Sunday, March 27, 2011

There's no business like shoe business (sorry!)

It was a good if rather different evening on Tuesday when myself and the long-suffering Shirley went to The Peacock Theatre in London to see Chicago Blues Brothers saxman Richard Pardy in the musical 'Shoes'. Actually it wasn't that easy to see him even though he was on the stage for the whole show as the band were behind a curtain onto which various projections were, er, projected although we did spot him from time to time; it was certainly possible to hear him and indeed the rest of the band, all of whom sounded very good in what was a fine energetic show, with some spectacular dancing and brilliant singing from the cast in a 2 hour blitz of sound and light. I don't mind admitting that a musical on the subject of footwear wasn't something that I ever thought I'd enjoy, but it was very well put together and as such was a very impressive production.

On Thursday it was off to The Royal Albert Hall to see Roger Daltrey perform 'Tommy' as part of the latest series of Teenage Cancer Trust concerts. Myself and Big Andy called in at The Queens Arms on our way to the venue to meet up with legendarily fervent Who fan Steve Whiston; when we got there he'd obviously been there enjoying the hospitality for a while and was in good form - by the time we left he'd distinguished himself by coming back from the bar and walking up to 2 lads who he thought was us and carrying on talking to them where he'd left off with us. They were about 20 years younger than us! (And if you're thinking 'well he must have been pretty out of it to make that mistake' then have a look at this clip from the show - he's the chap in the suit and striped shirt to Daltrey's right... yes, he's my mate!!)
Now as someone who could politely be described as a fan of The Who I must say at this point that 'Tommy' is one of my least favourite albums by them - the original album always sounds rather weak to my ears, although I must admit that live recordings from the late '60's / early '70's are almost uniformly amazing and show how well it worked as a stage piece. As the show began (appropriately enough with 'Overture') I wondered how it was all going to go - Daltrey looked as great as ever but only Simon Townshend was recognisable from Who shows (I think the band backed Daltrey on last year's American gigs) and there was much speculation as to whether Simon's big brother would make an appearance. 4 or 5 numbers in it was evident that, yes, it's much better live than on record, although much improved by the films on the screen above the band. A rare (and to honest rather uncertain) performance of 'Cousin Kevin' ended with the lights dimming and some acoustic guitar picking that wasn't coming from anyone already on the stage - and suddenly Pete Townshend was at the microphone singing a solo version of 'The Acid Queen' amid scenes of audience pandemonium that made you realise just how much the crowd missed his contribution to proceedings. Then, as suddenly as he'd arrived he was gone, and 5 seconds into 'Do You Think It's Alright?' everything had returned to normal i.e. everybody speculating when / if he would return. Meanwhile 'Tommy' continued with 'Pinball Wizard' sounding like the classic we all know it to be and the finale of 'See Me Feel Me' / 'Listening To You' bringing the proverbial house down. A new Daltrey composition 'Days Of Light' followed before 'Pictures Of Lily' was prefaced by a story of how John Entwistle's high harmonies were an underrated part of The Who's sound. 'I Can See For Miles' sounded fabulous, but you could feel the audience willing Townshend to return; he eventually reappeared - rather reluctantly I thought - for 'Baba O'Riley' (which also featured Charlie Siem on violin) before 'Without Your Love' finished off the evening. It had been an interesting night, with Daltrey in fine voice and where slick session men ruffled their immaculately unkempt hair as they attempted to recreate the sound and fury of The 'Orrible 'Oo. I'm not entirely sure that they achieved that particular goal, but they sounded good - if a little 'nice' - to my ears.

Saturday saw The Flying Squad return to the stage for the first time this year, for a gig at Tropic At Ruislip supporting Eddie And The Hot Rods. We were offered the gig last month, and it was too good to turn down despite the fact that Andy (vocals) and myself didn't actually have a band; he suggested that he ask his old friend and drummer extraordinaire Simon Ash (he of the 'Ash Bash' gig back in June 2008) if he'd be interested in depping with us, and with Mike was reinstated on bass Andy and myself came up with a setlist, e-mails were e-mailed and we met at Ruff Rockers at 4 p.m. for a run through. We played the songs once, ran over a couple of the trickier numbers again, checked beginnings and endings and finished 2 hours after we started. Had we done enough? We'd all know soon enough...
We arrived at the venue just as The Hot Rods were loading their gear in - great to see Richard Holgarth again (he mixed the sound at The Square in Harlow when The Price used to play there back in the '80's and '90's) who has just started using Stratocasters rather than SGs as he broke the headstock off one of his old ones and has 'moved on to something sturdier'. This gave us chance for some guitar nerdery as we compared our guitars with plenty of observations along the lines of 'ooh this one's got a different neck radius' that easily scared off anybody unfortunate enough to get caught within earshot.
9.10 and with a healthy crowd in we kick off with 'I Can Tell'. I think I was a better guitarist at the rehearsal than at the show (bugger!) and we had the odd mad moment here and there but overall the band played well even getting an encore which is always a good thing for a support band. Afterwards we did a roaring trade in CD's and t-shirts (thanks to Shirley and East on the merchandise!) and declared our evening to be a success. Oh and in case you were wondering, Eddie And The Hot Rods were absolutely brilliant - but you knew I'd say that didn't you? Well - I've never made any secret of the fact that they're one of my very favourite bands, and with a setlist drawing heavily on their first album 'Teenage Depression' (can that really be 35 years old? Yes it can, and I should know as I bought it when it came out!) as well as some later songs alongside the inevitable 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' they showed just how underrated they were and indeed continue to be. A great evening all round.

And it should be a great evening this Sunday 3rd April at The Load of Hay with The Duplicates - come on down!

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