Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
When I was a teenager I would listen intently to “In Concert” on the radio. There are three broadcasts that I recall very strongly. The first was by Led Zeppelin, recorded at the Albert Hall; the second Fleetwood Mac; and the other was Soft Machine. It will have been 1970 or 1971. Of the three, the Soft Machine concert was, for me, the most memorable. I still remember the impact it had. The strange sounds coming out of my radio intrigued me; I immediately became a fan. The music was so different to that of other bands, and to anything else I was listening to at the time. If I remember correctly, the concert was introduced by John Peel, who championed Soft Machine at the time. Their “songs’ sounded like long improvisations; however I now realise that was the nature of the band’s music and the songs were probably more planned than I thought. I think they may have played “Moon in June”, “Facelift” and a few other tracks from “Soft Machine 3”.
I only got to see Soft Machine live twice. Both occasions were in the mid-70s; by which time Soft Machine had completed its transformation from psychedelia to jazz-rock. The first time I saw the band was at the Reading Festival, and the second at Newcastle Guildhall as part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. Last night I took up on the chance of seeing Soft Machine again; when the latest line-up performed at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre.
The current line-up of Soft Machine was launched (initially as Soft Machine Legacy) in 2004. The line-up consisted of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Etheridge and John Marshall: four long-time members from different eras of the legendary group. In 2006 Elton Dean sadly passed away and his place on sax and flute was taken by Theo Travis, who has an association with Gong and David Gilmour and is a long time fan of Soft Machine’s music. Hugh Hopper sadly passed away in 2008. His place was taken by veteran bass player Roy Babbington, who first joined the group in 1970. This reunited 3/5ths of the 1975-77 Soft Machine line-up. Since 2010 the band has recorded a new, and highly acclaimed album “Burden of Proof” and they continue to tour. “Burden of Proof” is (from the venue website): “a collection of songs that basically has something for everyone; challenging jazz-fusion, adventurous prog-rock, bits of chaotic free-jazz, atmospheric instrumental pop-jazz, and even a little hard rock. Extraordinary!”
I had an uneventful drive over to Kendal, and took my seat in the Malt Room of the Brewery Arts Centre. Last time I was here was to see Marianne Faithful; which was some years ago. It’s a great venue and regularly features some classic acts. I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Soft Machine; I guess I thought I might find the jazzy instrumental nature of the songs a little hard going. But I also knew that it was going to be worth the effort in order to reacquaint myself with the music of Soft Machine.
The band came onstage just before 8.30pm and launched straight into “The Steamer” from the 2006 Soft Machine Legacy album “Steam”. The sound was clear, crisp. The music a mix of jazz and prog. Guitarist John Etheridge introduced the songs and seemed to be taking the lead. He explained how the last incarnation of Soft Machine had seen former members put old disputes behind them, and how time had allowed that to happen. He also explained that veteran Soft’s drummer John Marshall was unwell, suffering from a bad back and unable to make this tour. The guy standing in did an excellent job.
The concert comprised two sets and drew from Soft Machine’s extensive back catalogue, going back to 1970 and “3” for “Facelift” and to “4” for “Kings and Queens”. The music was much more varied than I had imagined, and ranged from guitar-riff-driven hard rock, through jazz (with mucho sax) to atmospheric flute-led prog; the latter songs being my own favourites. The musicianship was excellent, and Etheridge joked and talked to the audience a lot more than I had anticipated. In fact, he explained that “back in the day” the members of Soft Machine would never speak to, or acknowledge, the audience. The evening passed quickly, and I realised that I had after all enjoyed it; actually a lot. It was very much a concert; rather than a rock gig; but hey that’s just fine for me these days.
The concert finished shortly after 10.30pm; I was back home around 12.30am. I’ve spent this morning playing my vinyl copies of Soft Machine “3” and “4”. Happy days.
Set 1: The Steamer; Hazard Profile; Chloe and the Pirates; Voyage beyond Seven; Song of Aeolus; Grape Hound
Set 2: Burden of Proof; Facelift / the Last Day; Kings and Queens; Relegation of Pluto / Transit
Posts Tagged ‘classic rock’
Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
Dave Davies (and Ray!) Islington Assembly Hall London 18 Dec 2015
My early Christmas present to myself was to go and see Kinks guitar riff hero Dave Davies in London last night. And what a Christmas present it was. Dave Davies played a blinding set to his home crowd. Still recovering from flu, Dave bounded on stage, greeting us “Hello London! It’s good to be back in town!” He ran through a set of Kinks classics, album tracks and solo songs. Dave’s guitar was loud and fuzzy and his band’s versions of Kinks hits “Dead End Street” and (my favourite) “See My Friends” were raw and heavy. Dave’s own “Death of a Clown” started pretty ramshackle but finished as a great singalong. But the best was yet to come. Sometimes miracles do happen at Christmas.
For the last song, Dave introduced a “surprise for Christmas” and on walked brother Ray!!! The two brothers played “You Really Got Me” and the place went completely berserk. I was sitting upstairs and everyone leapt to their feet; singing, clapping, shouting and going generally nuts. The next few minutes became an unbelievable almost surreal dream. Ray and Dave shook hands as they left the stage. As I walked out of the venue onto the street everyone faces me were looking at each other; grinning, not quite believing what we had all just witnessed.
You can find a video here
This was the Davies brothers first time on stage together for 19 years, and it was an amazing event to witness; musically, historically and emotionally. Two brothers, in their home town, back together on stage where they belong, singing the song that started so much. It really doesn’t get any better; I am going to be on a high for ages. Best Christmas present since I opened my Johnny Seven in 1966.
Setlist: Ripping Up; All Day and All of the Night; She’s got everything; Creeping Jean; Tired of Waiting; See My Friends; In You I Believe; Strangers; Flowers in the Rain (Dave solo track, not the Move song); Young and Innocent Days; The Man He Weeps Tonight; Death of a Clown; Living on a Thin Line; Dead End Street; Where have all the Good Times Gone?; I’m Not Like Everybody Else; You Really Got Me (with Ray Davies)
Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015
This concert was a big deal for Maximo Park. Their Facebook page proudly declared “everyone has played Newcastle City Hall: Bob Dylan, the Beatles; and now we are playing there”. The concert had sold out quickly: a hometown show with the added attraction that the band were showcasing their excellent debut album “A Certain Trigger” in full was bound to be a big draw. Laura was really excited about going but sadly came down with flu on the night of the concert, so along I went to the City Hall on my own.
Maximo Park exploded onto the stage to a big loud and friendly roar from the home crowd. The set was one of two halves, opening with 11 tracks drawing from across their career, starting with “Girls who play guitar”. This was followed by a performance of all 13 tracks from “A Certain Trigger”. Ten years on the songs from the first album sound as fresh and modern as ever. The crowd loved it, and you could see how much the band enjoyed the night, and how keen they had been to grace the City Hall stage. A great performance from a local band who maintain a loyal and strong following.
Setlist: Girls Who Play Guitars; The National Health; A19; The Kids Are Sick Again; This Is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted; Hips and Lips; A Year of Doubt; Midnight on the Hill; Leave This Island; Our Velocity; Books from Boxes; [A Certain Trigger set:]; Signal and Sign; Apply Some Pressure; Graffiti; Postcard of a Painting; Going Missing; I Want You to Stay; Limassol; The Coast Is Always Changing; The Night I Lost My Head; Once, a Glimpse; Now I’m All Over the Shop; Acrobat; Kiss You Better
Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Gateshead Old Town Hall 6th November 2015
I’ve always wanted to see Brian Auger. I am a big fan of that classic ’60s swirling Hammond organ sound and you don’t get much better an exponent of that groove than Mr Auger. Brian Auger has played or toured with many of the greats of classic rock including Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll; Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Burdon. Those crazy stylish videos of the Brian Auger Trinity and Julie Driscoll playing “Wheels on Fire” will remain etched within my memory for ever. But today Brian Auger is once again fronting his jazz rock combo the Oblivion Express. Accompanying Brian in this incarnation of Oblivion Express are his son Karma Auger on drums, Mike Clairmont on bass and Alex Ligertwood on vocals, guitar and percussion. Alex Ligertwood hails from north of the border, and is best known as being the lead vocalist of Santana on several occasions during the period 1979 to 1994. He also performed with The Jeff Beck Group (1970) and was a member of Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express in the early 1970s.
The concert took place in the beautiful and historic Gateshead Old Town Hall building. A respectable number of evening hipsters turned up on a cold Friday evening to groove away to the Oblivion Express’ jazz rock fusion extravanganza. Auger’s music is enjoying renewed interest and the audience reflected this, consisting of young and old; all keen to experience the sound of a band of excellent musicians. The material was unfamiliar to me, drawing from jazz greats including Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis abd Art Blakely, but nonetheless enjoyable. Auger’s Hammond organ playing has lost none of its style and Alex Ligertwood’s vocals were excellent. An enjoyable evening, spent experiencing some music which is a little different from the gigs I usually attend.