billboard (2018) declared “Because the Night” “a layered tribute for Fred and Patti’s love, as well as the family and art that came from it.” (Billboard, Hughes, 2018) Then it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” to the great lady herself, complete with birthday cake. I noticed that she blew out the candles with a fan; I guess really blowing them out is not acceptable in the Covid world; it is strange how things have changed in so many little ways. Finally, a lovely hours entertainment closed with “People Have the Power” and a reference to the new political regime in the USA. 3 AM and it was time to go back to sleep. Happy Birthday Patti.

Setlist: Grateful; Kimberly; Free Money; My Blakean Year; Poem; Ghost Dance; Dancing Barefoot; We Three; Beneath the Southern Cross; Because the Night; Happy Birthday to You; People Have the Power

Live Birthday Performance with her band: Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan, Jay Dee Daugherty, Jesse Paris Smith and Jackson Smith

SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY Live stream concert 20 Dec 2020

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So here I am “going” to my second live streaming concert! This could become a habit until I can venture out into the real gig world again (please bring on that day soon). Now I have always had a fancy for seeing Sarah Brightman. She is a sort of guilty pleasure who I almost went to see in London couple of times, but “bottled out”, with some regret now. The concert was advertised as below. Plus you could buy a package which included the concert, a programme and a ticket (yet to be delivered from the USA). How could I resist? After all, this is almost like a real concert; I get a programme and a ticket for my collection (and to display on here when they arrive). What’s not to like? I am IN!

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SARAH BRIGHTMAN lights up the holidays with her first-ever livestream concert event SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY!
Join SARAH as she transforms the historical Christ Church Spitalfields in London and welcomes viewers worldwide into her intimate winter wonderland on December 20th
Together with orchestra, chorister from Trinity College, SARAH has invited special guests Aled Jones, choir Gregorian to join her, and will be reuniting with Andrew Lloyd Webber for a memorable performance of a holiday classic! Curl up with your family and a hot toddy or two, and enjoy what promises to be an unforgettable Christmas spectacle at home with SARAH BRIGHTMAN!

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One thing about streamed events. You have to be careful to remember that they are happening! I almost forgot. I was busy answering emails (as I do most of my time!) Then suddenly I realised that I should be watching Sarah Brightman. We switched over quickly and joined the concert a few minutes late. However this was not a problem, because at the end I could switch to a recording and watch the few minutes I missed.

The setting was a lovely old church in London with Sarah surrounded by wonderful, appropriate Christmas lighting and an orchestra. She started with “Ave Maria”, followed by “Silent Night”; lovely if perhaps a little too traditional for me. She was then joined by Aled Jones to sing “Walking in the Air” which was also quite exquisite. This was followed by “Pie Jesu” with a chorister named Leo and then an ABBA song “Happy New Year” which I am not familiar with; followed by another unfamiliar song “Colder Than Winter”.

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Sarah was then joined by long-term friend Andrew Lloyd Webber for a performance of an old Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice song “Christmas Dream”. Great! The next song sounded familiar; after some thought and some googling I realised it was “Hymn” by none other than Barclay James Harvest; a song I have seen them perform many times before; shame on me for not remembering it. Lovely. Sarah’s voice is exquisite, angelic and very fitting to the mood, Christmas and the surroundings. This was followed by another old Christmas favourite from the late great Greg Lake: “I Believe in Father Christmas”. Sarah then left us while the orchestra played a piece, and she made one of many costume changes into another lovely dress.

We were close to the end at this point and Sarah continued with “Amazing Grace”, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The closer was none other than Roy Wood’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”. All in all a lovely Christmas concert. But, as I observed last time I attended a streaming event, it can never be the same as a live concert experience. I must admit I was quite impressed by Sarah Brightman and I still remain tempted to go and see her should she return to the UK for a concert in the future. Will I attend another streaming event? I have none planned at the moment, but if anything interesting turns up I may well do so.

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Set list: Ave Maria: Silent night: Walking in the air (The Snowman) Aled Jones plus chorister Leo: Pie Jesu plus chorister Leo:  Arrival (ABBA): Colder than Winter (Vince Gill); Christmas Dream with Andrew Lloyd Webber; A Coventry Carol with Gregorian; Hymn (Barclay James Harvest); I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake); Orchestral Musical interlude; Amazing Grace; Happy Christmas (War is over) (Lennon and Ono); I Wish it could be Christmas every day (Roy Wood)

Patti Smith A Black Friday Performance Veeps livestream 27 November 2020

patti ticketSo I finally entered the live streaming era. I couldn’t resist, of course, “seeing” Patti Smith “in concert” in a Veeps live streaming event on Black Friday. I must admit to being quite intrigued and excited about how my hero Patti would join me in my living room through my laptop. What would it be like? Could it in any way match a real live event?

Well all was to be revealed at 8 PM on 27th November. Having resisted the rush for online bargains on Black Friday, I made up for it by treating myself to joining Patti, her daughter Jessie Paris Smith and long-term sidekick Tony Shanahan for a concert in my living room. Patti appeared, on time (no long waiting for the artist to appear in this medium) in what looked like her Bowery upstairs room set out as a studio, with her patti tix 2daughter Jessie Paris on keyboards and Tony Shanahan or electric piano.

Patti started with a reading from her book “Year of the Monkey”, followed by a series of songs, most of which I recognised, on which she accompanied herself with an acoustic guitar and the keyboards of her fellow musicians. These included “My Blakean Year”(based around her thoughts and feelings of the poet William Blake), another poem “The Woes of the Young Scientists”, a beautiful cover of “After the Gold Rush” (for Neil Young’s 75th birthday the week before),”Elegie” for Jimi Hendrix, whose birthday it would have been that day (“Happy Birthday Jimi”, said Patti sweetly) and the lovely “This Is the Girl”, Patti illustrating the song with some lovely small hand/arm movements. The set closed with songs from more familiar territory including “Dancing Barefoot”, “People Have the Power” and, finally “Pissing in a River”. Patti was on fine form throughout, looking as lovely and natural as ever. A great performance by all three musicians.patti 1

Well, what are my final conclusions of a live streaming event? Did Patti really join me in my living room? Well, of course not, but there was a strange intimacy to the performance. Did it match up to a real-life event? No, nothing can match the atmosphere of a live rock performance, but it was okay as a substitute during these strange times. Would I go to another such event? Yes, perhaps, depending upon the artist and the context. Did I enjoy it? Come on, yes of course I enjoyed it. After all, it is Patti Smith!

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Setlist: Year of the Monkey (reading); Grateful; My Blakean Year; The Woes of the Young Scientists (Poem); After the Gold Rush (Neil Young cover); This Is the Girl; Elegie; Dancing Barefoot; Beneath the Southern Cross; Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power; Pissing in a River

Roger Chapman and Friends play Family, supported by Edgar Broughton 18 Jan 2018 Newcastle Academy

chapman tixAnother trip down  memory lane. This was Roger Chapman, supported by a band comprising of ex Family members and others, playing a selection of Family songs and other Chappo favourites. Add into the mix, my old hero Edgar Broughton as support act, and I was guaranteed a great night.

The venue was half full, comprising mostly old fans of Family. Now Family were always great favourites in the North-East, from the days when they played the Bay Hotel in Sunderland, Sunderland Locarno and Newcastle Mayfair in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was lucky enough to see them once or twice in those days and pretty formidable they were too. Their music was a mix of rock, jazz and psychedelia; quite unpredictable and topped by Chappos tremendous searing, throaty vocals. I ran into a few old friends and had a good chat with them, which started the night off well.

First up was the legend that is Edgar Broughton. I used to look up to Edgar as a role model; a fearless guy who stood up for, and fought for, what he believed in and what he was passionate about, which was freedom, socialist values and doing the right thing. I have seen Edgar many times over the years, and his spirit remains undiminished. The format has changed, the old Edgar Broughton Band is no more after a sad falling out with his brother Steve, which he sings about in a song that has the lines “We Were Warriors Together”; and how true that was! Now he sings solo with a batch of new songs; his passionate, emotional voice supported only by his acoustic guitar. “Out Demons out” is no more, the only Edgar Broughton Band songs being “Green Lights” and “Hotel Room”, if my memory serves me right. Sadly, several of the crowd talk over him while he sings, the unfamiliar songs raising polite clapping. But to me, who now recognises all the songs, this was a great performance by a great man.

800px-Roger_Chapman_-_Werner_Rennen_2018_03Top of the bill was, of course, Roger Chapman and his band playing songs by Family; all well known by the crowd.We were treated to old Family favourites such as “Top of the Hill”, “Drowned in Wine” and the hit song “Burlesque”, closing with the wonderful “The Weavers Answer“. The encore started with my personal favourite “My Friend the Sun“; I am back in the field at the rainy Buxton Festival when Chapman and his Streetwalkers sang that song and the sun came out. A treasured moment; we all cheered the sun and all was well in the world for a few wonderful moments when the time stood still for me. The closer was “In My Own Time”. Chapman remains in good voice, as emotional as ever and his power undiminished. Everyone went home content. Happy days for ageing rockers. It don’t get much better than this.

Setlist: Prisoner; Who Pulled the Night Down; Hey Mr Policeman; Drowned in Wine; Habits of a Lifetime; Kiss My Soul; Top of the Hill; Run for Cover; Processions; Hung Up Down; Burlesque; The Weaver’s Answer. Encore: My Friend the Sun; Shadow on the Wall / Shortlist / Toenail Dragging; In My Own Time

Many thanks to Frank Schwichtenberg for allowing his picture of Roger Chapman in 2018 to be used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Morrissey Newcastle Arena 23 February 2018

morrissey tixSo Morrissey returned to Newcastle, after quite a long hiatus since he last played in the city. Now Laura is a big Smiths and Morrissey fan; and I always liked the Smiths “back in the day” so we try and catch the great man each time he visits the region. In fact we have seen Morrisey quite a few times over the years including previous concerts in Newcastle, a couple of visits to Manchester (one for his 50th birthday concert which was simply tremendous), and concerts in Middlesbrough, Leeds and Sunderland. So this was a special night for us. And we were not alone; a packed arena was clamouring to see the return of the enigma that is Morrissey.

morrissey 2For me, the preshow videos which Morrissey projects onto the stage screen before the concert, are always very interesting and they give an insight into Morrissey’s beliefs, interests and values. This night we were treated to some great film clips including “Loudmouth” by the Ramones; a wonderful nostalgia trip (at least for me) of “Something Here in My Heart” by the Paper Dolls; a somewhat bizarre version of “How Soon Is Now” by t.a.T.u on Top of the Pops; “I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown; the great rock ‘n’ roll singer Robert Gordon; Dionne Warwick; a blast of “God Save the Queen” by Sex Pistols; black evangelist James Baldwin from 1969 in London; a short extract of a talk by Germaine Greer; the excellent Four Tops on top form (pun intended) singing “It’s the Same Old Song”; “Jet Boy” by Morrissey’s favourites the New York Dolls and finally a drag queen called Lipsynka. Wow. A 30 minute blast of Morrissey’s thoughts, feelings and influences. Just sets the scene, and puts the audience in the right mindset, for for the spectacle which follows.

And a spectacle indeed it is. Morrissey is surrounded and supported by a great band and stands straight in front of a big screen which flashes black-and-white images to illustrate the themes and concepts behind his songs. Tonight we are treated to a mix of songs from the new album, a few Smiths’ classics, a (somewhat random?) cover of The Pretenders “Back on the Chain Gang” and a selection of songs from throughout Morrissey’s career. Early on in the set we are treated to “Suedehead”, from Morrissey’s first solo album. Morrissey is, of course, a great storyteller;  “Munich air disaster of 1958” is a tribute to the tragic plane crash: “On the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, along with supporters and journalists. Twenty of the 44 on the aircraft died at the scene.” (Wikipedia) “The Bullfighter Dies” is sung in front of a somewhat horrific film of a bullfight, emphasising vegan Morrissey’s strong views on animal cruelty (see below for quote from the local paper). “Jack the Ripper” is another story, followed by a wonderful version of the Smith’s “How Soon Is Now”. The encore is “Irish Blood, English Heart” which is, itself, becoming a classic and a favourite of both mine and Laura’s. morrissey 1

““We released our latest CD, long player, cassette in Spain and it didn’t do very well. So this is what we tell them,” he announces – before performing a rabble-rousing version of The Bullfighter Dies, replete with horrific images from real-life bullfights on the big screen. Then there’s four minutes of footage of police brutality during ‘Who Will Protect Us From the Police?’”(Chronicle live)

An excellent performance, and a great return to Newcastle.

Setlist: I Wish You Lonely; Suedehead; I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (The Smiths); Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage; Home Is a Question Mark; Munich Air Disaster 1958; My Love, I’d Do Anything for You; When You Open Your Legs; Who Will Protect Us From the Police?; World Peace Is None of Your Business; If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look at Me; Back on the Chain Gang; I Bury the Living; The Bullfighter Dies; Jack the Ripper; How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths);  Spent the Day in Bed; Hold On to Your Friends; Everyday Is Like Sunday; I’m Not Sorry. Encore: Irish Blood, English Heart

Thanks to my carer Lisa for the photographs.

Eric Burdon Newcastle City Hall Sat 23 Jun 2018

eric tixEric Burdon is one of my all-time heroes. I have seen him many times over the years so I couldn’t resist going to see a hometown concert at Newcastle City Hall. Eric Burdon is a legendary figure with a giant, deep, soulful voice. He took The Animals from Newcastle to the top the charts, London and around the world. His growling, rasping voice featured on such great hits as “We Got to Get Out Of This Place “, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and, of Course, “The House of the Rising Sun”.. Then, when the band split up, he formed his own, more psychedelic version of The Animals and had further hits such as “Monterey” and “When I Was Young”. Eric then became a fully fledged member of the San Francisco scene, a friend of Jimi Hendrix and then fronted the band War in the 1970s. The drive, work ethic and sheer nerve of the guy astounds me. He took himself from the backstreets of Newcastle, around the world and became a major player on the international music scene.

eric picPublicity for the concert read: “Despite Eric being the ripe old age of 77, his voice still packs a punch and he and his band put on one hell of a show. Seriously, the guy is North East music royalty; he and his band inspired generations of artists and wrote gritty, working -class tunes about gritty, working-class subjects before it was cool to write gritty, working-class tunes about gritty, working-class subjects. You can expect all the classic Animals’ tracks from a true master of the blues vocal performance – he’s been playing music for more years than many of us have been alive and he sure knows how to do it.” (NE VOLUME)

This time around Eric fronted a new backing band with young rock/blues players, and very impressive they were too. The set comprised old Animals hits, songs from his later career and soul and blues standards. His voice remains strong, the years have added even more gravel to it; taking his delivery closer to that of the blues legends he based his career on. Indeed, he has become one of the legendary blues men himself; in the mould of the old black blues singers he followed when he was young. Judging by the superlatives I have been using, you can guess that I really enjoyed the show. It was great to see one of my heroes back in his hometown, playing in a venue that he has starred in so many times before. Simply amazing and long may he continue. My carer, Joanne, came away a fan also.

Setlist (was something like this): When I Was Young; Mama Told Me Not to Come; Inside Looking Out; Spill the Wine; Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood; Don’t Bring Me Down; Bring It On Home to Me; Bo Diddley Special; It’s My Life; The House of the Rising Sun (Click on the link before this bracket to see a great video on YouTube); We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place; Hold On, I’m Comin’; The Blaydon Races.

My grainy photograph was taken at an earlier concert, when I witnessed an equally great performance by Eric Burdon at the Colne Blues Festival.

UFO Last Orders 50th Anniversary Tour Newcastle Academy 28 March 2019

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UFO have always been one of my favourite rock bands. I saw them in the very early days when (I think) Larry Wallis was on guitar, and then slightly later with the great Michael Schenker on guitar, the late great enigmatic Pete Way on bass (his bass guitar almost down around his knees) at Sunderland Mecca and Newcastle Mayfair in the days when “Doctor Doctor” was simply class, and remains one of my favourite songs to this day. They soon graduated from ballrooms to headlining Newcastle City Hall and the Reading Festival once, as I recall. Their classic take on rock with poppy “hooks” made them stand out from other rock bands of the time and they had some great songs, particularly those on the Lights Out album. These included “Love to Love”, “Rock Bottom” and “Shoot Shoot”. The one constant throughout this period, and to this day, was, and is, singer Phil Mogg who has fronted the band for some 50 years. Sadly, this era is coming to an end as Phil Mogg has announced his retirement and this tour was thus named the Last Orders tour. The tour was announced: “This decision has been a long time coming. I’ve considered stepping down at the end of UFO’s previous tours in 2016,” Mogg explained. “I don’t want to call this a farewell tour as I hate that word, but this year’s gigs will represent my final tap-dancing appearances with the band.”

UFO PIX 3I caught up with the tour, with my carer Jackie, when they visited Newcastle Academy last year. To get into the venue in my wheelchair we had to squeeze into one small lift which took us up to the bar level of the venue where our places were waiting for us, with a great view of the stage, looking over the heads of the crowd in front. The venue was packed, with lots of familiar faces from the days of the Mayfair Friday night rock nights. The band came onstage to the sounds of Alex Harvey’s “Faith Healer” as an introduction (great choice) and then launched into a set of old favourites and newer songs, some of which were less familiar to me. But the classics were all there; the aforementioned “Lights Out”, “Love to Love” and “Only You Can Rock Me”. They closed the set with “Rock Bottom”. Perfect. The volume was loud and the songs as classic as ever. We all knew they were going to return and we also knew that there would play “Doctor Doctor”. This was followed by the final song, the great, rocking “Shoot Shoot”.

Sadly, a couple of weeks after seeing the band, longtime guitarist and keyboard player Paul Raymond passed away. The sad news was broken on his Facebook page. “Hi to all the fans and people who knew Paul! This is Sandra, Paul’s life partner speaking,” she wrote. “With a desperate and broken heart, fully in tears and pains that feel like they will kill me I have to tell you that my most beautiful and beloved darling Paul Raymond has passed away today……. He absolutely enjoyed the last couple of weeks touring with UFO in the U.K. & Ireland and he was looking forward to the rest of this year’s tour.”

RIP Paul Raymond. Great memories of a great musician and a great band.

UFO 19 PIXThe tour continues (currently halted because of the coronavirus). The official statement after Paul’s passing was: “On April 13, 2019, the UFO family got the tragic news that our bandmate Paul Raymond had died of a heart attack. It had been just a week since we finished the first leg of our Last Orders tour in the UK. While mourning his loss, sadly we also had to face the reality of what to do with the band. We feel moving forward with the tour is the right thing to do. We all know this is what Paul would have wanted us to do. We are therefore very pleased to announce that our friend and former bandmate Neil Carter has agreed to join us again and take over the keyboards/guitar and vocals slot for the remainder of the tour…. We want to make sure that all our amazing fans get a fantastic experience out of it one more time.“

The current lineup of UFO is Phil Mogg (vocals), the excellent Vinnie Moore (guitar), long standing member Andy Parker (drums), Rob De Luca (bass) who plays a similar Gibson Thunderbird bass to Pete Way, low down on his knees in true Pete Way style and returning member Neil Carter (guitar).

Setlist: Faith Healer (Sensational Alex Harvey Band song as intro); Mother Mary; We Belong to the Night; Messiah of Love; Ain’t No Baby; Lights Out; Baby Blue; Only You Can Rock Me; Burn Your House Down; Cherry; Love to Love; Makin’ Moves; Too Hot to Handle; Rock Bottom. Encore: Doctor Doctor; Shoot Shoot

Van Morrison Newcastle Virgin Money Unity Arena 3 September 2020

So this was my first concert since seeing Elvis Costello in March and my first socially distant concert! Quite a different and in some ways daunting experience. The arrangements all sounded very well organised with everyone attending being in their own little cell, in my case myself along with my carer, Jackie.

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The advertising for the event said: “Get ready for the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue arriving in Newcastle this summer! If you’ve missed live music, the thrill of a shared experience and are ready to get out in Newcastle – you will need to be at this summer’s biggest music event.”

The Virgin Money Unity Arena is based at Gosforth Park, just a 5 minute drive from central Newcastle. The arena is designed to be safe and encourage social distancing with organised car parking, safe queuing systems into the arena and a dedicated area for car-loads of friends or family to enjoy the event.

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The line-up for the series of concerts at the venue was strong but for me, one name stood out: that of the legend that is Van Morrison. Van Morrison is a true artist, and like any true artist he has his highs and lows. He has given me some of the best concert memories of my life, but I have also seen him deliver performances which were disappointing and where it appeared he wished he wasn’t on the stage. However, I would also rate the time I saw him at Newcastle City Hall with the Caledonian Soul Orchestra in the early 70s as one of the best 10 concerts of my life. But that is part of the magic and mystique that is the artist Van Morrison. You can never quite predict how well he will perform or indeed what he will perform but, for me, the experience is always worthwhile.

The arrangements worked well on the night and lived up to promise. Our taxi driver was led through a special entrance round the back of the racecourse and after a swift entry we walked along a track which had been laid across the grass to avoid my wheelchair sticking in any mud (which would not be good) and were taken to our little private cell near the front of the stage. We had been asked to arrive between 6 PM and 7 PM, and the concert started at 8 PM. We arrived at 6:45 PM, which worked well and meant we didn’t have too long to wait. I was soon fortified by a pint of pale ale and, with blankets wrapped around me (it was a little nippy) I was all set up and ready for a night with my hero. It turned out to be a nice night (I was dreading rain); cool, but pleasant.

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Van Morrison took the stage just after 8:15 PM resplendent in a long, dark coat and complete with a hat with ear coverings and shades. Very well set up for the night ahead. Tonight we were presented with Van on true, top form. Accompanied by a great, jazzy band tonight we saw Van play lots of saxophone and mouth harp and sing a selection of songs drawn from throughout his career, and including some jazz and blues standards, in his best soulful voice. Quite a lot of scat singing (“bit, but, bat”; I think you know what I mean) but it all fitted together well. Early on in the set we were treated to the early Them classic “Baby Please Don’t Go” and a great version of “Moondance”. We were then treated to a set of rhythm and blues and soul classics including “The Party’s Over” and “Have I Told You Lately”. The set drew to an end with “Brown Eyed Girl” with the band playing while Van left the stage. The band played on, looking over to the left of the stage to see if the main man would return. He did, and closed the set with a tremendous version of “Gloria”. We were soon led along over our little track, the theme G L O R I A ! still bouncing around my head.

Our taxi was waiting to take us back home again, picking up my carer Chris along the way, so that he and Jackie could help me get into bed still thinking how great it had been to be in the company of Van Morrison once again. For me, the man stands up there as a true artist/genius, alongside contemporaries Bob Dylan, David Bowie, John Lennon and Pete Townshend. You really can’t get much better on a nice cool, summer night. I just read that Van Morrison played at the Electric Ballroom in London a few days later and was accompanied on stage by Chris Farlowe. Now that would have been something to see!

Setlist was something like this: A Shot of Rhythm and Blues; Three Chords and the Truth; Baby Please Don’t Go; I Can Tell; Moondance; Carrying a Torch; Wild Night; Did Ye Get Healed?; Have I Told You Lately; Ain’t Gonna Moan No More; Precious Time; Sometimes We Cry; Whenever God Shines His Light; Enlightenment; The Party’s Over; Broken Record; Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile); Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria

Rod Stewart Newcastle Arena 9 July 2019

Rod the Mod goes to Vegas and back to Newcastle.

rod 2019 tixI continue my search for the old Rod (the Mod) Stewart, as I have previously written about. Whatever twists and turns there have been in Rod’s career I know that deep inside of the guy there remains a 60s and 70s core that loves rock ‘n’ roll and soul music, and that his voice is still as gravelly, soulful and amazing as ever. And sometimes, in every concert I go to, that mod soul singer who loved Sam Cooke, the Isley Bros and football comes out, the years roll back, and all is good in the world again. I guess you realise by now that Rod is one of my heroes, and always will be. Period.

Well this time Rod has been showing off his wares in no other than Caesars Palace Las Vegas. I have spoken to two people who went to Vegas on holiday and went to see his show. One is a good friend and the other is one of my regular taxi drivers. They were both totally knocked out by the songs, his voice, the performance, the stage show, the band, the singers and the spectacle of it all.

ROD 2019 PIXAnd now Rod returns back to Newcastle, bringing some of Vegas with him. This is a big Vegas type show. The screens are massive, the videos superb, the backing band top notch and the girl singers range from rock through soul through gospel. This is a number 1 spectacle, with our number 1 hero out front. My carer Jackie loved it and we were both totally knocked out.

So Rod starts by taking us back to his roots with Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party”, followed by a few well-known hits performed in full Vegas style and then….Bam!….Its Faces time and “Stay with Me”, coming surprisingly early in the set, but very welcome nonetheless. A few more songs and another one I love “The Killing of Georgie”. A few more standards and then back to the roots we go again with Etta James, via Chicken Shack, and “I’d Rather Go Blind”. The old ones keep coming: “Reason to Believe” (bringing back memories of seeing Tim Harden so many years ago at Sunderland Empire), “Dirty Old Town” the Ewan MacColl classic. A few more songs and we are reaching the end. Rod leaves the stage while the band perform “She Works Hard for the Money”. Rod returns and sings “Baby Jane”, which I still love, “Sailing” (sorry Rod but I never did like this one), “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” (do you really still have to sing this Rod?) And finally “Maggie May” and all is good again! I go home happy.

rod 2019 progSo once again Rod delivered. This time in true Las Vegas style. Until next time.

Setlist: Having a Party (Sam Cooke); Young Turks; Some Guys Have All the Luck; Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright); Stay With Me (Faces); Forever Young; Rhythm of My Heart; The Killing of Georgie; It Takes Two; Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me); I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James); Rollin’ and Tumblin’; Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero (band only); Grace; Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin); Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl); I Don’t Want to Talk About It; Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison); She Works Hard for the Money (Donna Summer; band only); Baby Jane; Sailing; Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?; Maggie May