Archive for the ‘Bronco’ Category

Free Newcastle City Hall 1st February 1972 and early 70s gigs

Free Newcastle City Hall and early 70s gigs
If you asked a teenage gig-goer from the North East of England in the early 70s to name their favourite live bands, they would probably have said Free, Family, and possibly Stray. All three of those bands played in the region a lot at the time, and were great live, as a result building a strong following. In Sunderland Free in particular had a strong cult following, and played lots of gigs at the Bay Hotel, and Sunderland Locarno. I was just that little bit too young to catch some of those early gigs, and was very jealous at the time of some of my slightly older mates who told me how great Free were live. Indeed some of the tracks on the album Free Live was recorded at a gig at Sunderland Locarno (or Fillmore North) in 1970. Free existed only for a brief few years at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s, and yet their shows and records are still spoken of today. There was a unique emotional groove to their music that set them above others, and gave them a different feel to the heavier bands of the time like Purple, Sabbath and even Zeppelin. This came from the combination of Paul Rodger’s soulful vocals and Paul Kossoff’s bluesy guitar. The first time I got to see Free was at a gig at Newcastle City Hall in early 1972. This was something of a comeback gig, as the band had broken up briefly in 1971, due at least in part, to Koss’ drug problems. The City Hall was packed but the gig was abandoned due to a power failure. Support came from Bronco featuring Jess Roden, who managed to complete their set by performing acoustic versions of some of the songs. Free took to the stage, but again there were problems with the power, and they had to cut their set short, promising to return later in the month. Free did return for two nights on the 21st and 22nd of February, with one of the nights being a free concert for ticket holders from the original gig. I went along to the new gig and saw Free play a full set, and they were amazing; every bit as good as my mates had told me. By then I had also seen them play at Sunderland Top Rank (I will blog about that gig tomorrow), so I saw them three times in the same month. Live favourites for me were The Stealer, My Big, Alright Now and, of course, The Hunter, which was always the encore. My friend John was one of the friends who did get to see Free at some of those earlier gigs that I mentioned earlier. He remains a strong Free fan and has sent me some of his memories: “I have to say that my three favourite bands of all time are Free, Zeppelin and the Black Crowes followed by Humble Pie and Mountain. There are three things I man does not forget: his first beer, his first real girlfriend and in my case my first rock and roll show. I was very fortunate that it was the Indoor Festival of Music at the Top Rank Suite in Sunderland promoted by Geoff Docherty which featured Free as the headliner with Deep Purple, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, Cochise and Yellow. All for the princely sum of a Pound! I was not quite 15 and can still remember how excited I was to going to the show which was billed as starting at 7.30pm and finishing at 2am – wow how cool was that. Purple had some transportation problems and so Free went on first. Fire and Water was released in June of that year, they had played the Isle of Wight and All Right Now had reached number 2 in the charts, they had appeared on Top of the Pops, very heady times for a band still barely in their 20’s. We bought tickets from Bergs Records (and Bicycle) shop which were very cool looking; we sat on the floor and had a fantastic time. The setlist was heavily drawn from Fire and Water and Highway which was released in December of that year: Ride on Pony, the Stealer, Be My Friend, Mr Big, All Right Now, Don’t say You Love me, Fire and Water, I’m a Mover, Walk in my Shadow, Songs Of Yesterday, closing, of course, with The Hunter. If you ask any Free fan from the time I am pretty sure they say that Mr Big and The Hunter were their favourite songs and to this day I still get goose pimples when I hear the opening chords of the live version of The Hunter. Fast forward to the Sunderland Empire in 1971 and Free appeared supported by Amazing Blondel. I think I can remember local famed promoter Geoff Docherty introducing Free. I have in my head Geoff coming out and saying “he couldn’t ask them to play anymore as they were knackered”.”

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