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.
Dispensing with the normal preamble on matters temporal, lest it become an almost perfunctory obligation… Besides, last I remember Mr Bloogs was in possession of the sugar tongs and using them to great effect. Both current and previous ramblings about time and other matters aside, let us begin at that place, which after all else is considered, we shall call the beginning or possibly the start, the outset, the get go, on your marks etc Etc EiTC…
The Stranglers/Therapy Glive Guildford 26th March 2018
Now much as I like to get out on tour, probably as much as the next Stranglers obsessive… Sometimes events conspire to reduce the possibility of such aspirations. Such has been the case with the Definitive Tour and yours truly. All of which makes the one date that I (did) do even more crucial.
In fact, it is my experience that this focus or one pointed awareness if you will, served to sharpen the senses and make this event appear greater than the sum of it’s whole (not bad for a Monday night in Guildford as they and in fact almost everybody else seems to say, so it must be true).
You can please some of the people…
With The Stranglers having such a vast back catalogue to draw from, it must make for a difficult job to narrow down the song selection to a 90-minute (or thereabouts) set. Personally, I think they do a great job of mixing it up. Also, with this being the only show for me this tour, (my) perceived experience of some of the material usually taken for granted was somehow more tangible and heightened. For example, on Peaches the quality of the musical structure and timelessness of this song really hit home. And the instrumental section of Walk on By was perfection in itself.
But what about the review?…
Having landed in the charmed hamlet of Guildford along with Bruv and Neph#2 we rendezvoused in India with Guildford Lil at a very busy but equally efficient Moloncho. Suitable sustenance consumed we went on to Glive where we encountered once more the drunken staircase and a full house of eager punters ready for the entertainment in black.
We caught the last couple of numbers of support act Therapy and they came across and went down well.
Suddenly the venue was crammed to the gunnels as the lights dimmed, Waltzinblack ensued and Bosh! Cufew! Fantastic opener, they nailed it. Ooh cool video and light show…
Both band and crowd appeared in good form and made for a most enjoyable evening. Highlights, the whole lot of course but to Narrow it down somewhat: Curfew, Harry, WoB, Bear Cage (clearly a live classic and hopefully a new mainstay for the set – anthemic crowd pleaser on the chorus front), Relentless, JLNOE and more…
New song Water stood up well, having already seen/heard a few of the social media clips, it was even better live. Interesting rhythmically (is this 6/8?) and melodically, it’ll be great to see how it evolves. There were some interesting guitar licks toward the end of the intro, it would be nice to hear these explored further or perhaps developed in to a mid-section encompassing or nodding at the outro… but once again further rambling, in short fab! Please let’s have more new stuff played live.
Time playing its tricks again we were at the point of bone-liquefying bass which could only mean NMH and subsequent home time!
Guest Review – The Damned Manchester Academy 31st Jan 2018
Due to Indian excursions and other committments, EiTC is yet to catch up with the Damned on their Evil Spirits Tour, hopefully this will change next week when they roll into the big smoke...
In the meantime sit back and enjoy a review from the Manchester gig from our guest: Greatkudu.
Well Well Well... Captain Kudu reporting from Sunny Madchester
(or was, as back in suburbs now). Down to brass tack's...
I haven’t seen The Damned since 2007, just been concentrating on “The Stranglers” to my musical loss, More about that in a bit. Support was the brilliant “Slim Jim Phantom” from The Straycats (just in case you didn’t know) his three piece band took us through a very enjoyable Rockabilly master class from 20.00-20.30, lots of “Straycat” songs with other classics thrown in like “Cmon Everybody” etc, a really enjoyable set from the slim one, rock on!
Moving on at 21.14 the intro tune started on the PA in preparation for “The Damned” and it was “Mars” which is part of “Holst” planets suite, this was also used by “The Stranglers” as their intro on the 1987 tour how strange.”The Damned” came on with a very atmospheric start with dry ice, really setting the scene, Dave Vanian’s mic stand lit up in fluorescent green, really cool. They came on stage to a big cheer, Dave Vanian came on last.
They kicked off with one of my fav songs of theirs “Wait For The Blackout” (from “The Black Album) a great start to a great gig and that’s being understated, as it was possibly one of the best gigs I have ever been to? From the first song it was just pure class from a band who are better than ever as a live band, they then played 3 more from “The Black Album” including one of my all time favs “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” a song giving full rein to Dave Vanian’s goth image and persona.
Before I go on, great to see Paul Gray back on bass and a great Madchester welcome he received on the first song with a pint of beer launched his way by some lovely person, luckily he seemed to dodge most of it but personally I would have smashed the bass over the beer throwers head (Waste of a good bass – eitc), it’s 2018 not 1976, yes years ago “The Damned” encouraged stuff like this, maybe the offender was stuck in a time warp? But Mr Gray being the professional that he is, just played on regardless.
The rest of the set was made up of songs from “Machine Gun Etiquette”,”Damned Damned Damned” and “Strawberries” including “Gun Fury” which isn’t played that much? I don’t think (I think 2010 was the last time I heard it live, eitc). There were also a few from “Phantasmagoria”, “Street of Dreams” and “shadow of love”. Also, 3 songs were played from the upcoming album “Evil Spirit’s” including the rather good new single (Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow – EiTC) plus “Evil Spirits” and “Devil in Disguise” (not a cover of The Elvis song) these other two were a bit faster than the single and sounded really high quality, for these two other songs the crew brought on a “Tablet” with the lyrics on, he didn’t need that for the new single “Standing on The Edge of Tomorrow” really love this song, it’s a grower and live the bass was far more meaty and while we’re talking Bass, a mention must go out to “Paul Gray” a fantastic Bass player, you could tell that the band were very happy to have him back, he was interacting a lot with the good Captain, not slagging “Stu West” the previous Bass Player but “Paul Gray” is one of the finest Bass players around, a great trebly sound but with light and shade too, he seemed to be enjoying being back (even though his hearing is shot to pieces,he uses a lot of protection to keep what he has left).
Moving on they played their biggest hit “Eloise” a song where again “Dave Vanian” can show of his fantastic baritone voice.
The last song was of course “Smash it up” and they wen’t off about 22.45 and people started to leave… there was a quite a long wait but The band came back on and finished with “Jet Boy Jet Girl” with the Captain on lead vocals, great when you think it’s over and it’s not!
Now to sum up the only negatives were; of course my personal favs the beer throwers, About 3 or 4 pint’s seemed to be thrown, I just got a few drops,why waste good beer? or maybe the beer tasted of piss, still at least the audience mostly seemed ok, quite a few Mohicans at the front.
And now for the positives; possibly one of the best gigs I have ever seen, just fantastic,the whole band were firing on all cylinders. The Star of the show is “Dave Vanian” a totally unique character with one of the best voices in music ever in IMHO, the man is just so cool in his black frock coat and shades, a really theatrical performer, he stalks the stage like victorian spectre, then to compliment him you have the Captain a tacky dresser who is an amazing guitarist and has great banter with the crowd and is actually funny, great to hear him sing a couple of songs, on drums the power house drumming of “Pinch” but he also has the light touch, did some sublime tom and cymbal work, I’ve already mentioned “Paul Gray” and last but not least the barking “Monty Oxymoron” as mad as a hatter but a fine musician and lovely bloke. Sound was excellent too and also the stage set and lights, they create such a unique atmosphere, so in all a great night and, now I am going to get shot down here but I actually think “The Damned” are better live than “The Stranglers” these day’s, maybe it’s because I haven’t seen “The Damned” for a few years? But the set was more interesting, they didn’t play the obvious songs and they have the original singer, they also interact with the audience so well, it seems they actually appreciate the crowd, I know it’s a different style of music but i have to be honest I think they are better live at the present time. I know its sacrilege to say that on here (Tsk tsk! etc Etc EiTC), I will see “The Damned” again next week in shitty (Shoorlie knott eitc) “Southampton”.