Do you remember that T.V. show 'The Good Old Days'? You do? Ha- you're as old as me then! I remember it from my schooldays- it was the one where that mad-looking bloke used to use very long words to introduce the acts, and which always seemed to end with Danny La Rue confusing (and often disturbing) the hell out of me. My nan used to love it; she used to say how it reminded her of the music hall shows that she and her friends and family used to go to. The show took place at the City Varieties theatre in Leeds; I played there last night with The Chicago Blues Brothers. I wish I could tell her...
After a relatively uneventful journey we arrived in Leeds in good time (around 4 o'clock) and did the only thing possible under the circumstances- got lost. The sat. nav. got us near but not near enough and after spending far too long in one-way-system-hell we asked a friendly local for directions. In no time we were driving through a pedestrian-only area and pulling up outside the venue. Straight away I was struck by the fact that this was a place with something to say for itself- even the upcoming events board seemed to be from another time, with the information painstakingly handwritten in yellow paint on the boards outside. Great to see John Hegley played there the night before us (he liked The Price!) and country guitar god Albert Lee coming up later this month. We load the gear in and get set up. Like many older theatres there's a rake on the stage which means that it slopes very slightly to enable everyone in the audience to see every part of the stage; it's only a few degrees but I always feel as though I'm going to fall into the front row. It's the usual players and singers except for Steve depping on drums- he's got the drum parts written out but we're going to 'top and tail' the set (i.e. run through the starts and finishes of the songs) to increase his chances of survival- good job we're early eh?
Then my phone rang- it was the ubiquitous Mark Wyeth, telling me that Esso's dad had died. This is sad news- Stan was an absolute gentleman and a great character; I remember his 80th birthday in a pub in Ickenham when my dad and him spent most of the evening swapping army stories and saying how national service would've been good for me and Esso- 'you'd have gone in boys and come out men'. (Whether I should have chosen this moment to rant at Mark about my misgivings regarding our upcoming Symarip gigs is open to question but choose it I did; I'm sure this will feature in a post soon but the problem concerns some gigs that we've been offered as Foxy's Ruts- I say we can't use that name on moral and professional grounds whilst Mark isn't so sure. Sadly it's rebounding on the Symarip shows to such an extent that I may find myself having to back out of them on conscientious grounds which is a great shame since I was really looking forward to them). Eventually I got off the phone and joined the band on stage; we ran through the beginnings and endings to pretty much the whole set with 'Sweet Home Chicago' taking a fair bit of time, but all sounding like Steve was going to make a good job of things. With the serious stuff out of the way it was time for a drink- and what an extraordinary place The Circle Bar is. The walls are covered in signed photos of people who have played at the theatre- Laurel & Hardy, Frankie Howerd, Charlie Chaplin, a young Bruce Forsyth, an old Bruce Forsyth- the list was practically endless, reinforcing the history and tradition of the venue. It was so interesting that I almost forgot to be frightened by Danny La Rue... and the show was a good one with Steve doing an amazing job on drums and a particularly strong second set from us all.
Our evening ends with good news and bad news. The good news is that The Circle Bar was still open after the show; the bad news was that the barmaid told us that the photos weren't real. They were copies- the genuine ones were 'in the safe upstairs'. Still, at least Danny La Rue now didn't look quite as scary as he did earlier.