Blimey! It’s been a while…Ok, let’s get this gig review stuff out of the way:
A charming band paid tribute to a charming man in the middle section of a charming song at a charming gig in a charming town…
Done and done!
It’s very easy to lose your way in this life.
It’s very easy to lose faith in this life.
To give in to the cynicism
To feel oppressed by an uncaring society based on greed and selfishness…
But all is not lost
You are not alone
There are others out there who give a shit
Good people who embrace positivity
And restore your faith in humanity…
You may well think WTF, isn’t this a gig review?
Well, yes and no!
Ruts DC embody the spirit of the aforementioned good people.
Ruts DC give a shit!
They create an atmosphere of positivity, inclusivity, fun and downright decency.
All while being fully in control and keeping it real.
But what of the songs?
Well, let’s talk about the whole, rather than its constituent parts!
There is not a beat out of place with their exquisitely delivered and perfectly executed performance of their homegrown brand of Punk/Rock/Reggae/Pop/No Nonsense/Rebel Music.
(Buzz… Crackle… Whir…)
(Voice in background) Oh Blimey!
(Oscillating high pitch whine interspersed with white noise…)
(Background voice becomes more prominent) Hold on… got it! Just need to connect the interdimensional sub space relays… …And…
(Loud whooshing sound followed by a beep…)
(Voice in foreground) …Resume transmission…
Continuing notes to home from alternate dimension…
We’ve seen something of an improvement in the last few days as green shoots of hope continue to offer promise of better days to come…
Our journey tonight led us to a gathering of more souls dipping a tentative toe in the waters of witnessing a live musical performance in a three-dimensional enclosed space…
Arriving Camden, following a quick call in to the Temple of Seitan for sustenance, it was destination Jazz Café. Wherein a cordial greeting was proffered from a familiar friendly face in the form of Leigh Heggarty. A quick scout around the venue revealed a healthy attendance of like minds in search of musical nourishment. The tasteful Dub sounds emanating from the sound system courtesy of Adrian Sherwood (re)assuring these souls were in the right place…
… a little after 9pm…
Ruts DC took the stage along with Keyboardist Seamus Beaghen and Adrian Sherwood (who remained in situ).
And the sonic emanations intensified – Dub Style! Considering we’ve all time travelled a couple of years into the future of an alternate dimension – Segs, Ruffy and Leigh appeared unperturbed and (as) ever at ease, as they took us to new sonic heights. The added dimension of keyboard/Melodica from Seamus and the underpinning of Adrian’s dub wizardry, sit naturally with and are a welcome addition to the Ruts DC sound.
Segs appeared calm, cool and collected as he took the helm and steered us back to safer/calmer waters in fine voice and with beautifully booming bass.
Ruffy back in the seat of beat is an always welcome occurrence – rock solid with fluidity and brilliant harmonies.
The extra layers from Adrian and Seamus provide the band with a bit extra wiggle room, allowing them to explore the dynamics a little more than usual. This is especially evident with Leigh as he utilised the extra space to explore, experiment and conjure new tonal palettes to great effect.
Along with a mix of some of the great reggae-fied songs from their canon we were also given an airing of excellent new song Born Innocent – a natural fit in tonight’s set.
The band went for it and the crowd duly reciprocated. In a flash it was Babylon Burning and Goodnight.
In summary tonight saw another brilliant performance from Ruts DC. Proving their versatility and skill as a band who can comfortably shape-shift from; Punky/Rocky/Reggae to Electro-Acoustic to Full on Dub Style.
Highlight: the whole shebang – but if forced to choose – Love in Vain.
(faint electrical crackling)…
(louder electrical crackling)…Is anyone out there?...
(loud beeping and white noise)…
If anyone can hear this message, we are attempting to find a way back…
A couple of years ago we encountered a sub-space anomaly which sent us through a rift in space/time to an alternate dimension. Here we found an exact replica of Earth, its development appears to have taken the same path as our own sweet home up to a point of approximately 2019 - Around the time the meteor struck our Earth - forcing us all to work together to ensure the survival of humanity.
This alternate Earth didn’t get struck by the meteor. They have been experiencing instead a more fractured path of events. As a consequence of rampant consumerism and a misplaced drive for acquisition of wealth; misinformation, propaganda and overpopulation begat a dystopian isolationist existence where gathering and human contact were prohibited. But the human spirit is strong – the natural survival instinct and compassion have prevailed, bringing people back to people. Just yesterday a small team of us were sent on an away mission to Putney in Southwest London to witness this remarkable phenomenon…
With caution we entered the edifice known as The Half Moon. Wherein we encountered a gathering of convivial pioneers here to witness the rebirth of Live Music…
Enter stage right Dodgy the advanced guard in this musical renaissance…
Clearly pleased to be back in business, Dodgy proceeded to deliver sonic delight with good humour and aplomb to the delight of the capacity audience.
The band were tight, delivering finely crafted pop gems with apparent ease. After some good-natured banter with the sound crew some niggles with the bands monitoring system were quickly ironed out – not that you’d have known – the sound out front was superb!
Effortless skilful drumming – check!
Sonorous melodic bass – check!
Silky smooth acoustic guitar – check!
Soaring stratospheric Stratocaster – check!
Sweet vocal harmonies – check!
Add to this the keyboards/trombone courtesy of Graham which provided a sonic layer that helped knit together these elements of the band to great effect – everyone needs a Graham! In addition to a Graham, Dodgy also appeared to be in possession of a fully functioning Martin Clunes, who quipped – “The only way to defeat the menace of C*v*d is with sustained guitar solos” which gets my vote!
In summary tonight saw a perfect blend of upbeat pop infused with some sweetly melancholic psychedelic leanings born from a seemingly instinctual/innate grasp of melodic composition…
Most haunting melody award goes to – If You’re Thinking of Me – sublime!
Meet up with Karlos in India before moving on to the next adventure in time and space…
Taking refuge at Govinda’s we devised a plan to follow the thread of timelines pertaining to the electric guitar. We set off on our journey. After loading the parameters into the time machine and pressing go, the machine whirred and fired as expected. Then upon landing we ventured outside to find that, apparently, we were in exactly the same spot in exactly the same timeline… We called the ATMA recovery people and decided to go the Borderline to see Josh Smith instead…
Wherein we discovered the answer…
Disclamer: read no further if you are not a fan of guitar
music and/or get upset by the idea of extended instrumental passages…
The guitar and gear gods had smiled on us this evening as we
entered The Borderline to see the stage bedecked with an array of first-class
audio equipment. Further still, it would be in the hands of those who could well
use it to help satisfy our enquiring minds.
somewhat of a guitar enthusiast (geek), occasionally enjoying some of the many
guitar related videos available on the internet, (which activity) has brought
to my attention a number of talented individuals, one of whom is the super capable
player Josh Smith.
recent video with Josh on Andertons TV, once again highlighted his skills and
he also happened to mention he was currently on tour in the UK, which got me
thinking… After a quick check of the calendar and a call to Karlos, tickets
were purchased for the London show of the tour. Which brings us back here…
ventured towards the stage to secure our viewing positions. Where, along with
many others we cast a keen eye across Josh’s set up; three beautiful guitars, a
brace of amplifiers and Josh’s marvellous new Schmidt Array pedalboard built by
pedalboard Supremo Dan Steinhardt of the Gig Rig and That Pedal Show renown.
Support act Rory Evans, bravely sat in front of a packed
borderline with a lone acoustic guitar and proceeded to capture the hearts of
the crowd with his guitar virtuosity, showmanship and banter. A good warm up.
On to the main attraction…
sell-out show in London’s West-end, saw wall to wall guitar enthusiasts (geeks
– present company included) packed into this fairly intimate venue.
As Josh and his band took the stage all recent fluctuations of time and space began to cohere. Josh appears down to earth and at ease, no mean feat given the soaring, searing guitar lines he pumps out. A very fluid style sees him going out on creative limbs, coming back down to earth and weaving in many licks and riffs which nod to his influences (from across the whole of electric guitar history with a heavy helping of Blues, Rock, Soul and Jazz). At one point there was a bit of a nod to Charlie Christian, which struck me as so cool, how it had been added into the context of one of the extended instrumental sections with great subtlety. (I spoke briefly to Josh afterwards saying to him “7 Come 11” to which he excitedly replied “Yeah man! That was in there…” )
of the main set tonight were all Josh Smith originals available from his
catalogue of Album releases. Post show, I purchased the most recent two and they
are both great. However, live is where it really seems to happen. The numbers,
stripped of the studio finery, are brought to life in front of your eyes and
ears, in this marvellous 3-piece format. Talking of which, bassist Jonathan
Noyce and drummer Darren Mooney, perfectly complemented Josh’s songs and playing
as they subtly underpinned the song frameworks and created a perfect platform
for Josh to explore. They were also allowed plenty of room to shine in their
own right, with extended solos and passages.
hours or so were over in a flash and all too soon they exited stage right and
(we) the crowd were howling and whooping for more…
To which the answer came, in the form of an encore comprising just one song. However, within that song a journey was undertaken, exploring sonic frontiers far and wide before returning to the earthly confines of the song structure. And that song was tonight’s only cover, a beautifully mind-blowing rendition Jimi Hendrix – Angel. Sublime!
post-performance Josh appears calm, centred and down to earth with a winning,
infectious smile (I’m guessing this comes as a result of him having heavily
worked his mojo up on stage for the last couple of hours). He takes the time to
stop and talk with everyone who says hello and happily obliges those who ask
for a photo (including Karlos).
you are an electric guitar geek, or simply a music lover who likes their Blues/Rock
with a healthy dose of Soul and a smattering of Jazzy leanings, I really can’t recommend
a Josh Smith live show highly enough. Check it out!
ventured back out into the mild London evening and found that the ATMA agent
had discovered the source of the issue with our Time Machine… A crack in the ST
housing unit had caused a temporal malfunction and while we hadn’t appeared to have
travelled anywhere, this malfunction had caused a singularity along the lines
of our intention and drawn creative energy along timelines spanning 90 years
both future and past with the present as the source. Ah well that explains it
then! Oh, and we got a parking ticket from the year 1967!
The Great Kudu, was in need of a Loo, so partook of a hedge. Encountering a few, still in search of Hugh, near pushed him over the edge. Having done what they do, Feelgood in his view, won his praise, a privilege. And of course too, The Stranglers of who, are a band worthy of their Sege*.
Part 1-The Journey-
Left Salisbury at 18.00 but forgot about the everlasting road works on way to Bournemouth, hit road works and then became desperate for a call of nature, huge mug of coffee before I left was a bad idea but as driving, I knew I couldn’t have a beer at the gig. So clenching my thighs (too much info) I was faced with a wall of traffic, 30 minutes just to do one mile… I finally hit Bournemouth, by now I was at bursting point, so parked car where I could and jumped over someone’s large wall and fertilized their bush (no sexual references intended). If you are the owner of the property, I apologize but sometimes desperate situations call for desperate measures! After that I drove around looking for parking after ending up on the seafront, eventually I found the large open car park that I have used before, mission accomplished.
Part 2- Passive Listeners-
After parking the car I got talking to two blokes, now they were really clued up; firstly they had no idea Dr Feelgood had no original members and secondly they asked if Hugh Cornwell was still in the band? Now that’s why I have titled Part 2 Passive Listeners, it’s just laziness all you have to do is go on the internet and you can find current line-up formations on most bands, I always do a bit of research if I am seeing a band that I don’t know much about.
There are two types of listeners when it comes to music:
1-Passive Listeners – music is just a distraction and means nothing
2-Active Listeners – actually listen to music and get something from it, i.e. appreciating the art behind it.
A lot of people who attend gigs just seem to be there to
piss in the toilets. Oh well it’s free country? sort of?
Part 3- The gig-
Now this was my third and last date of the tour, next gig will be Lille in November, so I hoped to end on a high? (not with Drugs?) More about that in a while.
So first up Dr Feelgood without any original members, taking that aside, I have to say they have actually grown on me the three times I have seen them this tour, they are fine musicians and are keeping the music alive, really enjoyed their set, the best I have seen them on this tour and they are a worthy support act for The Stranglers. (A bit of context, apparently 3 of the current line-up played on more albums with original frontman Lee Brilleaux than the legendary original guitar toting Wilko Johnson etc Etc EiTC)
Moving on to 21.00 we all know the intro tune but it just makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up with anticipation. My last outing in Reading was a bit flat due to lacklustre audience, so was hoping Bournemouth would make up for it. Well the answer was a big fat yes from the first song Tank, I knew this was going to be a f**king cracking gig (apologies for F Word).
Next song I’ve Been Wild another stonking version, this is a song I was never a great fan of but it just sounds so good on this tour. I am not going to mention all the set list as most of you know it by Now? But tonight we had 3 changes from Reading; TTD, The Raven and first encore song Walk on By. It was Baz Warne’s birthday on the day, so he made some very funny comments about how he wanted to be in Bournemouth rather than at home in Leeds or with family in Sunderland.
Now for a few of my favs of the night; Last Man on the moon – I have grown to love this song, I actually prefer it to the cover version (This Song) that they are playing. Water – a classic in the making – just love this song, even the crowd seemed to react to it… they certainly didn’t to Ice Queen, again one of my tour Highlights (to be honest there wasn’t a song I didn’t like but Peaches really does need a break).
if I could pick any I had to walk out in disgust at; the sexist subject matter and the disgusting lyrics of Nubiles and GB with it’s glorification of Heroin, disgusting vile filth (Joking of course).
The venue was rammed full and holds 1800 a really good size,
the sound was very good too, much louder than Reading. The band were really firing
on all cylinders, with such great spirit on the stage, it really does add to
Baz’s voice sounded good and the new songs suit his voice well. He was in fine form too and had some great banter when someone was shouting moronic remarks, he put them down with good humour.
The whole band played as a tight as a well oiled machine. Dave has been playing better on this tour IMHO but he still seems to drink quite a bit, I don’t know how many times I saw a crew member replace his Stella but doesn’t seem to effect his playing.
Jim Mac just so part of the band now, adding backing vocals on new songs (and some of the back catalogue EiTC), and f**k he hits those skins hard, but also has a soft touch when needed, he certainly has given them more energy. And he respects Jet’s patterns but adds his own touch too, without detracting from the original pattern of the beat.
And last but not least 7th Dan Shidokan bass meister JJ, he is just so cool and his bass sound and playing are just a joy to behold, that bass intro on Bordello possibly one of his greatest moments? and a highlight, possibly the greatest Stranglers song apart from Sewer, Raven and Genetix but too many to mention…
Moving on, great lights and production too without detracting from the music. Last song of set before encore the mighty Down in the Sewer – really good version, JJ played the Rats Rally bass part with more vigour than my last gig.
Final song of course Heroes with JJ trying to punch a hole
in his bass, the way he hits it he may succeed one day – big smile on his face
of course. And that was that, band all came out to front of stage and Baz says
“It’s been an absolute pleasure, you know they are happy when Baz says
Personally, I think the set on the current tour has been the
most inventive for years, they have changed the set every night and played new
songs and songs not played for 20 years. I commend the band, it proves they are
still creative and are not going through the motions. It is the last spring
tour apparently? I think they will tour later next year? who knows? But this
band really are something special, I just don’t know how they keep up the
standard? I hope we have a few more years of excellent gigs and a new album in
the not too distant future, I love this band and have done since 1979 (the
music of course) .
Lt Kudu over and out.
Words: Great Kudu.
Originally posted on the Burning Up Times forum. Extracted and edited with the authors permission…
Before you knew it, there we were standing in Guildford… so while that was indeed where we were, we thought, why not take a stroll down to The Star and visit the plaque where it all started? Which we duly did…
Suddenly, we found ourselves in a quiet pub on a Guildford backstreet where we chanced upon a Rut and two Dept S’s there were also a Strangler, some roadcrew and a smattering of FiB in attendance…
Even more suddenly, we were transported via the drunken staircase into the bowels of G-Live, to where we now stood in front of Dr Feelgood.
Having made it just in time to catch the last couple of
numbers, they sounded blisteringly good. Giving it their all with a high energy
in your face performance of a special patented blend of hard-hitting R&B. Closing
number Route 66 was stonking, shame we didn’t get to catch more of their set.
Check them out…
Less suddenly, or maybe even further along than that… The
lights dimmed… The crowd buzzed… Waltzinblack struck up… Enter stage Right and Left
Kicking off with Tank, The Men in Black were firing on all
cylinders. An excellent set list comprising a little something for everyone,
with hits, fan favourites, new numbers and some material rarely played live (if
A symbiosis occurred between Artist and audience as the more
they gave the more we lapped it up. And for Guildford on a damp Tuesday evening
that was no mean feat.
The stage setup and lighting for this show was magnificent
with it’s down in the sewer vibe…
Highlights for me were; seeing the Stranglers in Guildford
of a damp Tuesday evening, i.e. the whole thing! To narrow down a selection; Walk
on By, Nubiles, Princess of the Streets and much more.
Of the new stuff: Last Man on The Moon – Good Stranglery
fare. Payday – standout for me atm – four-part harmonies and nice twists and
turns. This Song – good vibe and instant – and the crowd seem to pick up on it.
All the new material was well received. Fair play to them for putting them in.
There was a good rapport with the crowd tonight as Baz was teasing
us soft southerners. Talking of Baz he was on good form and his interpretations
of Uptown and Ice Queen sounded spot on to these ears. Although he sings in a
different register from HC, he does the material justice. Uptown coming across
as surprisingly strong with this lineup. Ice Queen also sounded great
particularly the extended slide guitar section. Keep it up Baz.
Jim is a hard hitter. He pounds the drums like his life
depends on it, yet at the same time always pays respect to the subtleties and
flourishes of the songs. He has a fine voice too.
Dave is Dave is Dave – the heart and soul, sublime! And the
keys were shining through loud and clear.
JJ – the undisputed heavyweight of the 4 string! In fine form
– instrumentally, vocally and menacingly (albeit in a good-natured way). At one
point he made his way to the very front of the stage, got in the audiences face
and yelled ‘Right!’ Before launching into the opening bars of Peaches, much to
the crowd’s delight.
All too soon the bass was registering a steady 5.8 on the Richter scale and it was all No More Heroes and over…
Now that summer’s almost over as is February, thought it’d be a good idea to head on down to Shepherds Bush to catch up with Ruts DC as they celebrate 40 years since the release of their debut album The Crack (I don’t need to hark on too much about just how brilliant The Crack is. Just to say it is timeless and as relevant today as it was 40 years ago).The journey wasn’t without complication having taken 1 step backward and 2 step forwards but choosing to live in a positive way.The ever-decreasing circles being driven around eventually gave way to a parking spot right behind the venue from whence we alighted and made our way inside…
A very healthy (near capacity) crowd thronged in the Shepherds Bush Empire tonight and a lot of like minds and friendly familiars had made their way down all the way from 1979 and earlier and beyond. A beautiful banner showing a recreation of the classic album cover adorned the stage.
The challenges of the short flight from SW to W London all but put paid to the chances of catching the set by The Professionals. However, we did manage to get down to hear the last couple of numbers and they sounded very tight and well delivered as the crowd at the front made the most. And it was of course a delight to see Mr Cook driving things from centre stage…
The dimming lights and a heartfelt poetry recital signalled that the time had come…
…as Segs, Ruffy and Leigh took up their spots and kicked off into The Crack.
The sound and delivery were spot on. The band played a blinder. I’ve alluded in previous ramblings as to their skill and professionalism but blimey! They proceeded to deliver a thrilling and captivating show from start to finish.
As if it wasn’t enough to recreate The Crack they continued through most of the singles and b-sides from that Era and added a smattering of selections from the excellent Music Must Destroy.
1981’s Animal Now wasn’t represented we can only live in hope that they are saving that up for a 40th anniversary show too (please)…
More on the performance. Not only does Dave Ruffy never drop a beat he seems to effortlessly lay down the rhythm and deliver the BV’s without breaking sweat. Master.
Leigh continues to go from strength to strength as was abundantly clear in his superb delivery tonight. Completely faithful to the legacy of Paul Fox while being in, above and at times way beyond the zone. Expert.
What of Segs? I hear you ask… Now Segs had it all sewn up tonight and we were eating out of his hands. The bass was biting and crunchy where it needed to be and subsonic smooth and dub-wise, also at the appropriate moments. The vocals were superbly sublime. And his whole demeanour was flawless, dynamic and polished. Star.
I hope they recorded this in some way shape or form as it will be a belter to add to their canon.
…Suddenly, I was standing on Shepherds Bush Green on a murky Friday evening. Time being what it was and what it is and inevitably will (and did and still will) become, a decision was arrived at for the most of it to be made. And it was! Here’s how…A sea of faithful, young and less so, new and not so, gathered for a performance by none other than your old compadres The Damned...
Quite by chance I bumped into the ever charming and talented Leigh Heggarty from the Mighty Ruts DC and we briefly discussed the blueprints for an automated dual-action de-mystifier that works simultaneously and with equivalent efficacy on both mind and spectacles. Then he introduced me to the drummer from Johnny Moped and went for a pint… …from whence, I crossed the road to rendezvous with Kate and Dave (and we were joined by Owen and Jac and a little later Nini and Lucio) at an establishment where you could part with your hard earned to the tune of £6 for 1/3 pint of crazily strong beer… After not too long, we found ourselves inside the Shepherds Bush Empire.
We spotted a pidge and a few other familiars and took up our positions to witness the show. Johnny Moped were already well into their set by the time we arrived, delivering an audial experience that wasn’t an ordeal. Convincing both visually and sonically they warmed up the crowd a treat on a late autumn evening.
Before we knew what was going on, it was all Peer Gynt courtesy of Sounds Incorporated, banners fell from the above and raised from below and we beheld the spectacle of The Damned at the following points along the fissures of time…
2018: Kicking off with the super-duper We’re So Nice (rightly) showing confidence in the new songs we were treated to a set of first class tunes spanning The Damned’s 5 decade and counting career. And the crowd went bananas and lapped up every last morsel, loving it too!
1977: They set the controls from 2018 to 1977 and engaged us with Born to Kill.
2001: Before coming back in to the current Millennium with the ever more relevant Democracy where they stunned us into submission with Pinch’s sonic double pedal kick assault!
1980: Three from 1980’s Black Album next and the crowd showed no let-up for; Wait for the Blackout, Lively Arts and Silly Kids Games. Much to the Captains amusement as he commented something on his amazement at people moshing to the latter of the three (or it may have been DJAMH or HoTWPO etc Etc EiTC).
2018: Back to 2018, the delightful Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow.
1980: Before zagging back to 1980 for the ever awesome Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
1982: Stranger on The Town – perfection.
2018: 2018 again and a song Pinch declared not to be about Donald Trump – Devil in Disguise.
1980: Back to 80 for sonic brilliance in the form or History of The World Part One.
2018: The epic I Don’t Care.
1986: Their awesome rendition of Love’s Alone Again Or replete with the sublime trumpet work of Chris Coull. Who also added flair and flavour to a handful of other tunes throughout the night.
1979: Love song, brilliant, crowd nuts.
1977: 1 of the 2, mighty, all fists of fury.
1976: New Rose – the invoice for the new ceiling of the SBE is in the post!
1977: Neat neat neat – perfection in sound.
1980: Curtain Call – Masterpiece!
1982: Ignite – sheer burning brilliance!
1980: There Ain’t no Sanity Clause – festive fun…
1979: Smash it Up – they smashed it!
(Surprise) Encore 3. 1979: Anti-pope – thought we were going to get Disco Man for a second but a mighty bonus none the less.
Or is it…
Just a few more words… (a: if I may, b: if you’re still awake and c: because):
The Damned are on fine form and easily rank as one of the best live acts I’ve seen, with consistent great performances from an amazing back catalogue. You get your money’s worth for sure. Dave Vanian is the coolest front man ever in his dapper vampiric way crooning with excellence while effortlessly covering the whole stage and beyond. During the first encore I noticed a kerfuffle to my left and turned to find Dave Vanian there making his way through the crowd to apparently watch the band up at the front, then gallantly escorting a young lady to the side before somehow vampirically managing to be simultaneously back on stage and singing the next line of the song, spooky genius!
Talking of genius and not wanting to wear out the term but Captain Sensible is greater than the sum of his constituent parts with his faultless ever-inspiring guitar mastery/voice and stage presence.
Paul Gray providing point-blank bass brilliance and balance to the band. You can hear the nuance in his delivery and his presence has led to a more balanced sound overall (IMESHO)…
What you going to do on a dull November evening? All the fireworks were yesterday and everywhere being eerily quiet…
…a rendezvous in Islington with good friends for a quick drink at The Alma pub followed by a bite at the charming Delhi Grill before heading out to a seemingly deserted o2 (going by external appearances) …
…inside was a different story as it seemed a healthy gathering of like-minds and interesting souls had amassed to bear witness to the sonic outpourings of none other than Mr Hugh Cornwell!
Hugh graced the stage accompanied by Windsor on drums and Pat on bass as they ran the first few numbers concurrently nary drawing a breath between and without so much as a Hi or Howdy Doody! And it set the mood accordingly…
The format tonight was two sets from Hugh, with the first being material from his solo output, while the second was material from his time with The Stranglers.
Kicking off with Pure Evel, here comes the inspiration, with the bass being lifted directly from LA Woman, Hugh has done his best to take it and make it his own, largely succeeding with a super catchy ear-worm of a chorus that won’t let you go once it takes hold.
Hugh seemed a little on edge but this edginess translated into the performance providing an edge of its own. The performers were all focussed and tight.
After the first few numbers Hugh began to engage with the audience a little more. The first set contained material ranging from 1979 to 2018. The audience were receptive and warm to the solo set. Highlights from a great set were for me; Stuck in Daily Mail Land, Monster, Getting Involved, Mothra and the sublime Duce Coochie Man.
The new material really shows Hugh’s maturity as a tunesmith (I feel). He’s always been able to knock out a ditty or two with his subtle (or not so) quirks. However, the new material builds on this skill exponentially. Take the main guitar hook for monster for example, deceptively simple, it wouldn’t be out of place on some obscure 60s hit produced by Joe Meek or indeed nestled somewhere in the album of covers that he and John Cooper Clarke released a little while back. But then contrast that with the complex twists and turns of Mothra and his Stranglers output and it’s clear that the skill has always been on tap. Back to the present day and the aforementioned Duce Coochie Man, to me a masterpiece!
In summary the solo set was fab and well received.
Onwards to perspiration, or Death by Strangulation as Hugh called it.
The crowd filled out considerably more for The Stranglers portion of the show and Hugh did not disappoint. The interpretations in this format were very inspired and evocative of the spirit of the originals. It is of course a great thing to hear Hugh play and sing these numbers which he and the band delivered with due diligence.
At times Hugh was a little out of his comfort zone, the solo on Golden Brown for example but he more than made up for this with a near perfect NMH solo and the beautiful chiming of his Tele and Vox on Strange Little Girl.
The rhythm section of Windsor and Pat did a standout job providing all the requisite drive and energy in abundance while also adding subtlety and creativity where needed. Pat’s interpretation of JJ’s bass lines was nothing short of excellence while his seemingly note perfect representation of Dave’s keyboard runs (on the bass guitar) was superb.
Highlights for me being; Strange Little Girl, Sweden, Grip and a stonking 5 minutes.
All too soon it was all hugs and see you in March…
Dr John Cooper Clarke operating at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, April 12, 2018
Benjamin Darvill opened for John Cooper Clarke on April 12 at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. He is a former member of Crash Test Dummies now transplanted to the UK, who has pivoted into a suit-wearing, blues-singing character called Son of Dave. With a box of tricks on the table next to him, holding shakers and rattles, a harmonica in hand, and a stomp box at his feet, Son of Dave was the MacGyver of one-man bands. He beatboxed, shook, rattled and rolled, creating a full-band sound. He performed entertaining ditties like “Devil Take My Soul” and “Rattlesnake,” all the while engaging the audience. He delivered comedic interludes between songs, adopting an irascible persona and complaining that he wore polyester suits and played harmonica for a living. He also shared bold, bawdy stories about his adventures in cheap hotels. The audience was bopping and laughing – the perfect warm-up for an irreverent poet.
Fellow Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, took the stage and introduced himself, mentioning his past incarnation as a librarian and the influence of Clarke on his younger self. Like his friend, “Johnny,” Garry also wields wit and humour the way Spiderman employs his silk – it hits its mark.
He remarked that it was a good day for a song, and he launched into a sing-song that began, “Sad today, and I don’t feel right today, and I feel all uptight today …” He moved into a tongue-twisting conversation with himself about not thinking about things he’s thinking about. The pace changed to a rhyme at the end of every line, and then, free-form observations about life in Manchester. He was meandering, and this was his “Mancunian Meander.” Poetry emphasizes the musicality of language, something Garry focuses on in his work, writing poems as songs. He also seasons his poetry with references to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a by-product of his Catholic upbringing.
Manchester figures prominently in his work – a dark, industrial city often enveloped by grey, rainy days. It is a place where things can hide in shadows, though there is no hidden meaning in his work. It is all in the open – exposed – the darkness, the ugliness, and the causes for celebration. Like a town crier, Garry recited “St. Anthony (An Ode to Anthony H. Wilson)” [Factory Records co-founder, journalist, impresario, and Manchester cheerleader]. In this poem, commissioned by the BBC, Garry used an inventive device of including groups of words beginning with every letter of the alphabet in proper order.
He also gave dramatic recitations of poems inspired by Mancunian life, such as “Pay as you Go,” about consequences from sexting, which he prefaced with humour as comic relief; “Penny for a Guy;” and “God is a Manc,” all very gritty. There are many beautiful locations in the world, some described as heaven on earth or paradise; Manchester isn’t one of them. It is unlikely that God is a Mancunian, though people grow attached to the place they call home; however, as in the poem, God may indeed have made its men smart, articulate, a bit rebellious, softly spoken, emotionally open, and in touch with their feminine side, if famous sons like Johnny Marr, John Robb, and Mike Garry himself, are the norm.
Some weeks before his mother died in 2013, she asked him to write her eulogy. Garry balked at the request, but on the morning of her funeral, he did, as a poem called “Things Me Mam Taught Me.” The work makes it obvious how great an influence Patricia Garry was in his life. Besides insisting that he make a habit of reading and working hard, she also taught him, “Charity starts at home / It’s good to spend some time alone / Say something positive, don’t just moan … If someone’s down, pick them up / If someone’s thirsty, give them your cup …” She also told him to have as many kids as he could. Garry has four. His only son is in New Zealand, and he shared the poem he wrote for him called, “I Truly Miss My Son Today.” In it, he declares he would walk barefoot across Europe and Asia and swim naked through the South China Sea for mere moments with him. He brings a drama to his work with enunciations and accented stops at final syllables. He adds speed and volume for urgency, deceleration and pauses for gravitas, and a lilt to rhythm.
Working with the Cassia String Quartet for several years now (not on tour with him), coupled with his dramatic inflections, Garry elevates poetry to the potent art form it is. The Yin-Yang of his wordsmithing and light, mood-enhancing music can be heard in “The Threads That Weave,” a video created for Manchester United and Nike. He cleverly uses weaving and sewing analogies for Manchester’s industry. The way he purposefully punctuates words with his Mancunian diction, the structure, ebb and flow of his recitation, the timbre of his voice, and the light music hovering in the background, make it mesmerizing. He is the Tesla of poets – engineered for a rocket-powered, yet smooth verbal ride that leaves the listener awed. These talents, and his work with inner city youth, led to an honorary Doctor of Education degree in 2015.
Now that the appetizers had been consumed, the main course was about to be served. The theme from S.W.A.T. (original series) blasted from the speakers for a minute or so, and the Bard of Salford himself, John Cooper Clarke, sauntered onto the stage with his signature skinny chic and now relaxed coif. He informed the audience that he carries a badge. Dr Clarke, as he prefers to be addressed since receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Salford in 2013, drew his scalpel of laser-sharp wit and went to work on the audience. He started with “The Official Guest List” of people too cheap to buy a ticket. Incidentally, all their names rhymed.
He moved on to musing about questions he can’t answer, like, what is occasional furniture the rest of the time? Periodic tables? Then there were questions he could answer. What is the difference between a Lada and a Jehovah’s Witness? You can shut the door on a Jehovah’s Witness.
Clarke’s poetic style is funny, unfiltered, and often voices things others are afraid to say. His not caring what others think made him a punk darling in the 70s. His performances are a treat: he’s a top tier comedian who zig zags between American mafioso impersonations, jokes, stories, observations, poems, and limericks. The wise guy persona may be linked to his poem “Evidently Chicken Town” being in the penultimate episode of The Sopranos, or his fascination with American society. Either way, he performed this poem with an extra helping of Jersey swagger. JCC has a talent for saturating himself with culture, particularly the North American variety. At one point, he told the audience not to worry, he’d be done in time for them to get home to watch Jimmy Kimmel, then barreled into “Beasley Street” at 700 mph, one of his early and poignant works about the poverty and seediness in Salford. He conjures misery with sound play such as, “Hot beneath the collar / An inspector calls / Where the perishing stink of squalor / Impregnates the walls / The rats have all got rickets / They spit through broken teeth / The name of the game is not cricket / Caught out on Beasley Street.” He updated it three decades later as “Beasley Boulevard” to account for change. Clarke joked that Thatcher may have gotten ideas from “Beasley Street,” which he wrote 18 years before she got in power.
He stated he’s had weight fluctuations like Luther Vandross. He suspected though that Luther’s were due to a combination of deep fried soul food and prescription sedatives, while his own were due to non-therapeutic drug use; then, he kick-started into “Get Back on Drugs You Fat Fuck.” Clarke refuses to own a smart phone or a computer; having known the allure of drugs, he prefers to stay away from the temptation of information, or the rewarding beeps and alarms of social media. He writes all his work by hand in notebooks which he travels with. Since he’s become a “doctor” though, he can’t read his own handwriting. Clarke shared a story of how he had gotten into minimalism. At one point, he was down to a George Foreman grill and a bottle of disinfectant. The Dalai Lama told him he needed to “get some shit.”
“She’s Got a Metal Plate in Her Head” from 1979, the more recent “I’ve Fallen in Love with My Wife,” and forty-year old “Orientation Course” all loosely covering different relationships were showcased. The latter he had recently rediscovered. Clarke stated it is about the inner workings of a man who spent his time at Kwok Man, an all-night Cantonese restaurant in Manchester. It is about a crush on an Asian girl who works in the family restaurant. Some lines from it are, “Crazy for that Chinese girl / Her brother knows where I live / I’ve seen him slice up a raw shark / with a non-serrated shiv … Crazy for that Chinese girl / Her dad’s a fabulous guy / If I ever put the move on her / I’m gonna have to die.” He assured us this was an unrequited love, in case his wife asks. He has run the gamut of relationships. He told the audience that when he got divorced he split the house with his ex. He got the outside.
At the end of the show he stayed on stage; he was “gonna milk it, but a staircase was involved.” Clarke mentioned Alex Turner being influenced by his work and making Clarke’s poem “I Wanna Be Yours” into a hit song for the Arctic Monkeys. He finished the evening by reciting it as the encore. Beneath all the biting commentary, his sarcasm, and mischievous frankness, Dr Clarke has the heart of a romantic – to a sadistic degree, as he says. He is a rare creature – smart, sharp, and sassy. An evening with him involves culture, commentary, and a generous dose of comedy. At 69, his performance was still one of those entertaining, laugh-out-loud evenings, that left a smile on the viewer’s face and an uplifted feeling, long after John Cooper Clarke had left the building.