The Hollies Sage Gateshead 14 April 2018

hollies tix 2018Okay. So they come around a lot, and the songs are always quite similar. But never quite the same. There are always a few small changes, which never cease to delight me. After all they have so many great hits to choose from. Sure, I was just a kid at the time, but that’s exactly the point. The Hollies were part of my childhood. A very important part. Every time I see them memories flood back; memories of Saturday mornings at the Top Rank Suite, choosing Paisley Rave shirts with button-down collars, plastic wide two pronged belts from Woolworths, buying cheap coarse hipsters that made you itch all the time, swapping bubblegum cards in the schoolyard, talking about the latest hit records and who we’d seen on Top of the Pops on Thursday night.

The Beatles, the Stones, The Who, and the Hollies. Yes to me this band were a very important part of the 60s music scene. The line-up may have changed over the years, and the singer is no longer the great Alan Clarke, but the soul, the ethos, the power, the choruses and those great harmonies, those voices remain. As the band often say themselves, the Hollies were always about voices and songs. Great songs.

Mars01

Mars Attacks! Trading bubblegum cards in the school yard

The Hollies current line-up is: Tony Hicks – lead guitar, backing vocals (1963–present); Bobby Elliott – drums (1963–present); Ray Stiles (ex Mud) – bass (1986–present); Ian Parker – keyboards (1991–present); Peter Howarth – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (2004–present); Steve Lauri – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004–present).Tony Hicks still looks as young as ever (he surely must have a portrait in the attic) and Bobby Elliott is omnipresent in cool, black hat, proudly wearing the Hollies moniker on his drum kit. And singer Peter Howarth brings his own style to the songs, now so well-established in the band that he has the confidence to do so.

bus stopThis is no embarrassing 60s package show; rather it is a two-hour celebration of hits spread across two sets. They start off with “King Midas in Reverse”, the song that so disappointed Graham Nash when it wasn’t a hit, that it was one of the reasons for him eventually leaving the band. Still a great song today. Then off we go into a stream of hits; some sang individually, some mashed together as a medley: “I Can’t Let Go”, “Sorry Suzanne”, “Jennifer Eccles”, “On a Carousel”. This band really were great when at the top of their game in the 60s; and the hits still sound great today. The first set finished with one of my favourites, starting with a classic guitar intro from Tony Hicks: “Look through Any Window”.

In the second set we are treated to more classics and even more of my favourites: “Bus Stop”; I played and played that single until it was worn out; “I’m Alive” (their only number one hit); followed by the very underrated “The Baby”. Then then tell a story, which I have heard so many times now, of a crazy night in a club with Eric Burdon (the Egg Man: but that’s another story) and The Animals as an introduction to “Stop! Stop! Stop!”. When we reach the harmonica introduction to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and Tony’s great guitar intro to “The Air That I Breathe”, I know we are close to the end. The encore is the rock ‘n’ roll song “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”; not a great favourite of mine, but still good to end on. And that’s it. Another evening of 60s classics. Until next time. “The road is long………”hollies prog 2018

Setlist. Set 1: King Midas in Reverse; I Can’t Let Go; Sorry Suzanne; Jennifer Eccles; On a Carousel;    Gasoline Alley Bred; Listen to Me; Magic Woman Touch; Weakness; We’re Through; Priceless;  I Can’t Tell the Bottom From the Top; Just One Look; Stay; Look Through Any Window. Set 2: Here I Go Again; The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee; Yes I Will; Bus Stop; I’m Alive; The Baby; 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy); Carrie Anne; Stop! Stop! Stop!; He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother; The Air That I Breathe. Encore: Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress

 

Rod Stewart Durham Cricket Ground 9 June 2017

In search of “Rod the Mod”. “Rod Stewart began his spectacular music career in the early ’60s, and his looks and style earned him the nickname “Rod the Mod.” As a fashion icon, he was known almost as much for his spiky hair and stylish outfits as he has been for that soulful singing voice. Musically, Stewart has always been known for creating and performing classic rock and roll, pop rock, blues rock, folk rock as well as some soul music. His signature raspy voice and limber body, jumping around on stage at live performances, thrust him into the spotlight and landed him in huge demand.” (Groovy History) rod 2016 tix

Now I was a little too young to see the original “Rod the Mod” in the swinging 60s. My first experience of Rod was in the very early 70s when I saw the Faces at Sunderland Top Rank, Sunderland Locarno (John Peel’s all-time favourite gig), the Lincoln Festival of 1972, Newcastle Odeon, the Reading Festivals of 72 and 73 and (in their later days) at the Buxton Festival in 1974. But to me he was still “Rod the Mod” in those days with his gravelly voice, his spiky hair, and some wonderful ramshackle gigs where you never knew if the band was so drunk they would all fall over on top of each other; yet they somehow how held it all together. Then I followed him throughout his solo career; seeing some great concerts at Newcastle City Hall, Glasgow Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Hampden Park, Newcastle St James’s Park, the Olympic Torch Concert in The Mall (with special guest Ronnie Wood) and many shows at Newcastle Arena. Some may have lost faith with Rod along the way, and “Do You Think I’m Sexy” was a low point for me, but I knew that in all those concerts at some point the old “Rod the Mod” would appear and all would be great again.

Now, even as I write this, a link to Every Picture Tells a Story, Rods 1971 classic album, pops up on the phone of Chris, my carer, as “album of the week”, showing the relevance today of those classic tracks. Now is this a coincidence, something spooky, or evidence that all these devices are linked and tracking our every word? (Louder than War, Rod).

rod access strips 16So there I was, this time in the lovely surroundings of Durham Cricket Ground, Chester-le-Street, still searching for “Rod the Mod”. Would he appear tonight? After all this was now the Las Vegas era Rod, with a massive back catalogue of solo hits to draw from, a big backing band, backing vocalists, and world class visuals and lighting. I had a great view from the disabled viewing platform overlooking the stage and the evening was cool, but still light and pleasant.

The set opened with the band playing an opening song, leading into the emergence of Rod, to a rapturous reception from the massive 17,000 strong crowd. After some great crowd pleasers “Some Guys Have All the luck” and “Tonight’s the Night”; zoom… we were back in time for “Maggie May” and I was grinning from ear to ear and travelling back to my own little world. This was followed by further classics, some better than others, “Forever Young” being performed particularly well and then my time machine, and Rod, took us back to “You Wear It Well” and “the Mod” was back in the house again. This was followed by “Baby Jane”, a particular favourite of mine, “Downtown Train”, “The First Cut rod 2016 progIs the Deepest” and then rolling back again to “Ooh La La”. After a few more songs, Rod took a break while the band and the great vocalists sang “River Deep Mountain High”. Then “Rod The Mod” was back to treat us to “Stay with Me”, his voice as strong as ever. Rod finished with the aforementioned “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (do you really still have to sing this one Rod?), Followed by the crowdpleasing, singalong and lots of arm waving “Sailing”. Rod left the stage at this point and the band closed the show. Another great Rod experience, with glimpses of “Rod the Mod” still emerging now and then. My search goes on, and will continue to do so, as long as Rod continues to grace our stages.

Setlist: Soul Finger (band only); Having a Party; Some Guys Have All the Luck; Love Is; Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright); Maggie May; Forever Young; Rhythm of My Heart; Can’t Stop Me Now;     You Wear It Well; Baby Jane; Downtown Train; The First Cut Is the Deepest; Ooh La La; You’re in My Heart; I Don’t Want to Talk About It; Have I Told You Lately; River Deep, Mountain High (band only sung by backing singers); Stay With Me; Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?; Sailing. Encore: Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think) (band only).

 

 

 

 

Ian Anderson Christmas concert Durham Cathedral 14 December 2017

jethro durham tixThe Ian Anderson Christmas concerts have become a regular part of his concert calendar. Each year he plays a few of these concerts at selected cathedrals around the country. This time we were lucky enough for him to come to the majestic surroundings of Durham Cathedral. The concerts take a similar format; a mix of festive songs, songs from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, often a special guest, and a selection of Jethro Tull favourites.

The concert was billed as “Ian Anderson plays the Christmas Jethro Tull: Ian Anderson brings his Christmas Jethro Tull concert to Durham Cathedral. A fundraising event in support of Durham Cathedral.”

Durham_Cathedral_20_July_2019So I turned up on a cold winter’s night in my taxi, with Jackie my carer, which dropped me off right at the door of Durham Cathedral. I was greeted inside by my friends Norman, his sister Barbara and our old friend Doug. Now Durham Cathedral is a wonderful venue for a concert. “Durham Cathedral is a Norman church in England, designed under the direction of the first Bishop of Durham, William of Calais. It was built to house the remains of St. Cuthbert, but also to show off the might of the new Norman rulers. Construction began in 1093 and lasted 40 years.” (study.com)

The audience were seated in the pews in the central nave of the cathedral, with the stage situated in front of the high altar. I was seated in my wheelchair, in the aisle at the end of a row, around halfway back in the cathedral, with a good view of the stage. Ian was accompanied by the rest of his “Jethro Tull” band.

1024px-Durham_Cathedral_NaveThe concert was in two halves; the first set opening with festive classics “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” followed by “Gaudete” made famous by Steeleye Span. This was followed by a selection of tunes from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, including the great single “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”. Highlight of this set was a performance of Greg Lakes’ “I Believe in Father Christmas”. The set ended with the beautiful flute solo “Bourrée”, written by Bach and featured on Jethro Tull’s Stand Up album.

After a short break, the second set featured Ian’s friend Loyd Grossman playing his former punk band Jet Bronx and the Forbidden’s single “Ain’t Doin’ Nothing”. The set ended with Tull classics “My God” (a particular favourite of mine), “Aqualung”, closing with the encore (as always now) “Locomotive Breath”.

jethro durham progIan was on great form all evening, entertaining us with his usual anecdotes and some excellent flute playing. I can’t think of a better way of spending a cold Christmas evening than one with old friends, festive music and Ian Anderson and his band playing Jethro Tull classics. A great start to Christmas.

Setlist.

Set 1: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Gaudete; We Five Kings (Jethro Tull); A Christmas Song  (Jethro Tull); Ring Out, Solstice Bells (Jethro Tull); Pastime With Good Company; Christmastime Romance; I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake); Jack-in-the-Green (Jethro Tull); Bourrée in E minor (Johann Sebastian Bach).

Set 2: Holly Herald (Jethro Tull); Ain’t Doin’ Nothing (Jet Bronx and the Forbidden AKA Loyd Grossman); Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach); My God (Jethro Tull); Aqualung (Jethro Tull). Encore: Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)

Image of Durham Cathedral courtesy of: Rubbish computer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Image of Durham Cathedral nave courtesy of: Michael D Beckwith – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79861899

Julie Felix Old Cinema Launderette Durham 28 September 2019

Screenshot felixI have many happy memories of the sadly missed Julie Felix. She first came to my attention in 1966, as the resident singer on the BBC television programme The Frost Report, presented by David Frost. Born in America, and of Mexican origin, Julie became the first solo folk performer signed to a major British record label, Decca Records. In 1965, she was the first folksinger to fill the Royal Albert Hall, and was described by The Times as “Britain’s First Lady of Folk”. But I remember her best for her own TV shows for the BBC (1967 to 1970). Among those featured on her show were the Kinks, The Hollies, The Incredible String Band, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen and Led Zeppelin’s lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, who played the guitar solos “White Summer” and “Black Mountain Side”. I have particularly fond memories of seeing Jimmy Page on her show.I also, of course, remember her for the children’s song “Going to the Zoo“.

julie felixI first got to see Julie Felix live at a free concert in Hyde Park in 1974, which was headlined by Roger McGuinn and also featured an epic performance by Roy Harper, accompanied by David Gilmour, John Paul Jones and Steve Broughton. Julie was just great that day in Hyde Park, singing a selection of folk songs and getting the crowd to sing along to “Going to the Zoo.” I went to the concert with my friend Will and have written about it in an earlier blog entry.

The next time I saw Julie Felix, again with Will, was at her 70th birthday concert at the Sage Gateshead. This time Julie did a much longer set than that which I had experienced in Hyde Park, reminiscing about her friend and protégé Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and other friends and fellow folk singers.

So when I saw she was appearing at the Old Cinema Launderette in Durham I couldn’t resist the opportunity of seeing her again in such an intimate venue. I arrived at the venue with my carer, Joanne, just after the doors opened and managed to get a place close to the front. First up for the evening was local folk singer Bethany Elen, who got the audience singing along and warmed us up nicely for the main performance. Julie performed two sets, singing a selection of folk songs from across the decades. Julie Felix had a unique, beautiful voice which remained strong, even though she was 81 at the time of this performance. felix debut

It was wonderful to see her again in such a small venue. Sadly, it came to an end all too soon, as my taxi arrived and Joanne and I had to leave the concert before the end, picking up Chris along the way to help me on my way into my bed.

Julie Felix sadly passed away on March 22, 2020 after a short illness, and we lost yet another of my 60s heroes.

The set list was probably something like this (to my shame, I can’t recall the exact songs she sang and I had to leave before the end anyway 😦 ): Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob Dylan); Masters of War (Bob Dylan); Pack Up Your Sorrows; Valenzuela; Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen); Chimes of Freedom (Bob Dylan); Anything Less Than Beautiful; Universal Soldier (Buffy Sainte-Marie); Woman; El Condor Pasa (Simon & Garfunkel); We Wish You Love; Rock Me Goddess; Healing Hands; Going to the Zoo; This Land Is Your Land; Peace Is A River

 

The Shining Levels the Old Cinema Launderette Durham 11th October 2019

shining levels tix durThis was my second Shining Levels experience. This one was a bit special because it was part of the Durham book Festival, and based around the Gallows Pole book by local author Benjamin Myers. The author was in attendance at the event, signing copies of the book (see my signed copy below).

gallows pole cover“Benjamin Myers was born in Durham, UK, in 1976. He is an author and journalist, translated into several languages. Published in May 2017 and now in its 9th print run, The Gallows Pole won the Walter Scott Prize – the world’s biggest award for historical fiction – was recipient of a Roger Deakin Award and longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. It has been optioned for film/TV by Element Pictures and also available on Audible.”(Benjamin Myers site)gallows pole signed

The Old Cinema Launderette is a wonderful, quirky little venue which is an actual launderette by day and (sometimes) a music venue by night. It is a lovely venue to see artists in an intimate setting and regularly features legendary names such as, for example, the late and sadly missed Julie Felix who I recently had the privilege of seeing there, not long before her passing (review to follow very shortly). The acts perform in front of the washing machines and the audience are in seats very close to the stage. You have to turn up early to get a good spot, so Jackie, my carer and I arrived just before the 7 p.m. opening time to ensure a place near the front.

The evening began with a short video telling the story of Benjamin Myers, how he grew up locally and how his writings draw from his north-east roots. There was then a short interval, at which point a bar magically appeared in the corner of the launderette, before the Shining Levels took the stage. The Shining Levels are Davy J (vocals, guitar and piano), DW (Dan) Coggins (vocals and guitar), Laura Smith (vocals and loop pedals), Christina Cuthbertson (vocals and flute) and Jenny Clewes (vocals and violin). I have written earlier about the Shining Levels and their haunting, swirling mix of sounds. The eclectic combination of folk music, book readings and mix of flute, violin, a female trio of vocals and male vocals has to be experienced to understand just how beautiful, yet at the same shining levels 2 durtime dark and powerful, their sounds can be.

Their set takes us through the novel, the Gallows Pole , starting with the ladies taking the lead and introducing the story with the beautiful, drifting “Moonless Nights” and then over to the guys who become the “Valley Boys”, climaxing with a joyous, yet dark, “Death of the King”. The set is interspersed with readings from the book by Dan. The band receive a rapturous ovation from the crowd who hang around to speak to the musicians, buy copies of the album, have their books signed by Ben before slowly venturing out into the cold, dark streets of Gilesgate.

Setlist: Stag Dance; Moonless Nights; Tipping Of The Scale; Broken On A Wheel; Valley Boys; Progress!; Deighton; Men Of Straw; Veil of the Vale; Death of the King

Quintessential Yes: the 50th anniversary tour Newcastle City Hall 12th June 2018

So this was my second Yes experience within a few months. My conundrum continues…….When is Yes not Yes? Now this version of Yes was the intriguing yes tix 3combination of Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin. Jon Anderson is, of course, a founder member of the band and Rick Wakeman a member of the “classic” Yes line-up. I never saw the line-up of Yes with Trevor Rabin in the band and, I must admit, it was not one of my favourite incarnations of Yes. To me, and I guess many other fans, Jon Anderson epitomises Yes. I have an image in my mind of Jon singing “Close to the Edge” on a warm balmy evening at the Reading Festival, rising out of a smog of dry ice and smoke, wearing a smock top; his vocals soaring above the field and up into the sky. That was probably one of the best times I saw Yes, along with some wonderful shows in the early days when they were still playing covers like “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story and “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. So Jon Anderson holds a special place in the Yes hierarchy for me. So was this be the true Yes that I was about to see? Why, even the ticket called the band “Yes”!

I have seen Yes many, many times and they will always hold a special place in my heart, as the first band I ever saw and still one of my favourite bands of all time. So I can’t help but get excited each time I see them. This time the set list was a mixture of classic Yes and several (some of which I didn’t really know) songs from the Rabin era Yes. So it was the old favourites than I focused on, I really enjoyed and that I hoped would help me in my search for the true soul, spirit and ethos of “Yes”. The concert was in the form of two sets, just as the Steve Howe led Yes concert was I had seen a few months earlier. Similarly, the set comprised favourites and less familiar songs.yes prog 2

This time the first classic song was “I’ve Seen All Good People”, but it was “And You and I” which epitomised Jon Anderson and Yes, and was sung in the way in only Jon can sing it. In the second half “Heart of the Sunrise” again convinced me that there are certain songs that are so entwined with 1970s Jon Anderson that no one else can do them justice. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” saw Trevor Rabin come into his own, with some tremendous guitar solo work. The encore was a rocky version of “Roundabout”. And that was the root of the difference; that is the “rocking” nature of this band. This version of Yes were a little too classic rock, as a result of Rabin’s influence, for my liking. Somewhere along the line they had lost the prog rock, jazzy feel that epitomises the band for me. So which version of Yes is Yes? For me the Steve Howe incarnation of the band continues the lineage of the true spirit and ethos of Yes. But this version does justice to certain songs in a way that only Jon Anderson can. The truth is both bands are excellent in their own way and there is room for both; and of course it gives us two chances to celebrate the wonderful thing which is Yes music. Now I would love to see the two bands merge in a way that brings together Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Alan White. But perhaps I can only dream. But then you never know, time heals many wounds and stranger things have happened.

Setlist. Set 1: Cinema; Hold On; South Side of the Sky; I’ve Seen All Good People; And You and I; Changes; Rhythm of Love. Set 2: I Am Waiting; Heart of the Sunrise; Awaken; Owner of a Lonely Heart. Encore: Roundabout

Foot Village and Shift-Static Head of Steam Newcastle Wednesday 11 November 2009

A week or so after playing the same venue, Shift Static were back at the Head of Steam, this time supporting Foot Village. Now Foot Village are drums, drums, lots of noise, lots of rhythm and soaring screaming vocals! Pretty scary stuff actually and amazing in a small venue, where we were all surrounded by the sound of percussion and lots of drumming. Marie and I left the gig with our ears ringing!

foot2“Foot Village is a tribal noise rock band from Los Angeles, consisting of four drummers of which two also do the vocals. Band members Brian Miller and Grace Lee come from the band Gang Wizard, Josh Taylor was in Friends Forever. ” (Wikipedia)

I have written elsewhere about Shift-Static, this post is more an update to remind me of seeing Foot Village. A couple years later I was with Laura at the Alexandra Palace in London to see Portishead and PJ Harvey and we ran into the members of Foot Village, who were one of the support acts. Laura was quite touched that they remembered her after a couple years, as I recall. She got a signed copy of their album and was quite chuffed.

“FOOT VILLAGE are a thunderous drum-n-shout assembly from Los Angeles – a thick forest of whirling limbs beating out rhythms for whispers and hollers to leap and dive through. Featuring members of Gang Wizard, Friends Forever and the infamous International Voice of Reason, Foot Village are pure hardcore spirit without the spark of electricity. foot 1

Erecting civilisation with drums and voices alone, Foot Village are the first nation built after the foreseeable apocalypse. Don’t get this self-imposed restraint confused with some neo-luddite stance however, as Foot Village only want to inspire others with the wide potential of rock music. Anything becomes possible if you have an idea to run with.” (Upset the Rhythm)