Monday, July 20, 2009

The Price is right

So. Last night then.

I'm actually at a bit of a loss as to what to say about it at the moment. I'll have a go in a minute.

First things first 'though- Saturday saw The Chicago Blues Brothers play the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Myself and Ian (depping for Richard on sax) made our merry way down the M4 without too many problems, with our journey enlivened by a call from Squirrel who was travelling down with Mike,('we're behind you; no we're right behind you'- and they were!) and a text message from sound guru Ian Bond telling me that the venue was next door to Vintage and Rare Guitars, (I was hoping that was nearby!) all of which arrived on my new iPhone. I've only had it a few days and I'm just about getting the hang of it 'though part of me still says that I should have just got a telephone rather than 'an Internet connected multimedia smartphone'... then again it'll be handy to be able to get onto the Internet whilst I'm away with the band- mobile blogging beckons! (I hope you lot appreciate this- it's costing me a fortune!) Thanks to the wonders of satellite navigation we found the venue and after the usual parking lottery loaded our gear in. We're early so there's time for a visit to V & R Guitars (there's always time for a visit to V & R Guitars!) to see what goodies are on display. As always there's a lot to look at, and for once there was an actual reason for visiting as they stock Blackstar amplifiers- I was hoping to try one of the new Series One 45 watt combos but they didn't have one in stock (shame!) 'though they did have a HT-5 combo which I would have asked to try but there was someone in there trying a bass guitar and space was limited. Oh well- next time maybe? On the notice board was an advert for a local guitar teacher who's name is familiar to men such as myself- it's the mighty Gypie Mayo of Dr. Feelgood fame. If we'd have been there earlier I'd have rung up to see about a lesson!

I'd bought back a guitar that Bondy had delivered to me the week before last, a PRS belonging to Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree (Ian's their soundman) which was in need of Stuart the guitar repair man's expert attention. When Ian bought it round it was buzzing and playing very badly indeed; after Stu's work it plays brilliantly- then again they normally do after he's had a look at them. We're playing in The Ball Room which is absolutely stunning, with chandeliers hanging from it's (very) high ceiling and an atmosphere that you only get in buildings like this. Steve's on drums and from the moment he hits his snare drum our worst fears are confirmed- it just might be the most echo-ey room we've ever played in. We stumble through 'Try a Little Tenderness' as a soundcheck, we don't play it very often (which is why we soundchecked with it, we thought it might need rehearsing!) and it sounds very strange, like a ball of noise happening in one of the other rooms... we tell ourselves that it'll sound better when there are people in although none of us sounded convinced when we said it.

After some food (pizza and chips since you've asked) Squirrel and myself decide that it's time for a walk. I mention seeing Gypie's advert and he says something like 'oh that's a missed opportunity, I could have called him and we could have gone to see him'... Squirrel (Lew Lewis's old bass player- remember?) knew Gypie back in the day so yes, he could have called him- I tell myself that he'd have been out, or gigging, or something 'though when we're in Bath again I'll see if we can put this plan into action! We wander around town, there are piano shops next to psychotherapy centres, half a dozen or so hen parties staggering around town in a series of ever more bizarre outfits (most if not all of which will no doubt end up laughing themselves senseless outside The Knob Collection) and some marvelous buildings to, er, marvel at. We're back at the venue for around 8.30 where Ian tells me that he's forgotten his black gig shirt; I'm wearing a dark blue Fred Perry shirt which almost looks black (I'd have worn my black one if I'd had known this was going to happen!) especially under a jacket so could he borrow it for the gig? I decide that a much better option is just to lend him my black gig shirt and put a jacket on, so I do. Our first set passes in a blur of reverb, there's plenty of people dancing so we must be doing something right 'though I can't for the life of me imagine what. The second set sees even more audience involvement though it can be summed up from my point of view by the fact that I looked across the stage to see that Ian (keyboards) and Dave (trumpet) had swapped instruments, and I couldn't hear the difference. As far as I know neither of them can play each other's instrument- yes, the sound was that bad. Then again I like 'Live At Leeds' (notorious for it's 'we're playing loudly in an echo-ey hall' sound) so perhaps I should stop moaning(for once!)

And if ever there was a night that would stop me moaning it was last night. I've been sitting here for quite a while now trying to find the words to say what I want to say... for some reason I keep thinking of 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll' by The Rolling Stones, because last night wasn't 'only rock'n'roll'; it wasn't 'only' anything, it was definitely something- but what, exactly?

Occasionally people ask me what it feels like to play guitar on stage. It sounds a simple enough question, but I've never really been able to come up with an answer that gets across what the best gigs feel like from a playing point of view. Thinking about it now, at this very moment in time, the best I can do is to say that it feels as though you can do anything. Anything. And if there's something that you can't do, then it isn't worth doing. And last night was a night where I think quite a few people felt like that, and I don't mean just the performers, I mean the audience, the people around us, maybe even the barstaff for all I know... I think that on the best nights a live music show is infinitely more than the sum of it's constituent parts, with the band and audience somehow coalescing and spurring each other on to greater and greater heights- if you were there last night then hopefully you'll know what I mean. The forum on our website is starting to get a few comments from audience members giving their thoughts- birthday boy Mark (posting as 'UFC Mark') speaks of melancholy and deflation now that it's all over, which might seem like odd feelings to be left with after a show that you've enjoyed but I for one know what he means. You play your show, and you can on a good night touch such incredible heights that there is only one way that you can go from there- down. Ever wondered why performers drink a lot, or take drugs? One answer might be that they're trying to get back up to the high that they feel during a show, another may be that they're trying to get down from it. (Of course, they may also enjoy it- I for one couldn't possibly comment...)

From the show point of view we were a little under-rehearsed, not so much that it made a great deal of difference although it might have been nice to have had another run though of the songs before the show- then again rather than rehearse songs that we were going to play we soundchecked with 2 songs that weren't in the set ('So What About Love? and 'Shattered Land' in case you were wondering) rather than play songs that were playing in the show (we always used to do things like that!) In an unashamed bit of bandwagon jumping we played our 1990 mini-album 'The Table Of Uncles' all the way through in order (well, everyone else is doing it!) as well as putting in a couple of other songs that we hadn't played at the other reunion gigs, and a slightly bizarre encore of 'In A Rut' which incorporated bits of 'Beat It', 'Billie Jean' and the 1812 Overture (yes, you read that bit right!) But it felt from where I was standing that we could have played one chord for 45 minutes with Malcolm reading out bits of the telephone directory over it and it would still have been one of the classic Price gigs. Much of this feeling came from the audience- so many people that we hadn't seen for ages made the effort to come along, from Ciaran Murphy to Paul Newman (that really is his name!) and from Paul Talling to the legend that is Mad John (we never did find out his surname! Perhaps he hasn't got one, or perhaps 'Mad is his first name and 'John' is his surname? Who knows?!?) Then there was Andy Knight, and Eddie our old manager, and The Uxbridge Lads as we still call them, and, and, and... there were even some new faces, not least Colour Me Wednesday, so young that they weren't even born when many of the songs we were playing were written! But a few seconds- and it was literally only a few seconds- into our first song 'Time Is Yours' I for one knew we had a classic on our hands. And I don't mean that in a big headed, my-band's-better-than-your-band sort of way; I mean it in a I-don't-want-this-one-to-end sort of way. We've played better, tighter shows but we've not played too many that had what this one had. If I had to put it into one word it would be SOUL- from the band, from the songs and most of all from the audience. If I sound hopelessly over-emotional than I don't care- honesty is the best policy, and I'm being honest when I say that this was simply one of the most enjoyable Price shows ever. I woke up this morning with a jaw that ached from smiling, and that's the truth. I also had a head full of ideas that were driving me insane as Bob Dylan once sang, 'though that could have been something to do with the amount that I had to drink after the show- see what I mean about trying to get down? If you were there then thanks, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as the band did, because if you did it means you enjoyed it a lot.

I know it's only rock'n'roll- but I like it, like it, yes I do.

Hmm... I've just read back what I've written about last night; I hadn't intended to get quite so analytical (some might say pretentious!) about what is after all 'just' a pop band reforming to play some of their old songs in front of some of the people who used to come to see them play all those years ago- but I guess that when you realise how much what you do means to other people it makes you realise how much it means to yourself too...

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