Classic Legends of Rock and Folk Newcastle City Hall 1st March 2014
Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash
So the Classic Legends of Rock (and Folk) came to The City Hall, the spiritual home of rock in the North East of England. This was an evening of mixed emotions for me. I’ve seen all of these bands headline the City Hall to packed houses. It was great to see them back on the big City Hall stage again, but also a little sad to see such a small crowd (I would guess there were a few hundred people there) which filled the front part of the stalls (the circle wasn’t open). So I enjoyed seeing the bands perform last night, but the memories of 40 years ago, when I stood in a capacity crowd cheering and singing along to “Blowin’ Free” (or on even earlier tours “Jailbait”), “Back Street Luv” or “Lay Down” are forever etched in my mind, and bring back memories of just how great all these acts were; back in those days which are now beginning to seem such a long time ago (which is because it was a long time ago 🙂 ). Anyway, back to the show.
Strawbs were on stage when I arrived just after the advertised start time of 7.30pm. This was the three piece acoustic version, which features David Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk, all of whom have been with the band since 1973, and in Cousins’ case from the very start. Their short 30 minute set featured (among a few others songs) the excellent “Hangman and the Papist” (Cousins commented on the fact that old band-mate Rick Wakeman is coming to the City Hall soon, and recalled how they played this track on Top of the Pops during a period when the show featured a regular “album spot”), “Ghosts” and finished with the hit single “Lay Down”. A few minutes to change the gear and Curved Air appeared on stage. The first track was instrumental, with Sonja Kristina joining the band for “It Happened Today”. The latest version of Curved Air features Sonja (vocals), fellow original member Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Kirby Gregory (guitar), Paul Sax (violin), Chris Harris (bass) and Robert Norton (keyboards). We were treated to the beautiful “Melinda (More or Less)” (a favourite of mine), a couple of new songs, a shortened “Vivaldi” and closer “Back Street Luv”. They were on stage for around an hour.
After a short break, Martin Turner and his band took to the stage. Those of us who follow both Martin’s band and Wishbone Ash (featuring Andy Powell) will know that the outcome of a recent court case means that Martin is no longer allowed to use the name Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash and is hence now touring as Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash. I’ve seen both bands several times over the past few years; Martin in particular has been touring a lot. Because of this I wasn’t really too bothered about staying for their set; I’d come more to see Curved Air. As it happened, I was really impressed by Martin and his band last night, and staying through to the encore of “Blowin’ Free”. He has assembled a line-up which faithfully recreates the music of classic ’70s Wishbone Ash with himself as front man, vocals and bass; Ray Hatfield and Danny Wilson having the unenviable task of reproducing the twin-guitar sound, which they do amazingly well, and Tim Wilson on drums. The set included well-known Wishbone Ash songs such as “King Will Come”, “Warrior” and “Pheonix” alongside less often played tracks like “Lullaby” from the “Pilgrimage” album and Laurie Wisefield’s “Goodbye Baby Hello Friend”. A great set with a nice mix of songs; Martin and his band deserved headline status last night.
Looking back this morning on the concert last night, I enjoyed seeing all those classic songs performed again, but for me the evening was tinged with a little sadness and a wish that I could turn the clock back and relive the concerts of the early ’70s. Never mind; I’ve just watched “Hangman and the Papist” from Top of the Pops 1971 on YouTube; powerful; amazing stuff; Cousins is wearing a great coat 🙂 .
Is it really 43 years ago..? I couldn’t print my e-ticket at home then.
“Who will be the hangman in the dawn?”
Archive for the ‘Curved Air’ Category
Classic Legends of Rock and Folk Newcastle City Hall 1st March 2014
The Reading Festival 1972
I first went to the Reading Festival in 1972 (is it really over 41 years ago 🙂 ?), and continued to go every year until 1980. I missed 1981 as it clashed with a local “Rock on the Tyne” Festival, and have never returned, although I did think of doing so on several occasions. I’m aiming to reflect on one year each week for the next few weeks, starting today with my first Reading experience.
I’d already been to the Lincoln Festival in May 1972 so I felt, as a 15 year old, I was already a hardened festival goer. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go to Reading, so decided to go along myself. My parents weren’t keen on my idea of hitching so I agreed to go by train. The festival took place over the weekend of August 11th to 13th, 1972 starting on Friday afternoon. For some reason I decided to get the train down to London early on the Thursday night, arriving around midnight. Having nowhere to spend the night I took a tube to Piccadilly Circus and found an all-night cinema. It was showing Elvis films all night; I paid my money and sat close to the front. The cinema was quite empty, the audience was a few couples, some Elvis fans and several people alone like me, and just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I don’t recall which films were shown, I think there were six, and I’m pretty sure one was “Kid Galahad” (which, by the way, is a good movie), and I think another may have been “Fun in Acapulco” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (not so good). I emerged, very tired, from the cinema in the early hours of the morning, and went across London to get the train to Reading. I didn’t have a ticket for the festival, so when I arrived I joined the queue and bought a weekend ticket. In those days it was all about seeing the bands, so I stayed in the queue to get a good spot in front of the stage. All I had taken was a sleeping bag; no tent; no change of clothes (I told you that I thought myself a hardened festival goer).
The Friday line-up was: Good Habit, Nazareth, Cottonwood, Steamhammer, Jackson Heights, Genesis, Mungo Jerry, Curved Air. The music started at 4pm and there were two stages set alongside each other to make for quick changeovers. I positioned myself close to the front somewhere between the two stages so I had a good view of both. There was a press enclosure right down front, and an area where the Hells Angels would encamp, so you couldn’t get that close to the stage. I got talking to a guy next to me; he was also alone, still at school and a similar age. We stuck together throughout the weekend, keeping each others place in the crowd, and sleeping there on a night in our sleeping bags. This seems crazy now, but hey I was young and just so excited about seeing the bands. You could sleep in the main enclosure in those days; you had to leave in the early morning so that they could clear up and get ready for the next day. Some clearing happened during the night; this didn’t make for a good night sleep as there was a danger that someone stood on you (this happened to me several times). The organisers stopped letting people sleep in the main enclosure a few years later; a punter was run over by a vehicle that was driving around collecting litter….The bands I recall on Friday were: Good Habit (saw them a few times, they used to were monks habits on stage), Nazareth (this was before “Broken Down Angel”; they played a great version of “Morning Dew”); Genesis (Simply amazing. I was a big fan at the time and have written separately about their set which included The Knife, Twilight Alehouse, Watcher Of The Skies, The Musical box, and The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. Classic); Mungo Jerry (got the crowd rocking), and Curved Air (also amazing; It happened today, Backstreet Luv, Sonja Kristina).
The Saturday line-up was: Jonathan Kelly, Solid Gold Cadillac, Man, Linda Lewis, Focus, Edgar Broughton, Jericho, If, Johnny Otis Show, Electric Light Orchestra, The Faces. I watched all of the bands, and also took some time to have a look around the stalls in the arena. I didn’t see any need to venture into town (that would come in later years) and spent the entire weekend within the confines of the festival. The weather was quite warm, sunny with a little drizzle now and then but nothing major, and certainly nothing compared to the rain I experienced at the Lincoln festival earlier in the year. Highlights I can dimly recall now are: Jonathan Kelly (Ballad of Cursed Anna simply wonderful), Solid Gold Cadillac (very jazzy), Man (very long guitar solos; Spunk Rock; great!), Linda Lewis (she looked so tiny on that stage and admitted to being scared), Focus (went down well with the crowd and were one of the successes of the weekend), Edgar Broughton (amazing, I was already a fan. Edgar very unspoken as always. Out Demons Out!!), If (jazzy, great guitarist), Johnny Otis Show (just blogged on them), Electric Light Orchestra (this was a very early performance and one of their first since Roy Wood’s departure. Wasn’t sure what to expect; they were good), The Faces (Rod and the guys on great form, lots of footballs kicked into the crowd, Twisting the Night Away and I’m Losing You were big live favourites of mine at the time).
The Sunday line-up was: Sutherland Brothers, Gillian McPherson, String Driven Thing, Matching Mole, Stackridge, Vinegar Joe, Status Quo, Stray, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Ten Years After, Quintessence. John Peel and Jerry Floyd were comperes for the weekend. Jerry was the regular DJ at the Marquee Club, who organised the festival at the time. I spend much of the weekend chatting about music to the guy that I met on the first day and we struck up quite a friendship. I made a few friend at festivals in those days and would see some people every year but I never ran into this guy again. Wonder where he is now. Highlights of the day were: Matching Mole (featuring Robert Wyatt), Stackridge (“Slark” was a favourite of mine at the time), Vinegar Joe (Elkie just stunning), Status Quo (this was one of the shows that helped them break back. Peel was a big champion of theirs at the time; I think he introduced them as the “Finest rock’n’roll band in the world”, or something like that. They were playing amazing boogie at the time, with Francis giving it some cheeky banter. Someones Learning was a favourite), Stray (excellent, Del in mirror suit), Roy Wood’s Wizzard (pretty good, very retro rock’n’roll. Ballpark Incident had just been released), and Ten Years After (Alvin’s guitar playing was stunning, I’d just seen “Woodstock” and was a big fan). I left as Quintessence’s took to the stage as did many others (TYA were official headliners) to catch the last train to London. The tubes had stopped so I walked across London. I’d missed the midnight train so I spent the night in Kings Cross station.
Monday morning: I was stiff, tired, and scruffy. I got the first train home and went straight to bed 🙂
Wow! that took longer than I thought it would! The scans come from the newspaper style programme which was produced by the Reading Evening Post. The poster (it looks like a cartoon of Leo Lyons from TYA to me?) is from the middle of the programme. Oh and I forgot to mention the “Wally!” chants, which seemed to go on all night.
Curved Air 70s gigs
I believe that the bands that you see when you are young shape your musical tastes for the rest of life. Curved Air are one of those bands for me. I first saw them at Newcastle City Hall in 1971, and was mesmerised by them in many different ways. Their mix of classical music, folk and electronic sounds was quite unique, Sonja Kristina was just stunning on stage, and the musicianship of Darryl Way on violin and Francis Monkman on moog synthesiser was outstanding. And they had great songs: the hit single “Back Street Luv”, “Marie Antoinette”, the beautiful and haunting “Melinda (More or Less)”, their first single “It Happened Today”, and the set closer “Vivaldi” during which Daryl Way went wild with his electric violin. Support at that 1971 gig came from Irish band Skid Row, not to be confused with the American heavy rock band of the 80s. I’d seen the bluesy Skid Row a few months before in Sunderland Locarno, with the young Gary Moore on guitar (he just blew me away: I went home and practised and practised). However, by the time of this gig Gary had been replaced by Paul Chapman. Brush Sheils was the bass player and front man of Skid Row; his name coming from his big brush of hair. He sported a persplex bass and was totally crazy on stage: a real wild guy. I then saw Curved Air play a great set on the Friday night of the 1972 Reading Festival where they headlined over Genesis and Mungo Jerry. They came onstage late, around midnight by which time we were all sitting on the grass, waiting in the cold night. Their set was just amazing that night. Sonja sang those lovely songs over the evening mist, and brought the first night of the festival to a lovely end. From then on I saw Curved Air almost any and every time that they played in the North East. I remember gigs at Newcastle Mayfair, Newcastle Poly, Sunderland Poly and Durham Students Union. I recall Marie and I turning up at a sold out Freshers Ball at Teesside Poly one night and managing somehow to blag our way in to the hall (backhander to the doorman methinks). I saw them again at the City Hall in 1976. I think I may have seen them at Redcar Bowl. There were probably other gigs that I don’t remember; Curved Air played a lot in those days and must have been up and down the motorway playing Student Union dances most weekends. Over the years the line up changed (a lot). At one point local guy Eddie Jobson joined on violin. Jobson was a young and extremely talented multi-instrumentalist who I’d seen several times at Sunderland Locarno, playing in Hartlepool (or was it Peterlee?) band Fat Grapple. Fat Grapple were great, its a shame no recorded material of the band from that era exists. Along the way Stewart Copeland, who was to become Sonja’s husband and later of The Police, joined on drums, and Darryl Way returned to the fold. The one constant factor throughout that period was Sonja Kristina. I can picture her now, commanding the stage, top hat on her head and a cape around her shoulders, belting out Back Street Luv. Great nights. Can I go back there please? I’ve seen Curved Air a couple of times in recent years, at Holmfirth Picturedrome and at Glastonbury, and the magic is still there; for me anyway. Thanks to John for finding a signed 1971 programme on ebay for me, and for sending me an image of an early 70s poster (also bought on ebay; see scans).
Glastonbury Festival Pilton Farm 25-27 June 2010
So we (me, Marie, Laura, David) decided to sample the delights of a modern festival. It’s 30 years since I last when to 3 day festival and stayed for all 3 days (Reading 1980), so I was quite excited about this. We travelled down on Wed and arrived Wed night. Thursday was spent exploring the massive site and on the evening we sampled Nik Turner’s Space Ritual and Curved Air (who we hardly saw as the tent in which they were playing was completely packed). Highlights were singing along to Rolf Harris who opened the Pyramid stage on Friday, Gorillaz, Muse who were just awesome on Saturday, and Ray Davies and Stevie Wonder on Sunday who turned out all the hits for us. We all had a great weekend; the festival is so big we gave up on the idea of trying to see all of the bands that we had planned and just enjoyed the event; which was great.
Curved Air Holmfirth The Picturedrome October 30 2008
Must have seen Curved Air around 10 times in the 70s. They seemed to play all the local dances; seem to recall seeing them at Sunderland Poly, Newcastle Poly, Durham Uni, Teesside Poly as well as Newcastle Mayfair, Sunderland Locarno, the City Hall, the Reading Festival. So when I saw that they had reformed I promised myself that I would go and see them. The nearest date meant a 120 mile drive to the little Yorkshire village of Holmfirth on a freezing cold winter night but, I convinced myself that it would be worth it.
The reformed line up comprises three original members: Sonja Kristina, Darrel Way and Florian Pilkington Miksa. Support came from Claire Hammil, another name from the past. Claire was close to the end of her set when I arrived (Holmfirth isn’t easy to find; must buy a sat nav). The Picturedrome is a lovely old cinema set right in the centre of Holmfirth. The place was respectably full, not packed, I easily made my way to the front of the stage ready for the band coming on.
They started with an instrumental piece with Darrel Way leading on his violin. He then introduced Sonja who bounced on and straight into It Happened Today, which was great! The set included all the favourites that I wanted to hear: Melinda (more or less); Marie Antoinette; Stretch; Midnight Wire and (of course) Back Street Luv. Sonja left the stage and they finished with Vivaldi, which sounded just as good as it did in the field at Reading 36 years ago. For the encore they came back and gave us Back Street Luv again. Pretty awesome. Drove back up the A1 through sleet with the sound of Sonja’s voice and Darrel’s violin still in my mind.
website : http://www.curvedair.com/
Someone has loaded some great clips from the gig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KynuCpJj4I