Review by Fred Owen:
Remember, remember some great gigs in November!
Tuesday the fifth of November! TV Smith plays Derby!!!
HOWEVER, I’d got tickets with my mate from work, Kim, to go and see Hugh
Cornwell in Northampton several weeks prior to this gig being announced, so
I went with Kim - couldn’t let her go on her own now could I?
Two interesting factors:
1. We’d never been to Northampton - would we find the place? It’s
my job to navigate!
2. I have a theory that The Stranglers always have a strange support act - would
Hugh continue this tradition??? (I’ve seen a cash-in ska band, a music
hall entertainer, a performance artist dance troop and some awful bands previously!)
We arrive in Northampton and find the place and park up no problem. The support
turns out to be an act called Retalik (www.retalik.com) - looks like a girl
singing to backing tapes, apparently its a three piece - I assume the others
make the tapes she sings to. She’s got some bottle to do it, but nothing
of great interest here - very electro-gothic. Sounds like Hugh’s-ex, Hazel
O’Connor… Another strange support act to add to the list!
Hugh (www.hughcornwell.com) takes the stage in a smart suit with a bass player
and drummer young enough to be his (grand-)son. Kicks off with ‘Nice and
Sleazy’ - ‘Peaches’, Hanging Around’, Baroque Bordello’
and ‘Tramp’ are among other Stranglers songs we are treated to before
the final encore of ‘No More Heroes’. Some of his solo stuff is
very strong - but some is a bit strange for my taste “Here are two songs
about insects…” - you get the picture. A strong set overall and
he still has what it takes to provide a night of high-energy entertainment.
His trademark bad jokes between songs were gone from his Stranglers’ days,
but the top two comments of the evening were:
To a request for ‘Peaches’ after the third song of the set (‘Peaches’
having been the second song!): “We just did it! Were you asleep?!”
To a request for ‘Go Buddy Go’ (A Jean (Never mind the Buzzcocks)
Jacques sung song): “I think you’re at the wrong gig!”
Friday 8th November: Sham 69 (www.sham69.com) at the Charlotte in Leicester
- Sham were the second professional band I paid to see, at their infamous second-to-last
farewell gig at the much missed Glasgow Apollo, where ex-Pistols Cook and Jones
turned up to encore with Sham. (Do you remember? Jimmy Pursey and Dave Tregenna
of Sham were going to join up with them to form the Sham-Pistols - Cook and
Jones walked out within a week apparently saying “He’s worse than
Rotten!” - whatever could they have meant?!)
We wait patiently up the front of this compact venue (that has a brilliant
atmosphere!) through a punk covers band and The Pokers (some good Ramones-style,
hi-energy punky stuff – www.thepokers.co.uk) for Sham to take the stage.
As they do, two things of note occurred:
Firstly, they still start with the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey theme’
Richard Strauss’ ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’) and burst into
‘What have we got?’ just as they always seem to, but in this little
venue with no backstage entry (the performers have to scramble through the crowd),
they have to wait on stage with their backs to the audience until its finished!
Secondly, about thirty skinheads take no prisoners as they rush to the front
and literally send everyone originally at the front flying! They climb up on
the barriers and block the view for most of the audience. Some things never
change you might think (especially if you’ve read TV’s notes to
‘Crossing the Red Sea with… The Ultimate Edition’), except
that Jimmy Pursey tells them to get down or the gig stops - they do, and when
one climbs on stage, he tells him to get off (and a mouthful of abuse!) and
he does. Nice one – he’s got them well trained.
What follows is a great set of mainly classic Sham stuff, with a few recent
Pursey/Parsons contributions too - an excellent, tight set - I do feel 16 again
for an hour or so… Great to see them in such a small venue - what an atmosphere!
(Just before Sham take the stage a little skinhead that looks about 14 wanders
towards the stage drinking a pint that’s about as big as he is! Lot’s
of people laugh – he’s like a model: classic skinhead clothes and
looks – I christen him a cabbage patch skinhead!)
Saturday the 9th - Back to the Charlotte for Hanoi Rocks! They were about the
only band I liked in 1985, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them
again. The last time I saw them was on their last tour before the original split
when they played with Johnny Thunders (MUCH missed – RIP!) - what a night
We get to the venue to find Andy the owner providing refunds! Apparently they
didn’t like the Charlotte’s “intimate” stage conditions
- “Robert Plant didn’t seem to mind when he played here!”
remarks a disappointed local. The fans who travelled from London and Liverpool
were a tad more annoyed! Oh well…
Let’s try again!
Saturday 16th, Rock City, Nottingham. Hanoi (www.hanoi-rocks.net) like this
venue, so they play the gig! The gig starts at 8.45(!) and finishes at 10 -
getting on a bit are they? Need their rest between gigs? Nah, its that punters
that want to see Hanoi can then go out and come back into another of Rock City’s
venue for the nightclub bit…
A great barnstormer of a set - very similar to the last time I saw them, despite
a new drummer (obviously!), rhythm guitarist, bassist and the addition of keyboards.
Tons of makeup and glitter everywhere - and the band had some too.
Sunday 17th: Up to Sheffield… Having seen Hugh, lets add JJ, Dave and
Jet! Yep, its the ‘new’-look Stranglers. I last saw them in 1998
and found ‘new’ singer Paul Roberts a bit OTT - he tried too hard
and didn’t let the songs flow naturally I thought, so what would they
be like tonight?
(Oh, by the way, support act ‘Clean’ were atrocious - what the
hell they need all those backing tracks of birdsong and waves for I’ll
never know - another weird support to add to my theory!)
The Stranglers (www.stranglers.net) were awesome! What an absolute belter of
a set in a packed venue! Tons of classic oldies (‘Death and Night and
Blood’ was my personal favourite), some great newies, loads of energy,
sweat and emotions - I act 16 again! Yep, even my arthritis couldn’t stop
a spot of up-the-front jumping about (what I felt like the next morning I can’t
describe, but it was worth it!). Kim thought it was the best gig she’d
seen for years and Cath (a first Stranglers gig for her) concurred. It was a
belter - check them out if you get a chance - they are REALLY, REALLY back on
Thursday 21st: Back to Rock City for my current favourite band Spear of Destiny
(www.kirkbrandon.net). I’d heard a lot of good things about the support
act, The Black Swans (www.blackswans.co.uk), as they had previously supported
Spear and also have links with M*k* P*t*r’s *l*rm 2002 (but I didn’t
let that put me off! Sorry Klaus and Tj - I just can’t see what you see
in the guy!). They turn out to be a highly entertaining, tight three-piece.
James Kershaw provides some classic powerhouse drums, Tom Scriven has a very
strong, driving guitar style and Sarah Lipman yields a Fender bass as big as
her! She has a strong, clear voice and a great stage presence. I compliment
them on the way out at the end and pick up a copy of their first single ‘Limited
Excess’ (backed with ‘Fame Game’ (the strongest song, in my
humble opinion, on this release) and a live version of ‘Killing Ourselves’
- I heartily recommend it to you - available from their website! Get it now
before they get famous!!!
Spear take the stage, complete with keyboards, and launch into an excellent
‘aNTHOLOGY’ set - the new slimmed-down single edition of the previous
‘aNTHOLOGY’ 4CD set has recently been issued, as has their new studio
album, ‘Morning Star’ - all highly recommended too!!! Fantastic,
brilliant, excellent! Simple as that!!!
Friday 29th: Last gig of the month next, TV in Birmingham. It’s the first
time Kim will see TV, but as she can’t leave work until 7PM, she wonders
if we’ll make it across to Brum in time. “No problem I say, the
venue’s not far from the city centre and I lived in Birmingham for three
Bloody roadworks, bloody diversions, bloody fog, bloody Birmingham road system!
(Too many bloody Queensways if you ask me.) I remember my wife and I always
joking that it was a shame we were leaving Birmingham as it had taken three
years to get the hang of the roads!
Yes, I got us lost - we went round the city for around half an hour looking
for the right way (“I should have brought the fucking A-Z after all!”
seemed to be a sort of demonic prayer falling from my lips every minute or so!)
Eventually inspiration strikes/my memory returns and we find the pub, park up
and go inside around 9.45 - “At least we’ll catch most of it I say”.
I had assumed there wouldn’t be a late licence! Delighted to discover
TV still enjoying a pre-show drink! Hurrah!
Just time for a pint before TV takes the stage around 10PM and says “Hello,
yes the gig’s started!” in his usual understated fashion. Bang -
‘Only One Flavour’ kicks off around two and three-quarter hours
This has GOT TO BE the best TV solo set ever! A sizable, enthusiastic and knowledgeable
audience sing along, request a great mix of old and new songs and generate some
top quality banter. TV jokes about his miserable songs on several occasions
until finally someone shouts out ‘BIG FISH’! “Oh yeah, says
TV, we’ve got to have the most miserable one of all haven’t we?!”.
“Don’t you fucking dare!” screams a girl perched near the
bar. “I will dare! We always need people that go against the grain!”
replies TV as he launches into one of my favourites.
Talking of swearing, TV says that a TV Smith gig without it just wouldn’t
seem right and treats us to one of his stream of excellent anecdotes (come on
TV, publish the diaries or autobiography ASAP PLEASE!!!). “When I played
at Butlin’s…” Hoots of mocking “Butlin’s!”
and much laughter follow! TV points out some familiar faces from that gig in
the crowd and says: “They were there - it was a punk festival!”
(See earlier diary… come on TV, publish the diaries or autobiography ASAP
PLEASE!!!). Much cheering and nodding of heads follows… “Anyway,
when I played there and swore between songs, the redcoats held up a big sign
saying: “This is a family audience - please don’t swear”!”.
More hoots of laughter!
I’ve been quiet on the request front tonight as so many of the audience
clearly know Tim’s stuff well. Can’t resist it any longer: “Atlantic
Tunnel!” I shout. “’Atlantic Tunnel’ it is!” says
TV. He then says “I was over in the USA recently and started the first
gig with this one – I thought I’d better let them know what I’d
been saying about them all these years!” Roars of approval are followed
by a belting version of this excellent song and the biggest cheer of the night!
TV gives in and plays “I Know What You Want” complete with specimen
grin (Sadly my camera was broken so I’ve only got one (perhaps none?)
photo of this event!) “Televisions Over” I yell and get my favourite
Adverts song… This is followed by a classic moment. Someone had earlier
requested “Drowning Men” – “Interesting…”
says TV, “I haven’t played that solo before, if fact I haven’t
played it since 1979! I’ll play it if I don’t break a string in
the next few numbers” (Two are broken in the course of the evening’s
gig!). So we get “Drowning Men”!!!
11PM came and went. So did 11.30, Midnight and around 12.15 TV says “I’d
better start rounding things up!” Cries of dissent follow this comment.
“But I want a drink with you!” says TV. Sorry mate, this crowd won’t
take no for an answer – around 12.30 he finishes – only to strap
the guitar straight back on and give us “Useless” and “One
Chord Wonders”. WHAT A NIGHT!
On the way back to Melton I asked Kim if she’d enjoyed it and she said
it was brilliant. “And what did you make of my cunning plan to show you
some of Birmingham before the gig?” I asked, attempting to make light
of our little diversion! She just laughed and said “Yeah, right!”
- nice one! As Kim and Cath always do the driving on our gig excursions, and
I’d promised her I knew exactly how to get there, I was anxious to make
light of my great incompetence! “Typical of me” I said, “never
been to Northampton and I find the place straight away, I lived in Birmingham
for three bloody years and I get us totally lost”. I won’t forget
it in a hurry though…after the encore, I’d popped up to congratulate
TV on his cracking set and pick up a souvenir “Ultimate Edition”
signed by TV for Kim and a couple of signed posters. TV customises mine with
a drawing of a car with steam and a large “F*CK!” coming out of
it!!! Cheers TV!!!