Edinburgh, 07 Nov 2002, Thursday
Review written by: FVH
T.V. SMITH ... CANONS GAIT
Although best known as the lead singer for '70s punk/new wave outfit The Adverts,
T.V. Smith has proved himself to be one of the best songwriters of the last 25
years. Since The Adverts broke up, he has formed two widely influential bands;
T.V. Smith's Explorers, and Cheap. Eventually, he tired of working with full-scale
bands, and started playing gigs as a solo artist. Just him and his guitar. And
In the subterranean bar of the Canons Gait, a new open-mic night called Full On
had been running for a few weeks on Thursday nights. Then I discovered T.V. Smith
was playing Leven on a Friday, and had nothing booked for the day before. A few
phone calls, and he was booked in to play his first Edinburgh gig in several years.
He has played a festival or two as support to Tom Robinson, but that was a long
time ago. Once word got out about this gig, there was a buzz going round that
hasn't been felt for many a year.
Able support from The Outcasts, Great Bear, FRAK and Hoochie Fig (who were originally
meant to be headlining this gig) got the packed house well prepared for a much-anticipated
set from T.V. Smith.
He's a tall lad, and the low ceiling persuaded him to play in front of the low
stage rather than on it. Pogoing was definitely out of the question!
Before going on around 11, T.V. Smith had asked how long we wanted him to play
for. "We're open til one, but play what you feel comfortable with" was
the reply. So we settled on half an hour if it wasn't going down so well, then
however long he wanted to keep going if it was. Edinburgh got treated to two solid
hours of classic music, ranging from the punk hits like "Gary Gilmore's Eyes"
through cult gems such as "Tomahawk Cruise" to the newer material, "Only
One Flavour" (stencilled across his shoulders) etc.
The audience loved every minute of it, as did the man himself. With such a large
back-catalogue, there was no shortage of songs to play. Even when he asked what
the crowd wanted to hear, requests came from all over the room. A good-natured
curse met "The Great British Mistake" ( a bugger to play, apparently),
but he played it anyway. Most of the calls were for Adverts numbers, but a surprising
amount were for Explorers, or solo, stuff; which were not as commercially successful.
T.V. Smith had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from the word go,
a sure sign of a seasoned performer. He's been playing all over the world as a
solo act for a long time now, and his experience shows. I had several people (some
of whom I didn't even know!) coming up and shaking my hand for putting on the
gig. Hell, it was such a great night, I would have travelled to Leven if I hadn't
slotted this one in!
At least it won't be so long before he plays Edinburgh again.
One more thing; I know that Canons Gait Full On Nights (every Thursday, kiddies)
are normally free, but this was a rare opportunity, and T.V. Smith got all the
money taken at the door. Hey, he's got train fares from London and other expenses,
we couldn't expect him to play for nothing. This is what he does for a living,
and he deserves to be rich! Besides, as Mikey from The Gin Goblins and The Exploited
said, " Three quid's fuck-all nowadays!". Well worth it.
As an added bonus, T.V. Smith played a shorter set to a smaller crowd in the early
afternoon of Friday at a shop called Apocalypse. He even managed to pull out a
few songs that he hadn't played the night before! Surrounded by horror statues,
punk posters and bondage gear, he belted out more numbers in that well-used hoarse
voice of his, even responding to a request for "The Great British Mistake",
probably from the (mischievous) person that had shouted for it the night before.
He seemed to be trying to play material that he hadn't played at The Canons Gait,
probably because most of the audience had been there. He took time to explain
what the songs were about, or what had inspired them. "Runaway Train Driver"
was about trains carrying radioactive material going through densely-populated
areas (like near where he lives) over crumbling embankments. With a petrol station
"The Lion And The Lamb" is an anthem waiting to happen, "Expensive
Being Poor"is too close to the truth for comfort, and "The Immortal
Rich" is a piece of social commentary worthy of (early) Bob Dylan or John
Cooper Clarke. Yeah, I'm not sure which song was played at which gig; you should
have been at both! FVH