Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Yeah Yeah Noh Hare & Hounds 7th July 2012

Yeah Yeah Noh split in 86 but have reformed. They’re not the first band to reform.  While the usual reasons included Live Aid, Global Debt Pink Floyd Thingy, anniversary tours or the release of a sumptuous box set hand tooled by mermaids;  YYN actually reformed for guitarist John Grayland’s birthday. He’d organised JohnFest to celebrate it and when the child friendly festival in Barmouth, (confirmed by Government stats to be an actual "Town full of Brummies") was washed out by wet weather it moved indoors to the Hare and Hounds. (Confirmed by Camra to be a pub full of beer).

It was my youngest’s first gig and he naively asked which stadium it would be at.  It’s a stadium where I used to go to a Pub Quiz.

I was always a big fan of YYN's twangy guitar, skinny rib psychedelia and excellent lyrics.  I liked the clattery odd pop of Bias Binding, the swirly suburban psychedelia of The Other Side of Mrs Quill ("Paid a visit to the other side of her living room") to the full on pop of Sunday To Saturday. At the time they were frequently shambolic, sometimes more tuneful than their Garage Band/Fall influences would suggest and not afraid to chuck in a surf instrumental.  The time off has down them some good. They’ve grown too.  There are six of them now.

Prick Up Your Ears starts with just new drummer Ant getting down to rhythmic business and the rest of the band gradually filing on stage and building up the sound. Crucially bassist Dermot theatrically taking his shades out of the case and putting them on before he can play a note.  He's either blinded by the lights or Derek Hammonds Technicolor dream blazer.

Bias Binding is introduced as going from the "Sublime to the ridiculous or vice versa".  It's a John Peel endorsed tune and home to some of the conversational snippets and bus stop phrases that livened up the early YYN singles "University straight from nursery look at his fingernails".  The band amuse themselves with the "Bias Binding" backing vocals.  I’m amused too!

I always liked the line in Temple Of Convenience "Eddie knows a bit about alienation"; it sits comfortably alongside other bits of odd pop earnestness that Sir might also like to consider.  "Libraries gave us power" or "I am an architect" from the Manic Street Preachers.  It's got more bah bah bah bah backing vocals.

Another Side Of Mrs Quill is described as "One of John’s favourites....so please be favourable" and it's exactly what made YYN such an intriguing prospect in the first place.   This time round though (and it's a lot to do with the drummer) they positively swing,  There are 2 guitarists now, Johns harsh guitar is at the ball and cheesewire end of the sonic spectrum and Derek is singing better than ever.

The wonderful See through Nature is thoughtfully explained for the benefit and education of the younger members of the audience who may have detected drug references.  As Derek explained the reason that the line "My life is nil, I just take pills" is not true “Because you know that the next line is "my name is Eugene"...and you KNOW that's not true"

Up On The Downs is "first new track of the 21st century" It's a really good piece of Beatles/Bryds stop start pop.  (The band have form on this of course as they have previously covered She Said She Said) and it’s a good enough reason for the band to reform

Stealing In The Name of The Lord takes it's title (and nothing else) from the Paul Kelly soul song but new keyboard player Eva adds Stonesy Sympathy for the Devil flourishes as the song  spirals up towards cod gospel glory.

Big decisions for the audience as singer Derek struggles with the heat.  Does the splendid Technicolor blazer stay on or come off?  Let the audience decide.  "Disrobe" or "Keep it on."  It's a chant that's sweeping the nation, or at least the part of the nation in a strip club or on a stag night.

Final song Blood Soup is a churning queasy affair.  Dermot takes his shades off (as if to say “That's enough Rockin' for tonight").  There's no encore because it's time to bring on Johns birthday cake, sing happy Birthday and then…speech time.  You don't get that at New Order or Wedding Present gigs......You just don't get an encore

YYN are doing a Marc Riley session in September and a John Peel all day festival in Manchester on 27th Oct.  These are good things. 

Prick Up Your Ears
Bias Binding
Temple Of Convenience
Superimposed Man
Another Side To Mrs Quill
See Through Nature
Up On The Downs
Starling Pillowcase
Stealing In The Name Of The Lord
Blood Soup

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Mondays & Inspiral Carpets Birmingham Academy 12 May

There are a few options for reforming bands with misplaced band members. You can go the Dr Feelgood route (with no original members), recruit from your own tribute act (Judas Priest once, Yes twice) rope in family members (Yes again and Van Halen) or do what the Inspiral Carpets did.  Move the old one back in.  Original singer Stephen Holt looks pleased to be back and the band look rejuvenated. He must have remembered where they kept the kettle.

Holt sang on the first single Plane Crash ep and the first Peel session when the band were an odd, dusty garage band before the later hits like This Is How It Feels and Saturn 5

The band rattle through Joe, She Comes In The Fall and Directing Traffic There’s still a lot of goodwill towards the band and for many of the audience an Inspirals/Mondays show looks like a perfect double bill.
The band are happy to oblige and bang out a set of crowd pleasers, played with the enthusiasm of band pleasers.

New/old boy Holt throws himself into the material and has bags of stage presence.  His best move is when he holds his mic hand in the air like the Statue of Liberty in a polo shirt. Bassist Martin throws his bass around like he’s baling hay with it and looks surprised to still see it there.  Actually it’s a surprise that there is anyone within a bass length of him.  It’s a health and safety issue and there should be appropriate barriers and signage.

The key to the bands sound is the wheezing, whistling Farfisa, Graham’s cement mixer guitar chug and the interplay between the Stephen and Clint’s vocals.  Unfortunately tonight you can’t hear Graham’s guitar.

You’re So Good For Me was the recent single and is a terrific song.  Not simply a return to form but one of the best things they've done.  Clint likes to have a chat between songs and introduces This Is How It Feels as a bit of a football anthem for both Manchester teams.  Cue camera phone activity. People do like that one.

Move is described as another classic Manchester anthem.  Languid keyboard loveliness and a huge chorus. They’ve got 2 kinds of songs (and I like them both) There’s the all on one note hammer on chug. (The Julian Cope garage band approach).  Punky and brief like Generations or Directing Traffic. Then there are the big tunes. The anthems that give an audience something to aim for that they can’t quite hit at a karaoke.  Think of the chorus to This Is How It Feels, Saturn 5 and Move.  Just tantalizingly out of the range of most of the audience....but still loved

It’s billed as the first time that the definitive Happy Mondays lineup has played together since 1992, although Shaun Ryder has shuffled out various permutations over the years.  There was even an album Uncle Dysfunctional in 2005.  I missed that....most of the band did too probably.
Early shows on this tour were apparently under-rehearsed with a stunt double keyboard player visible behind Paul Davies and an autocue for Ryder.  By the time it gets to Birmingham it’s probably as slick as it’s ever going to be.  The set is based around Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches and Bummed.  It’s the hits and resolutely no new material.   Phew!

Initial rumours were that Bez wasn’t going to be dancing on the tour, citing dodgy knees.  It transpired though that he has been onstage for a couple of songs through the tour.....given his hobbies though it is probably the safest place for him.  He introduced the band and then promptly disappeared.
The band opened with Loose Fit, a song that sounds as baggy as it’s title, and was the soundtrack and instruction manual for a generation of lollopy dancers. And they’re all here in the audience tonight.  The sounds not great though.   Both Ryder and drummer Gary Whelan are in shades, Ryder still favours a leather blouson and Rowetta is twirling tassels off the wrist like castanets.

While the early Mondays were a horrible clattery racket as chaotic as their gigs, the genius of the 3rd album was the spaces it opened up in the music.  And that’s the era that the crowd is here for.   They want to shuffle like they did 20 odd years ago.

Bez is back for the second song Kinky Afro.  After the pre tour "Will he, won’t he dance" tease I like to think that powerful, possibly unearthly (but probably chemical) forces are at work.  Did inaudible maracas come flying straight to Bez’s outstretched hands like Thor’s hammer?  Either way he’s up and gurning and doing his twisty dance like it was 1989 and he was singlehandedly creating a drug shortage.

Ryder likes a chat after each song, wandering up to brother Paul  “All right our kid”, as if to prove the Ryder brothers are back on speaking terms.  Songs are introduced with a context, Rave On is “Back in 89 when we were all raving on”.  When he takes his sunglasses he announces “I’m having a look”.  He has got form on this.  Look at the Step On video.  Iconic video it may be, but it’s key moment is Ryder swaying towards the camera and taking his sunglasses off....and making it look profound.   There’s commentary as much maligned (by Ryder)  guitarist Mark Day changes guitar from a “pink one to a yellow one”

Shaun Ryder’s pervy vocals on Bobs Yer Uncle sounded a bit odd on the night, but I’d forgotten that they sound fairly odd on the original.  Ever the gentleman, he gallantly calls Rowetta a Milf.

Holiday grinds to a halt and the glorious gospel wail backing vocals comes from a sample, as Rowetta who has been in fine voice all evening is not on stage for that song.

Final song is Step On, it’s the big song of the evening and really what the audience is here for.  Bez and Rowetta are back on and it turns into a thoroughly entertaining circus.  Bez does some more arm waving and chewing gum shoe dancing and then picks up Rowetta like a roll of carpet.. deftly lifting up her dress.  She retreats to the back of the stage and then while he’s distracted by more gurning, she creeps up behind him to flick him with the tassels she’s been spinning all night.  They spend the rest of the song in a slow motion chase as they dance around and with each other, she’s pulling faces at him and he’s still having sly goes at her skirt.  As the song ends Ryder bellows “Hey you two, fucking stop that.  You’re a dropout and you’re a Milf.“  Like the worlds least likely teacher.

There is a Youtube clip with the requisite awful sound quality


After encore Jellybean, Ryder is back on Mark Day’s case.  “Listen to that he’s playing lead and rhythm…if you want to learn guitar give him a ring.  But he’s very busy”

WFL is actually the best sounding song of the evening, the sequencing and mechanical feel of the song just seems better able to cut through the loud but muddy mix.

Nostalgia and reunion gigs are always odd.  Sometimes you can see bands play and perform better than they were capable of at the time, sometimes you’re just glad they’re still there and the ticket price counts as a Thanks Tax for youthful good times.   Given the chaos around them it was a miracle they even played any gigs in their heyday, let alone now.   It was an unashamed nostalgia fest for the audience and the promise of a hefty tour payout may have smoothed over internal tensions within the band.  But maybe not for Bez and Rowetta.

 Inspiral Carpets setlist

She Comes In The Fall
Directing Traffic
You’re So Good For Me
This Is How It Feels
I Want You
Dragging Me Down
Saturn 5

Happy Mondays Setlist

Loose Fit
Dennis and Lois
Gods Cop
Judge Fudge
24 Hour Party people
Rave On
Cowboy Dave
Bobs Yer Uncle
Mad Cyril
Step On


Jelly Bean

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pete Williams Hare and Hounds 13/04/12

Pete Williams Hare and Hounds 13/04/12

Pete Williams was the original bass player in Dexys (keen scholars of the inner sleeve will remember him as ”a young bass driver ...carrying his tool under one arm and the complete Stax collection under the other”). He was in post Dexys mutiny band The Bureau and These Tender Virtues, played on Dexys 2003 shows and is on the forthcoming Dexys album. His own excellent album Seen is out and he’s assembled a terrific band of Richard Hawley henchmen, all collapsing quiffs and manfully concealed bald patches.

Williams himself is a really engaging frontman, who can squeeze a tune out of most instruments, and carry off Pub Vegas style snappy pointing and on the beat gestures. And you could fight World War 2 in his spiv trousers and braces set up ….not just wear them to fight in, but you could actually fit all the major campaigns into them….The Pacific… The Russian Front…The Y front..

Opening song Reconsider This is a Bowie quoting domestic violence song
(“bruises won’t show if she wears long sleeves”. The chorus is a soaring thing of beauty that’s really lifted by the keyboards and as a chorus it goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s far better than any song actually needs….he could cut a bit of it off and give it to someone who needs it more.

He gets the uke out for Too Many Questions. It has a bit of a Van Morrison feel and Williams does have a bit of a Kevin Rowland turn of phrase, but the songs are strong and well arranged. So they don’t just feel like it’s a rigid verse chorus structure but they progress through sections.

The line up is keyboards (Fred Skidmore, his long term musical partner),
bass/double bass (Al Gare and a Paddington Bear hard stare from The Imelda May band), guitar and drums from Richard Hawley band and Paul Taylor on Trombone. They’re all excellent players, relaxed, unfussy but shit hot at the hot shit

As clouds of over enthusiastic dry ice billows rounds the stage, Williams
asks the trombonist (scientifically proven to be the parpiest of all musical instruments, although The Whoopee Cushion Orchestra of Great Britain may disagree) “is that you Paul?”

There’s a bit of a Latin feel to one of the songs that I couldn’t place and
Black is as dramatic and murderous as a Spanish soap opera. He says it was
inspired by living and working in Santa Monica.

For the swing start of Soon I’ll Be There, Williams brandishes his clarinet
with the ominous warning “The fun stops now….Here’s the misery stick”. No
need to worry though it’s a great song with heroic twangy guitar and trombone.

My favourite song though has the lines “I found myself alone in a brothel in Cologne on my 19th birthday …. I behaved quite badly as anybody might”
Part Jacques Brel, part Fast Show. It’s not on the album though, so it looks like I’m going to have to see him again to hear it again.

The encore is the theme from The Cincinnati Kid. It’s a bit of a pointer to what the band are doing. Ambitious, cinematic, classily put together,
reflective and comfortable looking backwards. And exactly what I want to be watching.

Reconsider This
Heart Beats
Said I’d Be The One
Little One
Soon I’ll Be There
Trust me
Are You Listening?
? (“I behaved badly as anybody might”)
Until We Empty This Bottle
Suddenly Shattered
Cincinnati Kid

Monday, May 31, 2010

British Sea Power Glee Club Birmingham 18th May

The Glee Club has a policy of shutting the doors after 8.15 . Which means, you get to see the support band. And I’m glad I did. John and Jehn are a French boy girl duo who’ve bulked up for this tour with an additional boy and girl. They’ve got a Galaxie 500/New Order sound with a mixture of very clean, taut guitar lines, feedback and keyboards. They swap vocals and instruments. Jehn's vocals are a bit theatrical, John's are much more New York rock 'n' roller. Which is how we'd all sing if we were French and had relocated to London. The final song had some of that early White Stripes chemistry/tension with Jehn slowly moving towards John as if she was about to put her head on his shoulder. Like a Status Quo gig if Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi were actually a couple.

I know a bloke who can’t bring himself to listen to the Who because “Girls don’t like them”. On the other hand, Jon Bon Jovi (who is not my Who dodging mate) has said that he takes no notice of critics that say The Bonj are too lightweight. After all, girls come to his gigs and lift up their tops. So who likes BSP? Well there’s a lot of them and it's a very mixed audience. I like them a lot, but I didn’t think they’re a band you’re going to fall in love with. I was proved wrong at the Glee though. There was measurable love and anticipation in the air. Not just pollen from the plant covered amps tended by gardeners rather than roadies. It felt like people had travelled to be there.

What BSP bring is cleverness, a broad, sweeping approach to lyrics. There’s nothing straight forward about them. They've got a whiff of moleskin and they look as if they’d be happier going to the Antarctic in dufflecoats and cable knit sweaters rather than following traditional rock n roll leisure activities. There’s a bit of Bowie, or Psychedelic Furs in the vocals, a thick sound, a grandeur and songs that take in ornithology and Dostoevsky. After 3 albums of arty guitar Pop they released an evocative and oddly ambient, soundtrack to a 1934 documentary Man Of Aran. No Lucifer has a terrace style “easy easy” backing vocal and references to Carlton Corsair and Raleigh 20 bikes, roe deer, the anti aircraft crew and the boys from the Hitler Youth. The stiff upper lip has got a potty mouth though. One of the new songs they play at the gig though has a chorus of “Over here, over there, over every fucking where.”

It’s a barnstorming opening 3 tracks. Apologies To Insect Life with it’s clicking bass, yelping vocals and a guitar that sounds like a quarrying operation. Guitarist Noble is dropping it from a very great height. In fact at one point it looks like he's brought his own stool to stand on. Remember Me and Atom just sound immense. Singer and guitarist Yan is wearing a white top, part space suit, part strait jacket. Guitarist Noble is wearing a vintage cycling top that probably doesn't provide much in the way of breathability and sweat wicking. Bassist and vocalist Hamilton shuffles as if he is peeping coyly from beneath an standard issue indie fringe- which is actually a leafy crown. He looks like he’s skipping band practice at Mount Olympus. Aby Fry plays violin and Phil Sumner adds keyboards, cornet and guitar as required. So for the new song (over here over there and over sweary there etc) there were actually 3 guitars powering away. Biff, Bang and Pow! BSP also like to swap instruments and take turns on vocals.

True Adventures sung by Hamilton has got an excellent bit where the rest of the band seem to slow down but the drums speed up. It sounds a bit like tape rewinding and is the sort of studio trick that Lee Perry would stick on the start of a track.

Please Stand Up finishes with that rare beast – a section that sounds like a cross between Boxer Beat by Jo Boxers and New Order.

The Great Skua is an instrumental where Phil Sumner's cornet really comes into it’s own. It’s a great piece of music in it’s own right and much more than a bog and bar prompter.

The band seemed relaxed and confident. There was banter about it being the second comedy club they’d played on the tour and the perennial problem of careful and insightful lyrics getting in the way of the gags.

Final song Spirit Of St Louis soon departed from a recognisable song structure was either largely improvised or they were just making it up as they went along. There was guitar dive bombing, crowd surfing from Noble, guitars being beaten with bushes and I think there may have been monocle wearing too.

Despite the fact that new album is on the way they only played a handful of new songs, with most of the material coming from the last album Do You Like Rock Music. BSP are actually more accessible than their eccentric image suggests and are a terrific live band. Full marks to the merchandising. Who wouldn’t want a mug with a British Tea Power logo?

Apologies To Insect Life
Remember Me
???? (Over here over there etc)
True Adventures
Down On The Ground
Please Stand Up
Waving Flags
Great Skua
No Lucifer
Canvey Island
Fear Of Drowning
??? (Into the night??)
Lights Out For Darker Skies
Trip Out
Spirit Of St Louis

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Fall Birmingham Academy 2 - 11th May 2010

I didn't get the new album until after the gig, so it was just like the old days ...a Fall gig where I didn't know many of the songs. It's a healthy turnout and looks like a veteran Fall audience who've probably seen a fair few Fall gigs. Although surprisingly there's a sprinkling of younger recruits too.

After 33 years we probably know roughly what we're going to get. The line up may change, the wife in the band may change and the sound changes too. Some years it's a bit more Beefheart, sometimes more Rockabilly or electronic but there is still always a distinctive Fall sound, even before Mark E Smith starts to sing...or more as he put it on Dragnet’s Your Heart out "I don't sing I just shout-all on one note ahh".

There’s a backdrop with “Unseen Knowledge” scrawled across it (made more sense once I’d bought the album…but then I never really cracked “Undilutable Slang Truth”) and the line up is bass, drums guitar and Mrs Smith (Eleni Poulou) on keyboards. The current album Your Future Our Clutter is the second with this line up. In Fall terms this line up it's positively U2 in terms of stability and longevity. No drummers were punched onstage and no band members were sacked for dancing to Rock The Casbah.

There's still plenty of room for disruption though.

Smith, who seemed like he'd been catapulted out of the stage door, was wearing a blue shirt and what looked like leather blazer. He immediately grabbed 2 mics and a stand and got down to the business of shouting at traffic. Cue jutting out elbows, the dilemma of how to control 3 things with 2 hands and constant fiddling and feedback. Typical Smith. Ever the irritant and bugger the soundman.

Smith’s made a career out of using hand cupping, megaphones, Dictaphones and kazoos to make his horrible hectoring voice even more unpleasant. But that voice does draw you in. Knowing the songs isn't necessarily any help in knowing what he's singing about though. You get the impression he doesn't like anything much though - except for malt whisky and WW2.

The drums on the opening song Our Future Your Clutter are immense. This line-up is lean, efficient and relentless. A combine harvester scything down everything in it's path and spewing out Smithspeak There's nothing subtle about Eleni Poulou’s keyboards either. She's found the squelch button and turned on the Dr Who filter.

Hot cake has got EP's "ahh ahh ahh ooh" backing vocals and funnily enough they don't sound remotely Pop.

Smith's jacket was on and off all night (yes there are more complex stage shows, you know the one’s that are carried across Europe on huge trucks, rather than on a coat hanger) but he did wait until the Rockabilly twang of Cowboy George before having his first amp fiddle. Ah yes, Smith's favourite trick to try to unsettle the guitarist...he may call it Man Management to coax out a better performance.... he may just call it messing about.

Eleni Poulou sang I’ve Been Duped, from 2008's Imperial Wax Solvent but a very fidgety Smith, had been singing not just with his back to the audience but actually backing into the stage exit. On the opening night in Edinburgh, he had only lasted 6 songs leaving the band trying to carry on without him. Last song of the Birmingham’s better value set was Weather Report 2. In Fall terms it's actually quite a haunting if not downright beautiful song and the lyric "You gave me back my life,” echoes the 20 year old song Bill Is Dead which was his last attempt at crooning

The encores caught me completely by surprise. Psykick Dancehall with it's "Is there anybody there-yeah" intro, (I don’t think I was the only one who found there was a "yeah” reflex I didn't know I had) and Theme From Sparta FC. Peel Show favourite and car advert. For a band as contrary as the Fall, it was the greatest hits equivalent of doing a medley of Hi Ho Silver Lining, Come On Eileen and Beatles No 1's. Smith did actually sing most of Sparta FC from the dressing room though.

So there we go.... another Fall gig. I've seen dozens and there's usually something memorable about even the worst ones. But this was a good one.

The new album is definitely worth a punt. There'll be a different line-up next time round, but they'll still be The Fall.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Candi Staton Bilston The Robin 27th April

Bilston’s Got Soul…and there was certainly a healthier turnout at The Robin than at Candi Staton’s Birmingham show last February. She had an excellent band behind her (bass, drums, sax, trumpet, 2 backing singers and Mick Talbot on keyboards.)

Wearing jeans and silver /grey housecoat affair, she looked genuinely pleased to be there. I don’t think the audience needed that much motivating, but, like the old soul trooper she is, she took no chances. When she wasn’t singing, she was clapping, and every song had a story behind it. So there was plenty to talk about, and she did like to talk. The stories and anecdotes served to remind both herself and us about her place in Soul history (a Grammy nomination here, and a sample there and a career that spanned Southern Soul, Disco and Gospel and 6 decades)

Opening song Nights On Broadway was buoyed by a tremendous horn sound and Prisoner Of Your Good Loving rattled along like the prime piece of Southern Soul tail shaking it is. As the band cut loose, Staton reminded us “This is how we do it in Alabama.”

A big surprise was hearing her first secular single Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand. She asked if there where any Northern Soul Lovers in the audience. The thing is when she recorded the song originally, there was no such thing…. Often labels where just putting out singles with a slow and fast song and pushing the side that found an audience. Now of course she’ll see it as another part of her career. And she seems happy to promote it all, even when it’s a song she wasn’t directly involved in. When she played He Called Me Baby she talked about the sample from it that One EskimO used on their song Kandi. The first she knew of it was when she heard it in a shopping mall in Atlanta Georgia. Even better was the aside that You’ve Got The Love was originally a vocal for a diet advert.

Stand By Your Man had everything you could need. A sparse intro building up to that magical chord change and then the band shifting through the gears and taking a detour through Stand By Me. It’s Vegas, but it’s good Elvis Vegas. To top it all there’s Staton’s observation about her Granddaughter who got to the part about “He’ll have good time’s you’ll have bad times” and retorted that he’d find himself standing on the kerb with his bags”.

She introduced You Bet Your Sweet Sweet Love with the story that she hadn’t felt like singing it for years, but could do it now because she had got married recently.

I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool) has the archetypal Muscle Shoals sound and excellent use of brackets. Candi somewhat naively asked if there were any mature men in the audience. Indeed there were. Old Soul’s not a young mans game.

More Elvis, with In The Ghetto and a story about how she was sitting in the control room of a studio with the song’s writer Mac Davis and label owner Rick Hall. Clarence Carter (one of her ex husbands, but not at the time) was about to record it as a follow up to Patches. They talked about a having a female singer do it instead. “I stepped up to the mic and changed the key”. It’s a tremendous record and she still does a fine version.

She finished inevitably with Young Hearts Run Free. The horn section had looked like they’d been having a good time all night, with spots of Ready Steady Go swinging dance moves and grinning and nudging each other like distracted schoolboys. Sax player Richard Beesley pulled a really sweet solo out of the bag, and finished with a big smile on his face and immediately his trumpet playing mate leaned over to poke him again. Mick Talbot got some clown time in with his solo spot where he ran his fingers down and beyond the keyboard and twisted his body round as if he had run out of notes, like a piano driven soul plane slithering off the runway.

The band are Rare Groove stalwarts and have been playing under the name of Push for years. I’d seen the guitar, bass and drummer backing Marlena Shaw recently. They didn’t put a foot wrong then, but never seemed to really take off. I enjoyed them much more with Candi Staton and I was in no way influenced by the fact that the female backing singer was wearing hot pants and the bloke had been in Batman.

She encored with the funky gospel of Halleluiah Anyway and You’ve Got The Love. The set was very similar to last years show at the Town Hall and it was the same band. The anecdotes and patter were different though – which is an achievement in itself. Most importantly she’s still got that classic Soul voice, with it’s mixture of sweetness, tension and rasp. The gigs are a celebration of her back catalogue and I’m happy to celebrate that we can still see this stuff live. Even better though, she is still doing interesting new stuff. She’s featured on the Ashley Beedle celebration of Mavis Staples. Her contribution Revolution feels a bit like Freak Power’s Tune In Drop Out with a Staple Singers social commentary. Her voice sits intentionally back in the mix, but it’s still classic Candi


Last years Birmingham show is at http://stealthbuffet.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html

Nights On Broadway
I’m Just A Prisoner
Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand
Stand By Your Man/Stand By Me
You Bet Your Sweet Sweet Love
Suspicious Minds
He Called Me Baby
I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)
In The Ghetto
Young Hearts Run Free

Halleluiah Anyway
You’ve Got The Love

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Peter Hook Glee Club Birmingham 11/04/2010

It was billed as Peter Hook: An evening of Unknown Pleasures. Tales from Joy Division, New order and The Hacienda. But as the Compere was Howard Marks, they introduced themselves as The Hook and The Crook.

The Glee Club was the first stop on a 16-date jaunt. It was a bit of an odd night really partly down to Howard Marks compere role and the mix of pre-submitted questions and questions from the audience. However it did turn out to be an entertaining evening and Hooky looked relaxed and amenable on the sofa. So yes…the stage set up really was amp, guitars, sofas.

Early arrivals got to peer at Hooky's memorabilia, which was much more enjoyable than it sounds. I'd already got my moneys worth by seeing a receipt for a Transit van that Hooky had bought for £150, a Hacienda membership application form where Tony Wilson had answered the question “What do you want from the Hacienda” with a scrawled “My money back”. Never mind the signed footy shirts, New Order trainers and photos for the Hacienda looking gorgeous and empty. (which was exactly how it looked in 1984 when my band, the unlovable and unloved Awesome Precinct played there)

After a bit of archive film, a seated Hooky played along to two backing tracks, one of which was Elagia from Low Life. A great reminder of just how distinctive his reedy, metallic 6 string bass sound is. Instantly recognizable and distinctly genius. Even sitting down, he still plays the lowest slung bass in rock. Johnny Marr was only partly joking when he said the most important thing to master when you learn guitar is to sort out your strap length. The lower the better. Temperamental technology, and tardiness meant that New Order were rarely better than shit live. So those first 2 tracks at the Glee were a vast improvement on the times I’d seen New Order. Cheers Hooky…. Sorry Barney!

Still we were back to familiar territory with Howard Marks rambling and shambolic intro and opening questions. Eventually though (and probably to some relief on his part) Hooky just started talking about what he was probably going to say anyway. And yes he’s got a string of great stories to tell. He was in 2 pivotal bands (that would be the 2 before Monaco and Revenge) and it was New Orders money that bankrolled the Hacienda as it went from groundbreaking and empty to Madchester and gangsters.

The Hacienda was staggeringly badly run. Hooky’s book that ties in with this tour is subtitled How Not To Run A Club. It’s a great read. He passed on some of these lessons during the evening too. You may want to take notes! Lessons Hooky learnt included, just because your mates are great at getting pissed doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be good at running a club. Another problem was what he touchingly referred to as a short attention span and describes a meeting where they threw the accountant out rather than hear about how much money they were losing.

For all the business failings of the Hacienda Hooky was genuinely pleased to have owned the club and to have given something back to the city and people of Manchester. (Apart from large amounts of cash). He loved that fact that when eventually the Hacienda started to work as a club, and he was in the band who travelled all round the world (he really didn’t try to undersell his lifestyle) he still couldn’t wait to get home because he could have a better time at the Hacienda. He also loved having a club where he could lord it up over other bands and enjoyed people knowing who he was…even if it did amount to kids saying, “My dad loves you-he told me to come and say hello”

Sometimes it didn’t always go so well though. One night a young American came up and introduced himself, said how much he loved the band and how pleased he was to have finally got to the Hacienda. At which point Hooky’s minder kicked open the fire doors and bundled the unfortunate fan out. A giggling Hooky summed it up as “People travelled from all round the world to come to our club…and we welcomed them in.”

By the end the club had become unmanageable. People were running round the club with guns. One night the manager had a gun pushed in her face and the next thing she knew she was at the bottom of a stairwell. A bouncer had rescued her by throwing her over the balcony. But Hooky and the management were all accepting this as part of a normal night and just didn’t know how to stop it.

He talked about the sense of relief when they finally closed the club, and the lifting of the weight of responsibility for trying to keep people safe. There was also the sense of almost smugness when the gangs promptly moved onto another venue and closed that. He talked about how Tony Wilson had railed against the Police and the local authority who had seen it as an issue that was solely The Hacienda’s problem.

His favourite New Order was Technique because, even though the band were still arguing furiously, he thought the album captured the Balearic sound he had in his head. However at the time Tony Wilson said that the weeks they spent recording it were going to be the most expensive holiday they’d ever had.

Hooky said the band had come back with 17 drum tracks because Stephen Morris was the only one of the band who could stay out of the clubs and actually do any work. Even when it was finished there were still parts of the album that were news to Hooky. He described walking through Heaton Park and hearing an unfamiliar but fantastic track on a ghetto blaster. He actually had to ask what it was…turned out to be Run.

He acknowledged that there were large chunks of the past that he’d forgotten (or been incapable of remembering) but that fortunately people had kindly reminded him “But I left those bits out because I didn’t want to look like a twat…I just used the bits that made other people look like twats”

He talked about the seeing Sex Pistols in Manchester and their attitude was everything he felt and wanted at the time. ”They were shit. They were so shit, but they did it so well”. He made it sound quite profound.

He described Morrissey as still having his clothes bought by his mum, and that complaints about him went directly to her. “Ooh no, not our Stephen, you must be thinking of someone else”. Stephen Morris from New Order, also apparently wears mum sourced clothing. Amidst all the clothing slander, I think we need to remember the Stuart Maconie advice on how to recognise Peter Hook in the 80’s…. He’ll be the only person in the room dressed as a U boat captain.

He didn’t go along with the idea of Shaun Ryder as a poet, instead offering, “He’ll nick your wallet” and telling a story about how the Happy Mondays absolutely trashed a dressing room and argued that they were helping to make sure that the cleaners kept their jobs.

He told a good story about the release of Substance. Tony Wilson wanted to be able to play the New Order singles in his car. Obviously the best and easiest way to do this was to release an album. New Order and Factory were famously on a 50/50 split, however at the time of the deal Factory had been unaware that the label would also be paying the mechanical royalties (paid for each copy of a record sold). It was always a source of great amusement to New Order Manager Rob Gretton that the deal had ended up as effectively a 42/58 split. Because of Factory’s financial problems, the band agreed to a lower rate for Substance…which went on to sell shed loads

Of course the thing is that despite everything Hooky still owns a club and is also releasing compilations and DJing under the Hacienda banner. He recently opened FAC251 in the old Factory building with the idea that he’d already paid for it once and might as well buy it again. And he’s still making music.

Freebass is the surprisingly underused concept of having 3 bass players (Hooky, Mani from The Stone Roses, Andy Rourke from The Smiths) and a floating line up of mates on vocals. Which is where Howard Marks comes in. It’s also how the evening finished, with Hooky and Marks doing Dark Star. A Velvets style grind with a stream of consciousness rant over the top. It was grisly and words fail me. But they didn’t fail Howard Marks who has described it as being about
"The light of Lucifer - the lightness of darkness, the archetypal permanence of the right bass line, the pain of a crowded Heaven, the seminal nature of spunk, and the elusive recipe for the concoction in the Holy Grail.”