Caught Live: Psychords, Lennon’s Bar Liverpool 7th December 2017

I came along to this gig on the recommendation of several Facebook friends, three of whom are involved in gig promotions themselves and were touring with this band, an all-girl punk rock trio hailing from Italy. This date was part of a multi-band bill held at Lennon’s Bar, a tiny basement bar in Mathew Street (yards from the Cavern and also Eric’s), an event dubbed ‘LOUD Lennon’. What I had been unaware of was that this had been a regular event and that this was to be the last one held there! A pity if that means no more live (original) music there, but probably a sign of the times as this street is still synonymous with a certain band, one of whose members this place is named for.

I did catch two of the other bands on the bill; local four-piece Nesh gave a short, enjoyable set of what they term ‘alternative, melodic driven rock’, playing in Santa gear and displaying some welcome humour among the guitar riffing. Closing out the evening were St. Helens outfit Last Reserves, a band I’ve seen before and whose frontwoman Alice Nancy acted as compere for the evening. They’re a loud, enthusiastic quartet, they are not entirely my bag however I was impressed by nimble-fingered bassist Matt Bonnell.

The reason I was here though was to check out Psychords; taking to the tiny stage after Nesh’s set they had a few technical issues to begin with, as a techie was despatched to the small console to tweak a few dials, so that guitarist/vocalist Violet Burns could actually hear herself! Once they got things sorted out, they showed us why they were so highly rated. Meaty guitar riffs, accompanied by nifty bass fills from Gio’ Highlander and driving the whole thing along was drummer Claudia Lo. She was the basis for their hard-hitting sound, powerful and expressive. Contrasting this heavy sound was Violet Burns’ somewhat gentler vocal sat atop all this racket. Their songs are short snappy bashabouts, and those Ramones comparisons were totally justified.  They had your correspondent playing air guitar, bass AND air drums throughout!

The attendance was small, but did include an American tourist who only chanced upon this gig, looking for a bar playing something other than the Beatles fare offered almost everywhere else in this part of the city. He was happy to see such a lively gig and was also impressed with this band. This was the band’s third-last UK date before heading back to continental Europe, fingers crossed they’ll be able to return for more dates in 2018. Even better if they could find their way back to this city when they do!

Facebook page for Psychords

Facebook page Last Reserves

Facebook page for NESH

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

 

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Caught Live: The Lancashire Hotpots, o2 Academy Liverpool 1st December 2017

Same Night Syndrome hit once again on this date (that irritating occurrence when two or more gigs you want to see happen on the same date); not only same night but same building in this case! While the Hotpots were in the lower floor of this venue, the upstairs was hosting the Mark Lanegan band, that was a gig I’d also have liked to see having seen the 1990s alt-rocker once before here. Also, over in North Wales, blues-rock favourites King King were playing at the Buckley Tivoli, a gig I would definitely have seen had it not been rescheduled for this very same night! (Their original date was put back to allow for their frontman Alan Nimmo to recover from a throat ailment.)

The decision to plump for the Hotpots was taken late on – their tour is commemorating ten years, having released their debut album ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’ in 2007 they’ve probably surprised themselves that they are still playing humorous folk ditties about everyday life now. What swung it was that they had to compensate for the loss of their opening act. Spladoosh featuring Stu Penders (aka Ron Seal, sometimes seen on stage with the Hotpots as well) had to cancel their opening slot after Stu took ill (‘he’s got The Mange’, as Bernard Thresher helpfully informed us during the Hotpots’ extended set!) So it was decided that the Hotpots would play for longer than intended, while still performing all of ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’ as promised.

I’ve followed this group almost from the start; their signature song ‘Chippy Tea’ was played on the radio by a local DJ, back when the main radio station for this area actually was locally based (!) Not long after I saw them play, and liked their retro look and sound playing folk music about such 21st century things as satellite navigation, firewalls and even things that have become dated now like MySpace or the (game console) PSP!

They came on as promised at 8:10pm, with the intro tape being Queen’s ‘One Vision’ and opening with ‘Mek Us A Brew’. They had probably their best turnout in Liverpool since they played the upper venue here many years ago, and this crowd were well and truly up for this show – it was loud from the word go! With more time on the stage several songs that weren’t going to be played originally got added, such as their paean (sort of!) to that well-known furniture emporium, ‘I Fear IKEA’.

An early moment of hilarity came when Bernard debuted a new stage prop, a hand puppet of a loaf of bread (complete with eyes and a mouth. I am not making this up!) Without having rehearsed what to do with it, the whole thing looked and sounded absolutely ludicrous. Which only made it an even bigger hit with the crowd! It was so bizarre, even Bernard himself corpsed on the stage, laughing at the sheer stupidity of the moment so much it took him several minutes to compose himself again! Even fellow Hotpots, bass player Bob Wriggles and singer/percussionist Dickie Ticker had to check Bernard was actually OK, he really did lose it! That was worth the admission on its own, and there was still a long way to go in this set! Once back in the groove, they played the saucy ‘The Barmaid’s Baps’ before Pirate Bernard made a comeback. The character (Bernard Thresher in pantomime pirate getup) was devised for the song ‘Cinema Smugglers’, a comic song about the practice of smuggling sweets into a cinema to avoid the high prices charged by the kiosks! Waving a plastic cutlass (no doubt sourced from the high-quality retail emporium that is Poundland), Bernard had us all chanting ‘yaaarrrhhh!!’ at regular intervals!

The main part of the set followed, the complete run-through of  ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’. Before all of that Bob confessed to the gathered crowd that they never thought they’d still be doing this ten years on back when they started out, let alone that it would prove popular. Some of the songs were given a bit of a twist from their recorded originals (recorded at Dickie’s house originally, we were informed) so that ‘He’s Turned Emo’ was played straight at first, then they changed it completely to a reggae-style arrangement! It was played for laughs, but does show these fellas are actually very good musicians behind all the tomfoolery. Some of the subject matter hasn’t dated well (who still uses MySpace in 2017 for example, let alone meet any girls on that platform!) but that’s the pitfall of writing about present-day life! ‘The Firewall Song’ (written in fifteen minutes, according to Bernard) was given an extended coda simply because it was so short on record, again done with a touch of humour.

They overcame the hurdle of performing ‘Sat Nav’ by giving the vocal to Bob; it was originally performed by their first drummer Willie Eckerslike (aka Tom McGrath, who passed away in 2010) and Bob dedicated it to his memory. That also saw Bernard take to the drums, regular drummer Kenny Body came out to the front to shake his maracas (!) and keyboardist/humorist Billy McCartney also stepped out from his keyboards to play Bernard’s acoustic guitar. ‘Shopmobility Scooter’ was played with its regular coda of ‘Hey Jean’ (the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ slightly altered!) and ‘A Lancashire DJ’ saw the usual conga form in the crowd, which swept up your correspondent! It being December, it was appropriate that ‘Christmas In Lancashire’ closed out this part of the show, the very first thing they recorded as the Hotpots according to Dickie.

They still had time to fill after playing the whole of their first album though, and Bernard had us all bending the knee for ‘A Perfect Pint’. That takes its toll on knees as old as mine (!) but he still has me wondering how he delivers the song at speed as it gets faster and faster! Not letting us pause for breath ourselves, next up came ‘Egg, Sausage, Chips and Beans’. That one had Bernard confess that he still cannot believe he can get a  crowd full of grown men and women sing that – but this is the band that had us singing ‘Bitter Lager Cider Ale and Stout’, also set to a traditional tune, so from our perspective it isn’t that much of an ask! They closed the main set with their parody of Bruno Mars (‘Hotpot Funk’), with its memorable refrain of ‘Hotpots go down t’chippy for you’!

A lengthy encore started with ‘Mums For Tea’, starting out quite slow and meaningful, it ended as a near-thrash number! A couple of more recent numbers (‘Thirsty Thursday’, ‘Do The Dad Dance’ had us all bouncing along before the traditional reprise of ‘Chippy Tea’ brought the evening to an end. This time however, they arranged it as a Quo-style rock ‘n’ roll version, even suggesting we put our thumbs into our belt loops and sway about in the fashion of Quo audiences! To emphasise that, there was an added snippet of ‘Rocking All Over The World’, changed of course to fit the song theme. (‘I like it, I like it, I like it, curry sauce, splash it all over your chips!’) Following that, they were cheered off like heroes and were soon out to greet Hotpotters both old and new.

It’s always an uplifting night seeing Bernard, Dickie, Bob, Kenny and Billy when they come around but this was a really special night. Having to play longer went down well with their devoted followers, and after Bernard’s earlier collapse into fits of laughter with the bread puppet, needless to say the crowd demanded its return! ‘Bread! Bread! Bread!’ they chanted until Bernard got the puppet back out again, still without having thought of any comic lines for it but it just didn’t matter. The moment was madcap enough as it was!

There was really only one thing left to do after seeing this show, and that was make my own trip to the chippy (where else but The Lobster Pot, and yes, chips complete with curry sauce!) and consume that before heading home. I’ve been a fan since the beginning as I’ve said, and so long as these chaps still feel like encouraging us to enjoy our Northern heritage of egg, sausage, chips, beans plus bitter, lager, cider, ale, stout I’ll be there to see them. After all, in the words of their own song, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow!

5 scooters

5 Shopmobility Scooters – Delightful

 

Caught Live: Mr Big (with The Answer, Faster Pussycat), Manchester Academy 1, 21st November 2017

‘Oh no, I’ve left the tickets at home’

Not what you want to hear when you’re sat on a train whizzing at high speed towards Manchester, but that’s the predicament I and a friend (who had inadvertently come out sans tickets) were in when he realised, when there was nothing either of us could do about it. It’s one of those things of course, we’ve all done it. However, as these tickets were booked by his girlfriend (who subsequently decided not to go, hence offering me the ticket) we had to think about how to resolve this one once we got to Oxford Road station.

It’s a straight, but lengthy walk to the Academy from the station, and we realised that we’d have to explain this to the box office and also get his (decidedly unimpressed!) girlfriend to speak to them. After a conversation with the lady, with evidence of the tickets on his phone, she gave him a contact number to try and resolve the situation. It turned out that the ticket outlet don’t reissue after 2pm, so we were in a bit of a pickle when the most extraordinary stroke of luck happened – two guys on the guest list picked up their tickets, they had plus ones that they didn’t require – in stepped my friend, and sure enough, we got in courtesy of a guest list plus one for each of us!  As we entered the venue the pair of us were still pinching ourselves at our luck at getting out of this little predicament; I had ideas of watching the football in the student union bar instead of the gig, but suddenly our problems were over!

Having entered the hall through this remarkable turn of events, we found that the hall had only a few people in it as openers Faster Pussycat went through their paces. Vocalist Taime Downe is the only original member left from the heady days of the late 80s, but has held a stable line-up together now for some years. They gave a short, entertaining set of old favourites including ‘Slip Of The Tongue’, ‘Bathroom Wall’ and ‘Babylon’, and although Downe himself looks more goth than glam these days, he remains in decent nick vocally. They probably deserved a better crowd than they got at such an early point in the evening, but it meant we could get reasonably close up for the rest of the bill.

I was looking forward to seeing The Answer again; the last time I caught them was in March when they played the Band on the Wall across the city. This time around they’d promised to play a little of everything, opening with ‘Solas’, the title track from their most recent album. The short set they played did indeed touch on every album, with one track from all their albums released to date (two from debut ‘Rise’) and a cover. That cover was ‘If You Want Blood, You Got It’; their tribute to recently-passed AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young. The Answer supported AC/DC throughout their massive ‘Black Ice’ world tour of 2009, and regarded Malcolm Young as a mentor, so the news of his passing must have had an impact on the Irish lads. They were, as ever in great form live, with the sound mix favouring bassist Micky Waters (at least from my spot, slightly right of centre). He played with real attack, and was praised by singer Cormac Neeson as ‘our bassmaster’. The sight of Paul Mahon holding a Zemaitis guitar meant that the band would perform ‘Preachin’, always a live favourite and one that got the crowd (by now starting to swell) rocking. Just before these dates took place, the singer revealed plans to release his first solo album; he’s quashed any rumours of a split already. The album promises to take a rootsy, more introspective direction, maybe taking ‘Solas’ a stage further, and that might just suggest that he will explore that side of things as a solo artist and possibly mean that The Answer’s next album will be a return to a harder rocking style. Time will tell, anyway.

We were still in our spot for Mr Big, but mindful that if it were a lengthy set, we might have to leave before the end in order to catch that train back to Liverpool. Mr Big came on at around 9pm and kicked off with ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)’, which saw both bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Paul Gilbert produce the ‘drills’ for the lead solos. On drums was Matt Starr; he’s been performing live with the band for a few years now since original drummer Pat Torpey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. After a couple of more recent numbers (‘American Beauty’, ‘Undertow’) from 2010’s ‘What If…’ album, Pat Torpey was brought on stage to huge cheers from the crowd. He then took up a spot alongside Matt Starr, onto a special kit that was set up for him to play additional percussion for a couple of numbers, before actually sitting at the main kit for the slowie ‘Just Take My Heart’. Sad though it was to see such a great musician struck down like this, it was a terrific gesture from the band to still bring him out on tour and play at least in part with them. Matt Starr’s performance was of course first-rate, this is a band made up of outstanding players throughout and although he had big shoes to fill, he did so admirably.

Several numbers from current album ‘Defying Gravity’ were played, as well as plenty of choice cuts from the back catalogue. That meant favourites such as ‘Green-Tinted Sixties Mind’, ‘Just Take My Heart’, ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Addicted To That Rush’ were all delivered during this set. At times it was difficult to know where to look, having virtuosos on both four and six-strings mean there’s spectacular playing either side of the stage. However, it was noticed that Sheehan (who appeared to be directing things, actually counting ‘1-2, 1-2-3-4’ on his fingers to cue Gilbert into a lead solo) didn’t just spend the whole gig showing off. He has fingers as nimble as any guitar shredder, but when required he’ll step back and just lock in with the drummer. Of course he did get a solo spot in which to show his ‘chops’, as did Gilbert, whose own solo saw him take to another guitar on a stand, this had only the top three strings in place.

Vocally, Eric Martin was in good voice, if not quite the guy he was 25 years ago he could always depend on excellent backing vocals from all the other guys in the band – including Pat Torpey when he was on the stage. ‘To Be With You’ had the crowd also joining in the chorus, that was a particular highlight for the band’s collective singing prowess.

Our only disappointment was that we did indeed have to miss the end of the set, to my surprise this hall was only just over half-full, and so it was a simple matter to get out of the crowd and head near the door in order to make the dart for the train. We left during ‘Colorado Bulldog’ as the Sheehan/Gilbert combination shredded away, faced with a lengthy walk back to the station we were far from the only ones having to make the dash for the door prematurely. That meant missing out on seeing them play ’30 Days In The Hole’ alongside Cormac Neeson; apologies to the Answer frontman but that train wasn’t going to wait for us!

All in all a fine evening of classic hard rock, all three bands gave a good showing and fingers crossed that next time I’ll get to see these guys complete their set!

4 – Deserving

 

Caught Live: Deep Purple (with Europe, CATS in SPACE), Manchester Arena, 18th November 2017

I didn’t think I would even be at this show on the Saturday morning, expecting to have to stay in that night, but things changed. So it was I hastily booked a ticket (in the upper reaches of this arena) and a train, which conveniently stops at my local station thus negating the need to go into Liverpool city centre first, and headed up to what many still call the MEN Arena. It was the first time I’d been to this huge bowl in over a year, more to the point my first visit since that terrible attack in May. Having reached Manchester Victoria (and thus, the arena which sits atop the station) in plenty of time, there was time to have a little look around and see what had changed since last I was here.

First of all, you cannot now access the new walkway from Victoria Station to the arena concourse without your ticket for the event. There were barriers in place at the bottom of the steps, and Showsec staff situated at those barriers. As the old box office is still out of commission, I asked about ticket collection. The new box office is situated on the other side of this huge building, inside the underpass off New Bridge Street next to the arena car park and opposite the former Strangeways brewery site. Ticket collected, and there was time to have a little look around the immediate area, where there were plenty of Christmas market stalls in place. It was somewhat of a maze to get around, even if like me you do know this area of Manchester well, so after a hot drink and a cake from a well-known bakery chain I decided to go into the hall early.

When you enter the arena now, be it through Victoria Station or the other main entrance on Hunts Bank, you now need to have your ticket ready as described earlier, before even getting to the steps. Once you’re allowed through, and have climbed up to the City Room foyer you’re now confronted by airport-style scanners. There were four lines to go through these scanners, and it felt very much like the procedure before boarding a flight, there was even a shouty bloke organising the queues! The items they wanted in the basket were mobile phones, e-cigs, pocket cameras (that was me!) while we were ushered through a body scanner like those at the airport. All that done, and with my quip asking which way to the planes ignored, it was through the doors and into the arena concourse. Although they’d only just opened up there were already queues building at these scanners so it was probably a good idea to give plenty of time to get through it all. The procedure was understandable, although it was noted that attack came when the venue was letting out, not letting in.

When I got to my spot, high up in the upper tiers I found the majority of that area was sectioned off! They’d only opened two of the blocks and then only partially, about ten rows were open and I found myself sat in splendid isolation, high above the stage just over halfway back. The floor was seated, unusual for a rock gig at this place, and by my estimation they were expecting a crowd of 11-12000. (That means you could have staged a gig at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, Purple people!) It was nice and comfy up there anyway as I settled for CATS in SPACE, who would open proceedings at 7pm sharp.

Openers CATS in SPACE

Openers CATS in SPACE

When the openers came on, the arena had filled substantially. Their intro tape shows a nostalgic sense of humour with the theme tune to ‘The Sweeney’ playing over the PA. The group are unashamedly influenced by 1970s music, not just rock and indeed two of the band (guitarist Greg Hart and top-hatted keyboardist Andy Stewart) play in the covers act Supersonic 70s Show (also billed as Solid Gold 70s), an act I’ve seen live on two occasions. The CATS were only given around half an hour, meaning only a handful of numbers could be played. Opening with the title track of first album ‘Too Many Gods’ they didn’t hang about before next song ‘The Mad Hatters’ Tea Party’. Straight away it was clear they not only had a good sound in this massive bowl, but they were in great form themselves. Lead singer Paul Manzi gave a superb performance, ably backed by all the other CATS but in particular bassist Jeff Brown, who duetted with Manzi on ‘Greatest Story Never Told’, a lengthy epic off their first album and one that was probably brave to play considering they had only a short time. The other songs were ‘Timebomb’ off the current ‘Scarecrow’ album and they closed with ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ from the debut. That one featured some Who-style windmilling from Greg Hart, appropriate as the song is in that band’s style and also gave drummer Steevi Bacon a brief moment in the spotlight. If you’d said to Greg Hart this time last year that he’d be playing big arenas opening for one of the country’s legendary bands he’d probably have laughed; as it is he and CATS in SPACE have had an incredible year. They’ve opened for Thunder on their UK tour, done their own run of headline dates, and straight after this run of shows they’re back out again, this time supporting Status Quo on their usual winter tour. The band have gained a great deal of support in the year since I saw them play across this city at the University, and now with some crucial industry support this group of individually talented but collectively brilliant guys can only get even more popular in 2018. You cannot help but be delighted for them, especially Greg Hart whose vision it was but all these guys have paid plenty of dues, their success now is thoroughly deserved.

Europe at Manchester Arena

Europe at Manchester Arena

Joey Tempest & John Norum

Joey Tempest & John Norum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next act up were Europe; now I have only seen these guys once before, and that was at the Liverpool Empire at the height of their ‘The Final Countdown’ hysteria 30 years ago. That night, the audience was overwhelmingly teenage girls who outnumbered the rockers in the audience by about five to one – and I can still hear the screaming in my head to this day! The band of today is the ‘classic’ line-up which recorded that smash hit song and album; that includes guitarist John Norum who, back when they played in Liverpool 30 years ago was absent. Back then his place had been taken by Kee Marcello, who slotted into the line-up seamlessly. Despite this being the classic band, their sound has evolved markedly since then, and listeners to Planet Rock who have heard their most recent single ‘Walk The Earth’ would have been forgiven for thinking they were more Purple than Purple these days! When Europe came on stage tonight, that was the track they opened with, all brooding organ sound and heavy guitar so reminiscent of the band that was headlining tonight. The new material was well-received, and singer Joey Tempest was in good voice, however when they did reach back to their vintage era the crowd really woke up. Introducing ‘Rock The Night’, the singer cheekily borrowed a Coverdale expression with ‘Here’s a song for ya!’ That got the crowd up, and they also played ‘Carrie’ off that same album, for any remaining 1980s teenyboppers presumably! 😀
This band have survived the millstone hit single by delivering consistently strong albums in recent years, showing that they are indeed a legitimate rock band and not just a bunch of popsters who got lucky once. Needless to say ‘The Final Countdown’ was played last in the set, and air guitars broken out for Norum’s widdly guitar solo in the middle of the song! Europe have just announced a headline tour of their own for September 2018, and with King King along as support that is definitely a gig to look out for.

3 Purple People

Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Steve Morse

Deep Purple Manchester Arena

Deep Purple Manchester Arena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Purple have billed this as ‘The Long Goodbye’ tour, hinting but not confirming that this will be their last major tour. The members have said in interviews that they don’t want to stop, but they’re now hitting their seventies and with the best will in the world, they cannot do this for very much longer. They still believe in offering new material whenever they do tour however, and this year’s album ‘Infinite’ was well-received by fans and critics alike. To coincide with this tour, the band even appeared on a BBC special which aired days before this tour commenced; that would never have been countenanced back in the days when Tommy Vance was the corporation’s only outlet for bands of this ilk. Nowadays, Purple and other classic bands of the era are finally being appreciated by a wider circle than the ‘rock crowd’ as their televised concert showed. If you saw that show, then this set was very much along those same lines. Opening with ‘Time For Bedlam’, complete with Gillan’s eerie spoken intro, they played several new tracks interspersed with selected classics. ‘Bloodsucker’ from ‘In Rock’ followed (or should that be ‘Bludsucker’, from ‘Abandon’ seeing as the band re-recorded the track in 1998 with Steve Morse now in place?) and that one showed how frontman Ian Gillan has managed his voice to account for his advanced years. He no longer sings the last verse in a high register, but delivers it as per the rest of the song. It still works, and he can still give the ‘ohhhh nonono!’ where required. He has adapted himself well, and as such can still carry these tunes and give a performance. That’s the right way to go about it, some other singers try too hard to push their voices live and end up blasting their throats out, Gillan has wisely rationed his voice and doesn’t try to be the guy he was in 1972.

Ian Gillan with Steve Morse

Ian Gillan with Steve Morse

The band were getting a very warm reception from the Manchester audience, even for the new material, which was appreciated by the frontman. There were of course plenty of oldies for the fans to enjoy still, ‘Lazy’ came mid-set and featured current keyboardist Don Airey who gave a lengthy, improvised intro before he and guitarist Steve Morse traded solo spots. The 80s were acknowledged with ‘Knocking At Your Back Door’ and ‘Perfect Strangers’, both of which still sound good in the live set today. ‘Space Truckin’ was performed towards the end, not quite the same intensity as when the Mk III version played it in 1974 (and no explosions near drummer Ian Paice this time), and again, Gillan correctly opted not to reach for the falsetto where it was deployed on record. Needless to say, ‘Smoke On The Water’ closed the main set.

Mindful of the time (I had to be on that 23:09 train heading back to Liverpool!) I was on the starting blocks during the encore; ‘Hush’ came first, then a prolonged bass and drum jam led into ‘Black Night’, prompting a big singalong from the crowd. I was all but out of the door when during the improvised section of this number, Steve Morse surprised us all by bursting into AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. As everybody was aware, the news of that band’s founder member Malcolm Young’s death had emerged earlier in the day, and although no words were said by any of the bands during this show, that one excerpt showed how highly he was regarded by his fellow rock musicians. Even before the last chord rang out I was scooting across the concourse back to Victoria Station, for my train which I caught in time to get a nice seat for the ride home.

Considering I wasn’t sure I’d even be at this gig, it was a very good night of rock. One classic band, one who are finally being recognised as such and one new band whose membership is one that’s been around and done it. Purple’s legacy is safe, while both the other bands on this bill can look forward to another successful year in 2018.

4 – Deserving

 

Deep Purple Setlist Manchester Arena, Manchester, England 2017, The Long Goodbye

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Europe Setlist Manchester Arena, Manchester, England, Walk the Earth World Tour 2017

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Cats in Space Setlist Manchester Arena, Manchester, England 2017

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Caught Live: Joanne Shaw Taylor (with Dan Patlansky), Floral Pavilion New Brighton, 17th November 2017

This show from Joanne Shaw Taylor (JST) was part of the annual International Guitar Festival, which Wirral holds each year across various venues and showcasing both established and up-and-coming guitar talent.  It was added some time after the initial run of dates was announced, and may have been overlooked by some fans. To my surprise the date had not sold out with numerous seats still available in the back rows and to the sides; as this is an intimate civic theatre you’d have thought the first appearance in New Brighton by Britain’s ‘first lady of blues guitar’ would prove popular, especially since her recent shows in nearby Chester have indeed sold out in the past.

If having JST play in your town wasn’t enough, then she also had another acclaimed artist in a similar vein as support; South African guitarist Dan Patlansky was opener, and he has also gained quite a following in this country after tours supporting the likes of King King, as well as having his songs played on Planet Rock radio in the UK. While still reliant on public transport for my gig-going (thus restricting me to local-ish shows), I took the train to New Brighton where the station is around 800 metres from the venue. A fairly brisk walk, then (!) which meant that by the time I got into the actual hall, the support was already on. I’d only missed a little of the set, however. Dan Patlansky’s band is a conventional blues-rock setup, with a drummer, keyboardist and bass player with Patlansky himself on lead vocals and of course, guitar. There are a lot of very good performers in this style currently active on the UK circuit, and it’s often just a matter of whose style best fits your preference. Patlansky’s playing style is a little more funky and a little more fiery than some others you’ll see, the standout for me was probably Planet Rock favourite ‘Backbite’. He will be playing UK shows of his own in early 2018, and should expect a good attendance based on the reception he got from the Wirral audience.

On the two previous occasions I’ve seen Joanne Shaw Taylor she was backed only by a bassist and drummer; she’s never been one for unnecessary frills (or indeed ANY frills – she has a penchant for plain black shirts and jeans as stagewear!) but this time around there were a couple of changes. First of all, she has recruited bassist Luigi Casanova, whose long dreadlocks and bright clothing were rather eye-catching, but she has also brought in keyboardist Bob Fridzema. Until very recently a member of fellow blues-rockers King King, JST wasted little time in snapping Fridzema up for this tour once he became available. She opened the set with ‘Dyin’ To Know’ from her most recent album ‘Wild’, a track which featured heavily on some radio stations this time last year. She touched on all her studio albums during this set, four tracks from the current album were played (including ‘Wild Is The Wind’, her cover of the old Johnny Mathis song made famous by David Bowie, which she dedicated to Bowie’s memory), with the other albums getting at least one song into the set. There was another cover (‘Bones’, by The Hoax) which she said was one of the songs she grew up listening to while learning her own way on the guitar.

Joanne Shaw Taylor in Wirral

Joanne Shaw Taylor in Wirral

JST at New Brighton

JST at New Brighton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was still suffering the after-effects of a cold, which forced a reschedule of one of the dates on this tour, but aside from her taking numerous sips of water between songs, you wouldn’t have known. She has a rich, throaty singing voice anyway, which is one of the main reasons she is popular. The other is that incredible guitar talent – she plays with feel and passion the likes of which is rarely seen even among virtuoso players. I’ve never quite worked out whether she’s grinning or grimacing during her solos, a bit of both perhaps since she is clearly feeling this music deeply as she plays. Only just into her 30s, she has so much more to give yet. One thing she isn’t renowned for (besides a stage set, just a backdrop with her name printed on it in big letters) is her stage patter. ‘I’m not a multi-tasker’, she declared while tuning, asking us to talk amongst ourselves while she got ready. Needless to say the crowd began to give her a few mild heckles, including why it was that drummer Oliver Perry was ‘in a cage’ (a perspex screen surrounded his kit). ‘It’s for your own protection’, she quipped before disclosing it was to stop the sound from bleeding over into her microphone. Noting that it was a seated audience, she did manage to gee this audience up into a cheer when they went quiet (‘we’ve talked about this’, she added!) However we weren’t here for stand-up comedy, we were here to marvel at this immensely talented singer and guitarist.

Keyboardist Bob Fridzema

Keyboardist Bob Fridzema

The one slight quibble (again, there’s always one!) was that this time around JST opted not to play her cover of Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy’. She usually brings the house down with that one, and I’d have liked to see her do it now that she has Bob Fridzema in her band (whose old band King King also cover it) but not on this occasion. She did play plenty of soulful blues guitar during the set of course, and gave the keyboardist a solo spot too towards the end of the set. Having a real Hammond organ with a Leslie speaker on stage adds that extra touch of class, many keyboardists in this style use an emulator which may get close to that sound, but not quite as close as the real thing.

Bassist Luigi Casanova

Bassist Luigi Casanova

Joanne Shaw Taylor is now one of the leading lights of this scene, having been around for a few years now she is ready to jump up to bigger venues than the civic theatres she’s been playing in up to now. If there’s any justice she’ll be up there with Bonamassa within two years, maybe even sooner and although that’d mean having to see her from further away in the bigger halls, such success is no less than she deserves.

5 – Delightful

Malcolm Young 1953 – 2017

It isn’t a great year to be a rhythm guitarist. We’ve already lost Quo’s Rick Parfitt, Y&T’s Joey Alves; both highly revered by their peers and fans. but now, with the loss of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, there really is a huge hole left behind.

Malcolm Young, stood at the back of the stage to the right of the drumkit, wasn’t exactly high-profile in AC/DC but he was their founder, their principal songwriter and the undisputed leader of that band. Everybody else took their cues from him, including Angus Young, the eternal schoolboy whose frenzied antics on stage took most of the attention. Angus himself acknowledged that Malcolm was the more accomplished player, but it was Malcolm’s idea that Angus should take the lead role, while he directed operations from the rear. Such was his humility however, that he described his role merely as ‘making sure the sound gets across’ in an interview with Kerrang! many years ago.

The story of how the Young family emigrated from Scotland to Australia when Malcolm and Angus were, well, young is well-documented, as is the formation of AC/DC in 1973 by the brothers, releasing several albums with fellow Scottish expat Bon Scott on lead vocals. They were a potent live act by 1980 and had just broken through to large-scale success when Scott died, aged 33. Unwilling to just give it up, the Young brothers picked themselves up and recruited Brian Johnson to take over the mic, after an audition where they thought he had not showed up, only to find the Geordie singer playing pool with their road crew! With Johnson in place, the band recorded their landmark ‘Back in Black’ album, still the benchmark for everything they did since then. The band went on to ever-greater success, with the group defying critical derision as well as musical trends, all the while breaking box-office records wherever they went. Their recorded output slowed in recent years, with the gaps between albums becoming bigger as their tours grew in scale. What wasn’t known in 2008, when they released their ‘Black Ice’ album was that Malcolm was already in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The intensely private Young siblings kept it between themselves and the rest of the band, as Malcolm insisted on committing himself to one last big world tour while he could still perform. Angus later revealed that during that run, Malcolm was already forgetting his own songs and was actually re-learning his guitar parts each day on tour, in order to perform them that night.

The band’s mammoth tour came to an end in 2010, and when the group reconvened four years later to record what must surely be their swansong album (‘Rock or Bust’), it was with Stevie Young in Malcolm’s place. Stevie, a nephew of Malcolm and Angus (though of a similar age to the brothers), had previous experience of playing live with AC/DC. He had stepped in for the group’s 1988 tour when Malcolm took a leave of absence from the band, in order to seek treatment for an increased dependence on alcohol. Observers at the time were hard-pressed to tell that Malcolm was not there, as Stevie looked a lot like Malcolm in 1988.

In 2014 the group declared that Malcolm would be ‘taking a break’ from the band, and when Stevie came in this time it would be to record the album and tour. He no longer looked similar to his uncle, but having done it once before, was seen by Angus as the logical choice to take over the role. ‘Rock or Bust’ was released in late 2014 and all seemed set for another world tour, their first with Angus steering the ship. However, without Malcolm there things fell apart rapidly. First of all drummer Phil Rudd had been replaced by another former member in Chris Slade, after Rudd had been arrested in his home country, charged with several serious offences. That was a mere prelude, as long-standing vocalist Brian Johnson was next to go, being forced to quit the tour midway through after being warned that he was close to losing his hearing completely. The choice of W. Axl Rose to take over for the remainder of the tour was controversial to say the least, though the tickets still sold and the tour went ahead. Finally, bassist Cliff Williams announced that he was to retire from the road on completion of the tour, initially stating that the band had changed beyond recognition but he later backtracked, as Angus insisted that Cliff had given his notice before the band even set out on that tour.

Meanwhile, while the band was on tour, Malcolm had been checked into a facility in Australia and reports were that his condition accelerated rapidly to the point where he could no longer remember any of his songs, and he was in need of round-the-clock care.

That left just Angus from the band which cut ‘Back in Black’ and ‘Black Ice’ standing, and as of 2017 it is unclear whether there will be any more from him under the AC/DC name. The loss of Malcolm will have hit him hard, as did the earlier loss of his elder brother George, who produced much of the group’s early work and had tasted success himself as a member of the Easybeats in the 1960s.

It is cruel indeed to think that the man who founded one of rock’s most successful and enduring bands, was a massive influence on many musicians who came after him and wrote some of the best-loved songs in hard rock, never got to enjoy a happy retirement after many years of hard touring. He defined the style of rhythm guitar in hard rock/metal (although he insisted that the music AC/DC made was nothing more than ‘rock ‘n’ roll’), and was admired even by the likes of Keith Richards, the man dubbed ‘the human riff’. His songs will live on of course, the many tribute bands playing AC/DC music across the world will see to that, and his influence is clear for all to see in younger bands, such as fellow Australian rockers Airbourne.

Tributes have been flooding in from almost anyone who was anyone in rock, and on the night when the news broke (18th November), towards the end of a Deep Purple concert in Manchester, guitarist Steve Morse paid a tribute of his own by playing the opening riff to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ to huge cheers.

Perhaps the best tribute came from Angus Young himself, signing off the band’s official statement with the simple words: ‘Malcolm, job well done.’

To close this post, written admittedly while your correspondent was still processing this news, here are some classic AC/DC clips:

Repost: Single? Ticketmaster says: You may not buy good seats without company! (source: In The Rearview Mirror)

I’ve just come across this post from the In The Rearview Mirror blog, the writer (Daniela) is a devoted concert-goer and travels from her native Sweden to shows across Europe and the world. Read what she had to say about trying to secure a (single) ticket for the forthcoming Jeff Lynne’s ELO tour:

IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR

ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) presales for a few UK gigs started today, and I wanted to go to Manchester, cause that’s my favorite UK city for concerts.

Was happy like a little kid, and even more excited when I saw that there were TWO available seats in the FRONT ROW!! YEY!! I clicked on a seat to buy it, but instead of getting to the next step in the ordering process, I got THIS:

“You have left a single seat – “stuck between selected seats”. Leave at least two empty seats together”.

I stared at the message in disbelief. It hadto be a technical issue. So I tried again, but got the same message.

Basically, Ticketmaster has decided that the CORRECT way to go to a concert is WITH COMPANY.
In other words, you are not welcome as a single visitor, at least you aren’t welcome to get any…

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