Family London Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2 Feb 2013

Good to see Family again after 40 years
familytix I had been looking forward to this gig for months. It is 40 years since Family last performed together and since I last saw them on their farewell tour at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. Marie decided a few days ago that she would like to come along with me, and I managed to buy a ticket for her, so we were all set for a nostalgic weekend. The last time she saw Family was probably 1969 or 1970 at Sunderland Locarno. We travelled down to London by train on Saturday morning, met up with David for a meal, and then took the tube across to Shepherd’s Bush. We had a couple of drinks in the pub next door, and went into the Empire at 8.45pm. Family were on stage prompt at the advertised time of 9.15pm. We had standing tickets down in the stalls and by the time we got into the venue the place was absolutely packed to the walls. I bought a programme and we found a spot on a little raised area at the back of the hall, where we had a good view of the stage.
The line-up for the two reunion concerts featured Roger Chapman on vocals, Poli Palmer on vibraphone, Jim Cregan on guitar and Rob Townsend of drums. The members of Family changed quite a but during their career and last night’s grouping represented a pretty good selection of past members. The one big miss was of course Charlie Whitney. I assumed that this was because of some long term fall out between old friends Chapman and Whitney, but the programme says otherwise. Apparently Whitney was the first person that Roger Chapman approached when the idea of a reunion came up, but Charlie now lives in Greece, hasn’t been involved in music for some time, and just didn’t feel as if he could do it. Shame. familytix1Never the less the show did go on, and the band was augmented by a number of other musicians to ensure the strange textures of the old classic songs were recreated on stage. There were 9 musicians in total on stage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night. As well as the four members of Family there was Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Nick Payne on sax, flute and mouth harp, Gary Twigg on bass, Paul Hirsch on keyboards and John Lingwood on drums. The programme refers to the additional musicians as the “in laws” and they are all members of Roger’s band. The band were introduced onto the stage by long time friend and local Leicester football hero, Frank Worthington. The set was drawn from across their 8 album catalogue with all the classics and a few lesser know (at least to me) tracks. Family music was always a strange mix and difficult to categorise, blending folk, rock, psych, and blues with a deep sense of dynamics, shifting effortlessly from the soft and melodic to loud, rocky and swirling progrock or R&B. The opening song was Top of the Hill, followed by Drowned in Wine. My favourite No Mules Fool came half way through the set. As we got to the end the classics were rolled out to the delight of the largely male, balding late 50s and 60 something crowd. The last couple of songs were the rocky Burlesque, and In My Own Time. For the encore they played an exquisite version of The Weavers Answer, and then we all sang along to My Friend The Sun. Roger was as engaging as ever, a mix of the wild rock singer, the cheeky arrogant front man, and still getting lost in some weird crazy dancing at times. familyprog His voice was strong, but has lost a little of its power and the warbling vibrato is perhaps not quite as evident. But hey the guy is 70 and he gave it his all and put in an amazing performance. His crack with the crowd was as cheeky and friendly as ever, like he was with a group of old friends, which of course he was. Time and age haven’t dimmed his humour or his ability to eff and blind with the best of the them. He also made a few quips about effing Whitney sunning himself in Greece, clearly missing his old friend. At the end Roger thanked us and assured us that this was to be the last effing time we would see Family. We all rolled out into the cold night, warm in the knowledge that we had just spent a night with some old friends, and a good night it was too. Marie enjoyed it and recognised the well known songs. Next reunion gig for me is the Status Quo Frantic Four gigs next month. There are some good things about getting old and revisiting your past.
Setlist: Top of the Hill; Drowned in Wine; Holding the Compass; Part of the Load; Ready to Go; Crinkly Grin; Burning Bridges; No Mule’s Fool; Sat’dy Barfly; Between Blue and Me; Hung Up Down; Burlesque; In My Own Time. Encore 1: Weaver’s Answer. Encore 2: My Friend the Sun; Sweet Desiree.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Astounded by Sound Vintage Rock […]

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  2. One of the best songs ever written was The Weaver’s Answer. It’s still on my iPod today. Great news and I wish I could have been there. I live in Greece, so maybe I’ll bump into Charlie some time!!

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  3. I went to Family’s last Leicester gig, and was at the reunion too – what an utterly fabulous night – made me feel 23 again.

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