David Gilmour Royal Albert Hall 3rd October 2015
“Flicker, flicker, flicker blam. Pow, pow.
Stairway scare, Dan Dare, who’s there?
Lime and limpid green, the sounds around
The icy waters under
Lime and limpid green, the sounds around
The icy waters underground.”
(Astronomy Domine, Barrett & Wright, 1967)
It’s a lovely bright Sunday morning and I’m sitting on a Grand Central train which is weaving its way back home up North. I am also reflecting on last night’s concert by David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall. Nine years have past since Gilmour’s last album “On an Island”, and since I last saw him in concert at the same venue. Well we are all almost a decade older, maybe a little wiser, and much has changed. Some things, however, do remain comfortably and reassuringly constant, one of those being the unique crying, sustained tone and crisp guitar voice of David Gilmour. Gilmour has released a new album “Rattle that Lock” which has been well received and has also done well in terms of sales, reaching No 1 in the UK and many other countries. He has also now (just) completed a short European tour to promote the album, including five nights at the Albert Hall, and a warm-up show in Brighton. Last night was the final night of the tour; he will visit the USA in 2016.
The concert was in two parts, with a healthy selection of new and old tracks sprinkled throughout. After going through the ticket collection process courtesy of legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith (no tickets were sent out in advance, and I had to show my credit card and photo-ID in order to collect my ticket), I made my way up to my cheap (well sort of, all things are relative) vantage point in the gallery (bad decision on my part by the way, I am too old to stand all night and I am very stiff this morning). The show started with “5 AM”, an instrumental and the opening track on the new album. Gilmour stood alone, lit by a single spot, the crisp, clear sound of his Fender guitar cutting through the night; filling the hall. In that moment we all knew why we had come. It took that single note, in that unique style, to cut through the years and take us back to halcyon days. His soaring tone blends blues, psych, sci-fi and surf guitar styles; I could hear the influences: Hank Marvin, Jimi Hendrix, B B King. This was followed by the title track of the new album. The fourth song, which was of course welcomed by a massive cheer, was “Wish You Were Here”. The sound was clear, loud but not too much so, and the 1975 classic never sounded better, nor more appropriate. These songs have become a tribute to a legendary band, to Syd Barrett whose vision made it possible, and now sadly to Gilmour’s friend and fellow Floyd comrade Rick Wright, who played with him at those Albert Hall concerts nine years. Other highlights for me in the first half of the concert were the “Dark Side of the Moon” favourites “Money” and “Us and Them”. The last song before the interval was “High Hopes”, the closing track from “The Division Bell”.
The second part of the concert took us back to the very start. “Astronomy Domine” is the first track on “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s first album, recorded before Gilmour joined the band. Today it is played as a fitting tribute to Syd and Rick (who co-wrote the song) and to days of innocent English psych, of early space-rock. The hall was bathed in colour, the giant (and familiar and Floyd-like) circular screen behind the band displaying a full-on ’60s psychedelic liquid light show. The strange chord sequence built to its screaming discordant climax. Fantastic; and for me, it was worth the ticket price for that song alone, as it was something that I thought I would never see performed live. This was followed by what has become my favourite Pink Floyd song, “Shine on you Crazy Diamond”. Searing, souring guitar, that familiar riff, a song of Syd and bitter-sweet sadness, and great visuals. The rest of the set was a mix of new and Floyd songs, including “Fat Old Sun” from “Atom Heart Mother”, “Sorrow” from “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” and closing song “Run Like Hell” from “The Wall”. I am not too familiar with “Sorrow”, to be honest, but last night it stood out for me, with some particularly fine, cavernous, deep, and heavy guitar work by Gilmour, which thundered and reverberated around us.
For an encore a clang of coins greeted us, tills jangled and we were, to our great delight, taken back to “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Money”. During the extended closing song “Comfortably Numb” the light show moved up a notch, and the hall became a criss-crossed matrix of green, misty, then bright, stark red, laser light. Gilmour stood in front of us, his lone figure picked out by two spots, as if he were standing above the clouds of laser light, his guitar solo meandering and taking us to the end of a tremendous show.
Well. It was a show you truly couldn’t fault. The selection of songs, the sound, the band, Gilmour’s guitar, the vocals, the lights; simply perfect perfection. Only two things would better it for me. First (and this is probably never going to happen), I would just die to see him play “See Emily Play” as a tribute to Barrett. Oh, and finally, a seat. I am never going to scrimp on the ticket price again, and stand in that gallery. I am sure I will be stiff for days. Not good for an old guy. I remember my dad having terrible back problems (think they called it lumbago back then) and I fear that I may be inheriting it.
Walking out of the venue I heard a father telling his grown up son (who was probably in his 30s) of the 1975 Knebworth Floyd concert and of the (model) plane crashing into the stage at the end of “On the Run”. Happy happy days. I really do feel like I am getting old.
Set 1: 5 AM (new), Rattle that Lock (new), Faces of Stone (new), Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), A Boat Lies Waiting (new), The Blue (On an Island), Money (Pink Floyd), Us and Them (Pink Floyd), In Any Tongue (new), High Hopes (Pink Floyd)
Set 2: Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd), Shine on you Crazy Diamond Parts I-V (Pink Floyd), Fat Old Sun (Pink Floyd), On an Island, The Girl in the Yellow Dress (new), Today (new), Sorrow (Pink Floyd), Run Like Hell (Pink Floyd)
Encore: Time (Pink Floyd), Breathe (Reprise) (Pink Floyd), Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Tour band: David Gilmour (guitars, vocals), Phil Manzanera (guitars), Guy Pratt (bass guitar), Jon Carin (keyboards, guitars), Kevin McAlea (keyboards), Steve DiStanislao (drums, percussion), João Mello (saxophones), Bryan Chambers, Louise Clare Marshall (backing vocals)
David Gilmour Royal Albert Hall 3rd October 2015
King Crimson The Usher Hall Edinburgh 17th September 2015
“When music appears which only King Crimson can play then, sooner or later, King Crimson appears to play the music.” Robert Fripp
It is more than 40 years since my last King Crimson live experience.
7.30pm sharp. Seven guys in three piece suits, looking like they could be attending a bank managers’ conference, walk onto the Usher Hall stage. This is the 8th incarnation of King Crimson and features Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin and Pat Mastelotto (three drummers), Tony Levin (stick bass), Mel Collins (sax, flute), Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, vocals) and (of course) Robert Fripp (guitar). The house lights are still on. Our Crimson musos take their places without saying anything. The three drummers sit at the front of stage, one to the left, one centre and one to the right. Each drum sports the rather disconcerting image of an Edwardian-looking boy with one eye in the centre of his forehead, which features in the publicity for the tour. Jakko’s guitar is adorned with the red face from the cover of the first Crimson album. The lights go down and the music starts. The sound is crisp, clear. The songs are largely unfamiliar to me, but I gather that they are drawn from across the suite of King Crimson albums. Fripp describes the new band thus:”King Crimson VIII moved to its next stage of actualization. This is a very different reformation to what has gone before: seven players, four English and three American, with three drummers. The Point Of Crim-Seeing was of a conventional Back Line reconfigured as the Front Line, The Seven-Headed Beast of Crim is in Go! mode.”
The music is a mix of dark, heavy foreboding guitar, mucho drums, very jazzy at times, almost classical at others. The tempo drifts from heavy metal through prog through folk. Robert Fripp sits stage right, wearing headphones, alternating between squeezing strange riffs from his guitar and observing and quietly leading his musicians. I am reminded how unique and ground breaking Crimson were, and are. “Epitaph” takes us back to that classic prog-defining first lp. Wonderful. I am transported back to days of my youth so many years ago, when I sat with friends; we listened to that album in total awe; we discussed it endlessly and took it to school, proudly holding that red cover for all to see. They close with “Starless”. It is 9.30pm. The lights go on. We stand and clap, and cheer, and clap some more. The seven Crimson guys return. They still have not spoken. “Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row” gives the drummers the opportunity to show their skills. Then Crimson are transformed once again into prog-gods who tell us the exquisite tale of “The Court of the Crimson King”. Finally, the dark fear of the “21st Century Schizoid Man” takes us through a wall of screaming discordant terror to a crashing squealing climatic end. Mind blowing stuff.
A note about my drive home. Are there roadworks and diversions every night across the entire country? I always seem to hit them. I have a detour through Scottish villages just north of the border; the A1 is closed near Dunbar. Home at 1am.
Setlist: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One; Red; Suitable Grounds for the Blues; Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind); Meltdown; The ConstruKction of Light; Level Five; Banshee Legs Bell Hassle; Pictures of a City; Epitaph; Hell Hounds of Krim; Easy Money; The Letters; Sailor’s Tale; Starless
Encore: Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row; The Court of the Crimson King; 21st Century Schizoid Man
Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
Things come full circle. The touring band known as Jethro Tull seems to have been shelved, with Tull frontman and our manic flautist hero Ian Anderson touring under his own name, and Tull guitarist Martin Barre doing likewise. But Ian Anderson couldn’t keep away from the Tull moniker and concept for too long. So, as “a tribute to the original 18th Century agriculturalist” whose name the band borrowed back in February 1968, our hero has “imagined a scenario where the pioneering pursuit of improved crop-growing and farming methodology might apply to the world of today and tomorrow”. This led to the development of “Jethro Tull: the Rock Opera”, the delights of which Norm, Will and I experienced a few days ago at the Sage Gateshead. Anderson’s rock opera concept is this: take the story of the original farmer and inventor Jethro Tull and bring it up to date; tell that tale through the songs of Jethro Tull the band (and a few new ones written especially for the occasion), and create a theatrical stage show which takes the audience through the story. The show is very much just that; “a show” rather than a concert. The band provide the music, playing in front of a giant HD video screen. On the screen appear a cast of “virtual guests” who play the parts of Mr Tull and his family, narrate the story and sing segments of the songs. Anderson explains it thus: “Instead of spoken introductions to the songs in the show, there will be the use of that operatic device, the “recitative”, where the links are made by short sung vocal segments in a usually-simple musical backdrop”. So the songs are sung in part by Anderson live, and in part by virtual singers on the screen. The songs flow from one to the next with short video segments as bridges.
The show started at 7.30pm prompt. Parking problems made us a little late, and we had to wait outside until first song “Heavy Horses” was finished (“a suitable break in the performance”). The first half was around one hour and there was a short interval before “the show” resumed. How did it work? Very well actually. The video was high quality and the sequencing between Anderson and band and the virtual singers was faultless. Anderson’s voice may not be quite as strong as it was “back in the day” so the use of video allowed him some vocal rest, and gave welcome variety to the performance. However, I must say that Ian’s flute playing remains as excellent as ever, and his stage presence and antics are undiminished. The virtual sets were as you might imagine; we were transported onscreen to Preston station for “Cheap Day Return” and deep into the forest for “Song from the Wood”. Great Tull fun. Special mention to Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir whose vocals were exquisite and made for great reworkings of Tull classics, particularly “The Witch’s Promise” and Florian Opahle, whose guitar playing was tremendous. A very different and highly enjoyable Tull evening. Great to see old friend Doug and other fellow Tullites.
What next Ian?
Part 1: Heavy Horses; Wind-Up; Aqualung; With You There to Help Me; Back to the Family; Farm on the Freeway; Prosperous Pasture; Fruits of Frankenfield; Songs From the Wood
Set 2: And the World Feeds Me; Living in the Past; Jack-in-the-Green; The Witch’s Promise; Weathercock; Stick, Twist, Bust; Cheap Day Return; A New Day Yesterday; The Turnstile Gate; Locomotive Breath
Encore: Requiem and Fugue
The Musicians: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar), Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (piano; Hammond organ), Greig Robinson (bass), Scott Hammond (drums, percussion).
The (virtual) Players: Ryan O’Donnell (the younger Jethro, and Jasper son of Jethro), Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir (Susannah, wife of Jethro), David Goodier (Jethros’ father), Ian Anderson (Narrator and the older Jethro), John O’Hara (scientist and choirmaster).
Jerry Lee Lewis 80th Birthday concert Clyde Auditorium Glasgow 10th September 2015
Last night rock ‘n’ roll Legend Jerry Lee Lewis played his final UK concert, as part of his 80th birthday Farewell UK tour. The short tour included two dates, one earlier in the week at the London Palladium, and last night’s concert, which I attended, and which was at the Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow.
To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from this concert. The last time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis was at Newcastle City Hall 11 years ago. That night he played a very short set, probably around 30 minutes, and although he was on good form, he looked tired. I wondered how the great man would be, now that he is 80 (well he is actually 79, and 80 in a couple of weeks time). I had to go and see the legend that is Jerry Lee one last time. He is one of the reasons rock exists, and the last man standing from the originals.
The Palladium show sold out and reviews were good, with Robert Plant and Ringo attending. The Glasgow show had tickets left, to the extent that I received an email informing me that my seat had been reallocated “for production reasons” and that I would be given an upgraded seat on the night. What I suspect that meant was that the gallery, where I had bought my cheap seat, was being closed and that we were all being moved downstairs to make sure that the stalls and the circle were full.
I set off early to drive up to Glasgow, leaving around 2.30pm to be sure to get there on time. The traffic was fine, and I was at the venue around 6pm, giving me time to park the car and get my bearings. I had a short wait before the doors opened. I then joined a queue of fans who were also having their seats reallocated. I was given a seat half way back in the stalls. Result!
The promoter had assembled a strong supporting bill for the two concerts. There were so many acts I wondered whether it would work, which it did; in fact it all ran incredibly smoothly. The concert started at 8pm prompt. Compère and radio presenter Ally Bally was our host for the evening and he did a great job introducing the acts, hitting just the right balance of patter. DJ Mike Read had been compere at the Palladium and Ally Bally told us that he had been speaking to Mike about how well that concert went. Ally reminded us that this was a historic evening, encouraging us to “party” and to give Jerry Lee a great Glasgow welcome.
The first act was young Swiss pianist Ladyva, who warmed the audience up with two excellent boogie woogie numbers. Next on stage was Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon fame an the excellent Albert Lee on guitar, backed by the Elio Pace band. Peter and Albert did two songs. First was “Bye Bye Love” taking us back to the duo who started rock harmonies, the Everly Brothers, and then the Peter and Gordon massive hit “World without Love”. Both classic songs, played and sung perfectly, setting the tone for the evening. Peter left and Albert and the band were joined by legendary guitarist James Burton. Burton’s pedigree is impeccable; the man has played alongside Ricky Nelson, Frank Sinatra and, of course, Elvis, and is responsible for so many signature twang riffs. Their short set was around 6 or 7 songs and included “That’s Alright Mama”, “Hello Mary Lou” and “Tear It Up”. Wonderful classic rock’n’roll / country guitar. James Burton led on a slow instrumental; truly mesmerising stuff. Then everyone left and Jerry Lee’s band The Memphis Beats came on stage, along with Jerry’s sister Lynda Gail Lewis and her daughter Annie Marie Lewis. Lynda Gail is a rock’n’roll star in her own right and plays some pretty mean piano. She performed “Lets Talk About Us”, “Shake Rattle n Roll”, “Rip It Up” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”. She finished her set at approx. 9.15pm.
The concert continued at fast pace; no time for any intermission. A video was shown containing interviews with stars paying homage to Jerry Lee, his legend and his immense contribution to rock and roll: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Kris Kristofferson, John Fogerty, Ronnie Wood, Chuck Berry, Sam Philipps of Sun, Willie Nelson; all with their own Killer stories to tell.
The moment the video finished Jerry Lee walked on stage, slowly and with a little help from an aide. We took to our feet, and as one stood cheering, applauding and shouting, making sure the Killer knew just how delighted we were to see him, and how honoured we were to be in the presence of the great man. What followed was a highly emotional, and at times almost unbelievable and surreal, experience. Jerry Lee’s performance was much much better than I witnessed ten years ago in Newcastle. His voice was strong; he sang in a low key, slowly, carefully. His piano playing was as fast and dexterous as ever. A video screen focused close-up on his face. I could see that he was concentrating; focussing on the words, his singing and his performance. But I could also see that he was smiling; genuinely touched by the warmth of the reception he was receiving from the Scottish crowd. Fans were dancing in the aisles; jiving, twirling and singing along. Fans of all ages; kids in their twenties and couples in their seventies. Old guys in full drape teddy boy gear.
The set was a mix of slow country ballads and classic rockers, some of Jerry’s own hits and several Chuck Berry songs. Of the ballads, I found Hank Williams “You Win Again” and Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” particularly moving. Of the rockers, well they don’t come much better than “Great Balls of Fire”. After just short of an hour Jerry Lee closed with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, which developed into a medley of “Mean Woman Blues” and “What’d I Say”. Then he suddenly rose to his feet, kicked back the piano stool with his heel; the Killer attitude is still there. The crowd cheered loudly, sensing that we were witnessing a special moment. Then he was gone, leaving the band to close the show. We stood applauding, each of us knowing that we had just witnessed a unique performance. It was 10.10pm.
I headed to the car park, then it was down the M74 to Carlisle and across to the north east. I was back home around 1.15am, thoughts of Jerry Lee still running through my head.
Setlist: Down the line; You win again; Drinking wine; She even woke me up; Sweet little 16; Memphis Tennessee; Over the rainbow; Before the night is over; Roll over Beethoven; Great balls Of Fire; Why You Been Gone so long; Whole Lotta Shakin/Mean woman blues/What’d I say (Medley)
The Tubes Brudenell Social Club Leeds 11th August 2015
Recently I’ve become very bad at keeping my blog up to date. I lost the momentum that I had when I was writing an entry a day. So apologies for the lateness of this entry.
Norm, Mick and I took a trip to Leeds a couple of weeks ago, our purpose being to reconnect with those crazy Tubes guys. For me, it had been many years since I had sampled the mad delights of our heroes; the last time I saw the Tubes was at Newcastle City Hall in the early 1980s. My two companions went to a Tubes gig 10 or so years ago, when they played Newcastle Academy.
The Tubes are a strange mix of classic rock, great musicianship, punk, vaudeville, shock-rock, camp and musical theatre. Their shows worked best as big productions, and I still have great memories of their first UK tour back in 1977, and their OTT Knebworth appearance a year or so later. The venue for this show was the excellent Brudenell Social Club. I wondered how their show would translate to a smaller stage and an intimate club setting.
We arrived in Brudenell in plenty of time to sample a local hostelry just along the road from the Social Club. As we entered the bar, who should we spot but Tubes drummer Prairie Prince. Norm wandered over for a chat, and Prince kindly signed his ticket from the City Hall 1977 concert. Mick and I joined them. Mick, being a drummer himself, holds Prairie Prince in the highest regard, declaring him his favourite drummer.
Today’s Tubes feature four members from the original band: Prince on drums, our hero and manic front man Fee Waybill on vocals, the excellent Roger Steen on guitar, and Rick Anderson on bass. The Brudenell was packed full of fans from all over the North; Norm ran into some mates from work.
The show started with a short instrumental piece. Soon our hero Fee made his usual dramatic entrance in a big raincoat and hat. I wasn’t sure if he was Frank Sinatra or a Chicago gangster. Actually, no he was Gene Pitney, and soon gave us an excellent rendition of “Town without Pity”. The set was classic Tubes, drawn from throughout their early albums. The show was as theatrical as ever. Of course they didn’t have the stage sets like back in the day, but Fee made up for it in terms of costume changes, facial expression and attitude. He soon became a convict in full striped uniform, and at one point sang through the bars of a small prison cell box which covered his head. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tubes show without Fee in full outrageous bondage gear for “Mondo Bondage”. Not for the squeamish or the easily shocked. The show came to it’s crazy full-on mad climax with Fay being reborn as Quay Lewd and we all screamed along to “White Punks on Dope”. Classic stuff. We stayed back and got the band’s autographs. Norm took some pics, I will add one later…travelling at the moment. Happy days here again.
Setlist:Getoverture; This Town; Town Without Pity; Power Tools; Rat Race; Crime Medley; Mr. Hate; Amnesia; No Way Out; Life Is Pain; Mondo Bondage; Up From the Deep; What Do You Want From Life; Sushi Girl; Don’t Want to Wait Anymore; Drum Solo (Prairie Prince); Boy Crazy; White Punks On Dope
Encore: She’s A Beauty; I Saw Her Standing There; Talk to Ya Later; Third Stone From The Sun
Jimmy Cliff Newcastle Riverside 6th August 2015
Seeing Jimmy Cliff has been on my bucket list for many years. Well last week I finally got to see him and The Man he didn’t let me down. The Riverside was ram packed with a lively mix of soul dudes, punks and roots rockets all ready to dance, sing and shout along with those great toons. The place was hot, Jimmy Cliff was on fire and the band were lively and loud. Great songs: “You Can Get It If You Really Want”,”Wild World”, “Vietnam”, “Many Rivers to Cross” sung with passion by Jimmy and by half the crowd too. But for me the toppest of top classic is and always will be, as The Man told us, the song which “I Man brought reggae to the world”: “The Harder They Come”. Takes me back to a day when reggae was fresh, new, exciting, raw, different. I’ve said it before and I will no doubt say it again, but the old guys are (at least to me) truly the best. Great to see a guy who lives up to his own legend. 100% class act. Respect.
Setlist (something like): Bongo Man / Rivers of Babylon; You Can Get It If You Really Want; Hard Road to Travel; Rebel Rebel; Wild World; This Is My Love Song; Under the Sun, Moon and Stars; I Can See Clearly Now; Reggae Night; Vietnam; The Harder They Come; Many Rivers to Cross; King of Kings; Miss Jamaica; Wonderful World, Beautiful People; Let Your Yeah Be Yeah; Treat the Youths Right; Rub-A-Dub Partner; Reggae Music
Encore: Special; Roots Woman
“So as sure as the sun will shine
I’m gonna get my share now of what’s mine
And then the harder they come
The harder they’ll fall, one and all” (Jimmy Cliff, 1972)
The Whitley Bay Film Festival presents “Tommy with special guest Roger Daltrey”
So Tommy, or rather Roger, came to Whitley Bay, the past home of many pinball arcades. And he watched the great 1975 movie with us. The Whitley Bay Film festival kicked off it’s sixth year of movie, culture, music and arts events with a very special 40th anniversary screening of Ken Russell’s and The Who’s classic film, Tommy. Roger Daltrey was in attendance for a conversation with music historian Chris Phipps and a question and answer session with the audience. The evening was introduced by festival patron Ian La Frenais.
Tommy is a dark, crazy, OTT ride through 1970s culture. It features a star cast of acting and musical royalty including Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Elton John and The Who themselves to name but a few. The music is, of course, based on a reworking of the Who’s classic 1969 rock opera. I went along with Norm, and the two enjoyed the joys of the film all over again. We both saw the film when it was first released, but neither of us had seen it since then. I was surprise how current it seemed; its larger than life characters and images, iconography, pastiche reminding me to some extent of recent movies such as Moulin Rouge.
Leading up to the main film event, the festival team held a month long pinball tournament, which ran throughout July, and culminated in the final held in the foyer, immediately prior to the film screening. Our pinball champion was Matt Morrison of Whitley Bay, who was presented with his award by Roger Daltrey. After the movie we were all treated to a question and answer session with Roger, sat next to a lovingly restored pinball machine, and who admitted: “I’m the worst pinball player in the world.” Roger was introduced festival patron, comedy writer Ian La Frenais, originally from Whitley Bay and whose work with writing partner Dick Clement includes The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Ian told us: “I had my first snog in this building”. Roger told several stories of the making of the film including how he was the target of a fire hose which left him “black and blue”, thrown in a cold bath and laid on an ironing board while Cousin Kevin tortured him. He also admitted “Ann Margaret was supposed to be my mother, but that was a tough acting job on my part.” A unique night and an opportunity to see a hero up close.
“That deaf, dumb and blind kid, Sure plays a mean pinball!” (Townshend, 1969).