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…
Okay I’ll level with you…
Not much time to get this done…
So will dispense with the normal nonsensical waffle and get straight down to business etc Etc EiTC…
Had you going there for a while though eh!
Another blessed weekend of music and other blissful activities culminating in two festivals in one (Sun) day.
Dibdab and EiTC paid a visit to the charming Pippfest in Dorking. A local festival with lots of live music and other really cool stuff going on – organised as part of a campaign to save Pippbrook house from being sold by the council on the private market and keep this cherished local landmark available for local community use.
Then before you knew it there I was with Guildford Lil at Guildford Station, from whence we made our way to Stoke Park where we met up with Rob, Carol and family and the Legendary Pidge.
(Always) The sun shines – on the righteous…
It’s always a risk giving a festival a title that includes the word sun. This was the experience when I saw Hugh play at the Forever Sun festival in Dorset where it forever rained and was blooming freezing…
So going to a festival called ‘Always The Sun’ made me reach for the wellies and judging by Saturdays weather we may have needed the sou’westers as well!
But, as luck would have it, here we were on a perfect sunny day.
Further luck was that Hugh’s performance was at 5.40 meaning I could catch his set and be tucked up with cocoa before 9.30! Result!
The ATS site had plenty going for it lots of great music, loads of attractions and some excellent grub. Lil and YT shared some vegan brownies, then a falafel and cup of tea later and Hugh was up…
Kicking off with Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit, the sound was spot on ticking all the boxes. Hugh’s material really suits the 3 piece treatment and the choice of Stranglers numbers were spot on too.
An awesome Sleazy gave way to the brilliant Beat of my Heart leading on to a sublime 2nd Coming. Then it was Badge next, Ooops sorry I mean God is a Woman, sounding great too.
Caz looked slightly concerned as Hugh kicked off Hanging Around at a breakneck pace but the concern soon faded as they stormed through with a flawless solo and all, they nailed it! And the crowd showed their appreciation, while Hugh showed his appreciation for my beard… (Really!)
Through Getting Involved, Babylon and Tramp all sounding absolutely spot on! Then special mention for Stuck in Daily Mail Land which was brilliant, Caz’s harmonic bass accompaniment on the main melody once more showcasing her musical gifts and really helping the song shine.
Then Hugh announced it’s time for that song, as the whole place got behind him for a flawless Always The Sun.
I want One of Those next which was nice but what I really wanted was Bad Vibrations…
More creative bass from Caz on Thrown Away which just works in this format. A sublime Under Her Spell before the grand finale of Nuclear Device which again they totally nailed!
What can you say really.
From the brilliant drums of Chris Bell to the superb Bass and BV’s of Caz Campbell, this format is cooking with Gas for the Hugh-meister!
And Hugh was just that! Masterful!
A great performance, great sound at a great festival…
And home in time for cocoa!
Blimey! here we go again… Not unlike, your London Bobbies and Buses… You wait for what could conceivably be called an eternity for a review… Then three come along at once… It never rains but it pours etc Etc EiTC… Oh well, here goes…
Hugh Cornwell – Union Chapel – 2-11-15.
A small article in The Times on Monday 2nd November said that Christians who are vocal about their faith are more likely to put their acquaintances off God than attract them to find out more about Jesus… Don’t mention the religious tracts and stick a gig on in a church and those with their own true belief will come… Even on a Monday!
The Hugh faithful know that you cannot convert with talk but on a foggy night in Islington the voice was there to speak for itself. But as it was a foggy Monday unsurprisingly the chapel wasn’t as full as it had been two years ago on a chilly Saturday. There was plenty of room on the pews meaning that everyone must have been able to get a good view towards the pulpit.
There was also an abundance of heating. Maybe even too much heat which combined with a hot chocolate and a Tunnock’s teacake (available from the handy kiosk at the back of the hall) could have been soporific but the hard seating counteracted any tendency to nod off.
Added to this were the excellent acoustics that let Hugh’s voice ring out. There were ten Stranglers songs performed before a half hour interval. Hugh started with Strange Little Girl, the first song penned as The Stranglers, and then followed with a song and anecdotes from each album up to Dreamtime.
A few sharp intakes of breath at the omission of 10 as people headed to the bar, tea bar or to the usher’s ice cream tray. Hugh, however, did have a plan and came back with Break of Dawn from Wolf, placing it neatly in chronological order before Man of the Earth. He then played a song from each of his subsequent solo albums finishing with a look to the future (and hints that an album is due next year) in the form of one of his newest songs, La Grande Dame.
Difficult to pick a favourite from the selection played. Second Coming followed by Tramp was very special. In trying to write other highlights I more or less find myself typing out the set list in its entirety. Outside Tokyo, Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit, Beat of My Heart, and Never Say Goodbye.
To mention that I would have preferred a different track from T&T to the one played (I Want One of Those, which I find a bit of a dirge) is a minor quibble and one that was rectified by the addition of Gods, Guns and Gays in the encore. The only track that didn’t work for me was Dagenham Dave. When I last saw Hugh play an electric set at Weyfest in September this was the track that I least enjoyed then too. For me it needs keyboards, no other substitute is acceptable.
By Hugh’s charming admission, following a few botched chords, he is a singer first and foremost and only took up the guitar to accompany himself. Did I mention his voice? It was spot on in the chapel. No point preaching to the unconverted but anyone who fell in love with the Stranglers based on any of the first ten albums really should experience hearing them sung by the original voice. Acoustic gigs might not be the answer to everyone’s prayers but this was the best that I’ve heard from Hugh.
Praise be. Go in peace.
Words: Gill Baglady. Photos: EiTC.
Hugh Cornwell The Union Chapel Islington Monday 2nd November.
As the yearly Hugh Cornwell Autumn Tour rolls into town, it is always a gamble as to what it is going to be; a full band tour or Hugh alone on his tod with an Acoustic Guitar. I am a big fan of His electric gigs, last year’s gig at The Brighton Concorde 2 was one of the best times I have ever seen him. I thought he was going to follow it through as he has been electric for most of the year. But this year it was an acoustic tour (these seem to becoming a thing of the norm in recent years). The Times I have seen him acoustic are 2006 Telford, 2008 Ronnie Scott’s, 2012 Bush Hall and 2013 Sale. So my 25th Hugh Gig will be at The Union Chapel a venue I have never been to before. Before the gig I had a Great time meeting fellow Burning Up Time Forumster John Cooper and his girlfriend Lynsey in the Legendary Hope and Anchor. A couple more people turned up of whose names escape me. At 7.30 me, John, Lynsey and co make our way to The Union Chapel. Inside is Matt Brown, Graham Flowers, Gill, Bill and Kat, time to take our seats!
Hugh comes on promptly at 8pm. Dressed in a suit that looks tailor made for him. He thanks everyone for coming and tells the Audience what to expect, a set of two halves – one from his Strangler days and one from his solo days…
He straps on his guitar and tells us a story about the first song The Stranglers ever wrote with Biochemist friend from Sweden Hans Wärmling, of course it was the brilliant Strange Little Girl. He spoke of his time in Sweden and Johnny Sox and said it was like his school of rock.
He then goes into Grip from Rattus Norvegicus, Dagenham Dave from No More Heroes, and the brilliant Outside Tokyo from Black and white. This is the first time I have ever heard him do this. Stories are told very quickly and The Raven Story was that the record company, wanted to fly a band member to Japan, First Class to approve a new hologram 3D sleeve. So Hugh flew from The UK to Japan, First Class. Outside a limousine was waiting for him to take him to the Japanese studio. He had a look at the sleeve and said “Yeah that looks alright” and went back to England. They wouldn’t do that these days as it would cost a fortune. The song played from the raven was Duchess. Onto the Stranglers Darkest period The Meninblack, Hugh got put in Pentonville prison for possession of Drugs. In Prison the only thing to read was the Bible. So Hugh Read it and when he came out started to work with JJ on the next album The Gospel according to the Meninblack. Of which the record company did not like, naughty Stranglers as Hugh Said impersonating someone from the record company “There are no hit singles on this record go back and make another”. A big surprise was in store for us in the shape of Second Coming my favourite of the gig.
Next up Hugh says “So the record company says – the next album there has to be a smash hit or you’re finished, finito! So we come up with Golden Brown, and that was a massive smash hit. But the important thing is to follow up one smash hit with another. The record company and me wanted to release Tramp. Brilliant I thought, two smash hits in a row that I wrote y’know I was more than pleased, but we went away and came back and JJ persuaded the band to release La Folie a song in French, that didn’t do very well at all” Tramp is played next.
The Stranglers leave Emi Hugh says, Every Mistake Imaginable as they are known by the band and move to CBS (Epic, which he also joked was English Product Ignored Completely! etc Etc EiTC) in 1982 and in 1983 they release Feline off which Hugh plays Never Say Goodbye, then No Mercy From Aural Sculpture and Always the Sun from Dreamtime follow which ends the first half of the set.
The second half of the set Hugh comes on and says “in 1990 I took a walk from The Stranglers, did various collaboration albums, but while I was still in the stranglers I released a solo album called Wolf and here’s a song from it Break of dawn”. (After which Hugh then played Man of the earth from 10, his last record with The Stranglers… etc Etc EiTC).
The solo Hugh set list I thought was a bit predictable (IMO) as he is usually more adventurous with it. First Bus to Babylon followed from the Wired album, my favourite of his solo set, from Guilty – Black Hair, Black eyes Black suit. Then from HIFI we get Lay back on me Pal, from Hooverdam Beat of my Heart, from Totem and Taboo I Want One of Those.
Hugh then says to follow the trend of releasing a solo album once every 4 years he has got the songs ready and is on the ball and plays a new song La Grande Dame. That finishes the second set.
Hugh comes on for the encore and explains there is a DVD called Anthology on sale from the acoustic tour in 2013 recorded at Aberdeen. On it there is a number for a competition to win a poster that Hugh found in his loft for the charity cricket match – The Stranglers VS the Media at Paddington in 1979. He will be doing a draw at the end of the tour so keep hold of it. One Burning Desire from Guilty, Gods Guns and Gays from Totem and Taboo, and he finishes of with the mariachi version of Golden Brown. At the end of the gig I buy the DVD and compilation album The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell and the single Under her spell CD2. I have a little chat with Hugh. Matt, Graham, Gill and See The Little Nuclei. Then it is time to make our way home. There is a strike on apparently. But I get home before midnight. Another good night out seeing Hugh!
Words and Photos: The Legendary Pigeon.
And finally your old mucker EiTC…
Gig Review – Hugh Cornwell – Union Chapel Islington – 2nd Nov 2015.
In the Pews with Hugh…
Sunday saw a real Pea-souper which kind of set us up for a gloomy Monday in foggy ol’ London Town. What with it being a school night and all, there just wasn’t that much to get excited about…
…Wait! Scratch that!
The sugar-tongs were set to cross the River Thames (the River Thames is cold!) and head through the central London evening rush into the wilds of the North (Islington to be precise) to spend an evening at church…
I stopped off en-route at the delightful Diwana in Drummond Street Euston for some nourishing sustenance, before getting back in the race with the other rats and eventually arriving at Union Chapel to meet up with Lil, Lefty and Andyw. Inside the church the flock had turned out en Masse, a healthy congregation indeed for a miserable Monday evening in November – including; Pigeon, Bat and Kill, Mike Aboud, MonikaJ (aka seethelittlenuclei) and Nell, Aldinblack and the Pharbours to name a few. The faithful gathered around the alter filling the pews in anticipation. And tonight the sermon was being delivered by none other than Hugh Cornwell!
Around the dot of 8ish the lights dimmed, the crowd buzzed and Hugh took the stage, where he proceeded to take control of the Sugar Tongs guiding us on a journey through time spanning some 40 plus years.
Kicking off with “the first song The Stranglers ever wrote” Strange Little Girl, Hugh then proceeded to weave his way through every record from both his Stranglers days and his Solo career. Choosing one song to represent each release, he interspersed these with tales and good humoured banter relating to each of these periods. Hugh comes across as warm, sincere, and funny while displaying a hint of humility and genuine appreciation towards the audience.
The set tonight was totally different to the previous acoustic tour in 2013, with some nice surprises. Highlights for me being too numerous but special mention to Second Coming, Outside Tokyo, Grip and Tramp from the Stranglers canon and Under Her Spell, Lay Back on Me Pal, Beat of My Heart and maybe, or maybe not, One Burning Desire (which according to Guilford Lil – Lefty said Pidge told him to tell her was definitely probably in the set, although I’m sure OBD was in there somewhere – etc Etc EiTC!).
Observation… While we’re on the subject of Hugh’s acoustic gigs, in my review of last year’s Electric performance at the Electric Ballroom, I mentioned that songs like Duchess and Grip didn’t seem to particularly work without the keyboards, while others like Straighten Out and Sleazy were on fire. Not so tonight! Grip was slowed down a little and with Hugh’s strong-arm strumming sounded perfect with an air of Velvet Underground about it. Duchess too was Top Drawer! etc Etc EiTC…
The sound tonight was great, with the acoustic sounding silky smooth in this large chapel (much better than the sound of two years ago). Hugh took a few false starts in his stride while joking with the crowd. While the melodic picking on his more intricate solo material was a sonic tonic for the lug holes! And the voice! Oh the voice! Despite appearing a little under the weather and chugging lozenges like no-ones business, it’s always a delight to hear Hugh sing and tonight was no exception.
Hugh Cornwell played at the Weyfest Festival in Surrey – Guildford Lil gives us the lowdown…
I was initially lured to Weyfest when the Stranglers played there in 2010. I was then so won over by this most civilised festival that I have been coming back every year since, seeing it as a chance for me to unwind and for my children to go feral. I purchased my ticket for this year back in October when none of the line-up had been announced. As the artists were gradually announced over the following months there were few that I knew and rather a lot that I had never even heard of. In mid-July came the announcement that The Troggs (yes, I’d heard of them) would not be able to attend and would be replaced by Hugh Cornwell. Bonus!
This isn’t a review of the entire festival but I have to mention that I went to see Inside Information play on the Old Kiln Stage. I was basing my decision on the flimsy connection to Hugh’s account of his time in Pentonville having the same title as the band’s name. I was surprised to see that the bass player was a former work friend of my husband’s. For a computer nerd he rocked pretty well and I stayed for several songs.
The other honourable mention of the weekend goes to the Charley Farley Sunday Four’s performance of Golden Brown. Always a delight and I am continued to be indebted to Mr Bloggs for passing on a recommendation to see them that he was given a couple of years back.
Weyfest was a little quieter this year than in previous years. This may have been down to a slight change to the weekend it was held which meant that the schools had already gone back but what the audiences lacked in numbers they continued to provide in enthusiasm.
At 18.20 on Saturday I joined the small group at the barrier of the Village Green Stage to enjoy the sound check and admire the Totem and Taboo banner that had been strung across the back of the stage. At 18.30 Hugh, Chris and Caz formally took the stage. They were well received and the audience swelled in numbers throughout the set. It was the familiar pattern of a solo song alternated with a Stranglers song. As expected T&T featured heavily (the title track, Stuck in Daily Mail Land, I Want One of Those, God is a Woman, Gods, Guns and Gays, A Street Called Caroll) with just Beat of My Heart thrown in for variety. Representing the Stranglers were Skin Deep, Dagenham Dave, Duchess, Strange Little Girl, Grip, Peaches, Straighten Out and an encore of Sleazy and No More Heroes.
The tunes were blasted out with energy and zest and received by the audience with gentle but keen, warm appreciation. Splinters were flying from the back of the stage and Chris finished up Daily Mail Land with about two thirds of one drumstick remaining. Hugh had bass levels tweaked at the beginning of the set and even JJ must have felt it during Peaches (although it was less prominent by NMH in my opinion). A Street Called Caroll didn’t pause before it was straight into Straighten Out. Was this truly a proper segue? A jury may decide in its favour another time.
Strange Little Girl produced the biggest crowd reaction when it started up. The Stranglers please note: no one was shouting for Golden Brown or Always the Sun and no one seemed to miss them. There were several calls for Nice and Sleazy and ultimately those punters were satisfied unlike the optimistic cry for Genetix from someone. Only a handful of Stranglers t-shirts had been in evidence during the day but along with them a lot of Weyfest regulars had chosen to wear their 2010 and 2013 t-shirts which bear the band name too. A friendly bunch. Hugh introduced songs at times and commented about how nice it was having a village green atmosphere but noted how cold it was “I was picking mushrooms last week, in August, not magic mushrooms, too early for those.”
A technical hitch almost lost us the encore that managed to get squeezed into the tight festival schedule (most of the bands appearing on the main Beekeeper’s Stage were denied an encore no matter how enthusiastic the audiences). Hugh returned to the stage to find his guitar strap was hanging off when he picked up the Telecaster. A quick search of the stage found the offending bolt (or whatever was required) and disaster averted. It was a short set, as expected, but the crowd left satisfied and I spoke with several people who were impressed.
Hopefully Hugh will return to Weyfest soon. Too much to hope for but Hugh Cornwell on Saturday and The Stranglers on Sunday? A girl can dream!
After a cold night I awoke to find that Chris Bell and Caz Campbell had pitched their mini camping corral next to my tent. I had to give in to temptation and have a chat. Chris confirmed that he was down to his last drumstick by the end of the set “must have been hitting something wrong” was his opinion. Meanwhile I can confirm that Caz still looks that good even early in the morning after a night in a tent, in case anyone doubted it, wf.
Gig Review – Hugh Cornwell – Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto Canada 28th June 2015
Maria Meli brings us this report:-
The Return of Hugh Cornwell
Hugh Cornwell has dabbled in biochemistry, acting, writing and dated various women, but his main and longest-term love is music. He returned to Toronto on June 28th to share that love. It was the second time in 18 months he was here, this time performing at The Horseshoe Tavern, where he also played when he was in The Stranglers. (The Horseshoe is a live music institution. First christened for performances at the end of 1947, the venue has hosted both Canadian and international acts over this time such as, Willie Nelson, Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Tragically Hip, The Blues Brothers, Talking Heads, Ramones, Danko Jones and The Rolling Stones.) On both tours, he would start with a song from his 2012 CD Totem and Taboo and move to a Stranglers’ song and alternate T&T with Stranglers tunes.
He took the stage at 10:00 pm with Steve Fishman, his North American regular touring bassist since 2009, along with Seve Sheldon, the drummer from indie band, The Wild Ones, amidst cheers from the crowd. They kick-started the night with “Totem and Taboo” the title track and first song from his latest CD. It was a good choice as it has an interesting rhythmic arrangement and a punch that gets one’s attention. Cornwell was on fine form and in excellent spirits as he rotated between old and new songs. Among the new, he included, “Stuck in Daily Mail Land,” “God Guns and Gays,” “I Want One of Those,” and “A Street Called Carroll,” the last three songs influenced by his stays in the USA. Carroll Street actually exists in Los Angeles and Americans still worship at the feet of great and powerful Consumerism. The American way of life is rife with religious fundamentalism, the right to bear arms versus the violence caused by guns, and gay rights. Cornwell was in the moment as he closed his eyes and at times enunciated dramatically as he almost forced the words out of his mouth. He also played his ode to the other half of humanity, “God is a Woman.” Missing from his set was “Love Me Slender,” another pervasive ideal from across the Atlantic about the infatuation with being thin.
In keeping with his buoyant mood, he delighted the audience with several upbeat Stranglers’ earworms, such as, “Skin Deep,” “Grip,” and “Straighten Out.” He may have been nostalgic, since he included songs about his ex-girlfriends – “Duchess,” “Strange Little Girl,” and debatably, “Golden Brown,” on which he handled the guitar solo quite well. He did have requests fired at him, and at one point, he asked calmly, “Do you mind?”
Cornwell was in a playful mood. Early on, before beginning a Stranglers’ song, he teased the crowd by telling them the next song was “No More Heroes,” then he and the band launched into “Dagenham Dave” instead. He bantered with audience members. After about four songs in, he asked people seated at the back of the club, if they were comfortable and whether he should order any food for them. He shared the tidbit that people in Scotland call him Shug (a diminutive for Hugh). A couple of songs later, he commented on the cold and rain the city was experiencing and how lately, it always seems to rain in Toronto during the Pride celebrations. Kayvon, a British ex-patriot, called out that he had brought the bad weather. Cornwell replied, “I brought it? I just came from Califor-nae-ay. It’s 100 degrees there and sunny.”
He was sporting a new drummer, who he said had come on with short notice (due to the untimely passing of Darius Minwalla). He asked the gathering whether Seve Sheldon reminded them of Animal from the Muppets. (He actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the frenetic drummer from the Muppet band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.) Sheldon, along with his wiry-haired, enthusiastic head banging and constant smile while keeping time, has talent. He learned a catalogue of songs in a short time, played them well and with gusto, and memorized the order, as there were no set lists taped to the floor.
Further evidence that the Cornwell of yore has resurged was his trademark lyric altering, which he did with “Peaches.” He asked, “Is she trying to get out of Toronto?” and he could think of worse places to be, like Mississauga, a nod to a boring city, almost a suburb on the western edge of Toronto.
The set lasted an hour and at 11:01 they left the stage. The crowd wasn’t having that. They cheered and clapped for more, so Cornwell, Fishman and Sheldon retook the stage. As Cornwell adjusted the strap for his guitar, various requests were volleyed at him, such as, “Nice ‘N Sleazy” and “I want another one of those.” Cornwell, ever the deadpan artist, scoffed.
First up was indeed “Nice ‘N Sleazy” about the Amsterdam Hell’s Angels. This was very well received. From there, they moved to “No More Heroes” in earnest, however, without JJ Burnel’s familiar bass pounding and digit dextrous intro, it seemed a little lacking. As the strains died down, Cornwell said they were going to move to a slower song next, and they did. “In the Dead of Night,” a nice little number that ends Totem and Taboo, ended the evening.
After an enjoyable performance Cornwell came out and interacted with the fans. He easily chatted with people, signed CDs and graciously posed for pictures with them. He seemed genuine and to be enjoying himself. Not all artists will interact with fans like this and it creates stronger loyalty on the part of the fans. Just two weeks before, a tour bus pulled up in the middle of the road in front of the venue where Paul Weller had played, fifteen minutes after the concert and he made a dash for it from a locked side entrance, before fans realized what happened. A few minutes later, his band was escorted by security as they too made a run for the bus. Some contrast. Fair play Mr Cornwell.
Gig Review – Hugh Cornwell, Hazel O’Connor, John Cooper Clarke – Electric Ballroom Camden Town – 4th December 2014.
Ships Log: Acting Captain – Elvis in The Clouds.
Following my temporary promotion in the light of The Captain being otherwise disposed, we assumed standard orbit around an inhabited Class M planet in the Terran System. Where I organised and headed up an away team to study the life forms therein.
We arrived to find a damp, dreary, dismal Thursday evening in Camden Town. After a quick reconnoitre we decided to transport back. However, due to a fluctuating build-up of Electro-magnetic interference affecting the operation of our transporters, our chief engineer pointed out that we may be stranded here indefinitely until this phenomenon subsided. So we made our best efforts to blend in…
Arriving at The Worlds End I joined SiB and Bjorn and before long we were in turn joined by Straightenout, Antro and Guildford Lil. After stopping off at the end of the pier for a cone of chips, we made our way to the Electric Ballroom. Where we met Mr & Mrs Bloggs and it was soon evident that there was a healthy turnout of The Family in Black.
Up first, John Cooper Clarke took the stage delivering a set of poems in his instantly recognizable Mancunian Cadence, punctuated with witty observances and sharp one liners. The audience lapped it up, being in the palm of his hand from first ‘til last!
Antro carried out a survey of the planets technological capabilities and was most encouraged with his findings which appeared to indicate an advanced pre-warp civilisation, adding that he wouldn’t mind one of their sound mixing desks for his collection.
Then Hazel O’Connor took the stage along with Claire Hirst Sax/backing vocals and Sarah Fisher Piano/backing vocals. Together this trio delivered a set which held us captive. Interlacing atmospheric sonic textures with material old and new including hits such as 8th Day and the delightful Will you. It is duly noted that the sound system of the Electric Ballroom did full justice to them, in providing a clear balanced mix with the piano, sax and voice crisp and clear at all times. And thirsty work it was for the crowd too. As, at the end of the set, a surge was seen heading in the direction of the bar.
The dulcet tones of the Latin/demo mix of T&T brought forward a smile while simultaneously heralding the imminent arrival of His Hughness.
Kicking off with a blisteringly awesome Totem and Taboo, starkly contrasting the aforementioned version. Followed by Skin Deep which was not too troubled by a complete loss of FOH sound, although the ship was soon righted in time for a bright poppy Stuck in Daily Mail Land.
A brief pause for Hugh to enlighten us with an explanation of the concept of a Stranglers sandwich…
…before he goes on to tell us this next one is about a bloke from Essex (Manchester’s likely too) and delivers a great rendition of Dagenham Dave.
Up next another from T&T I Want One of Those, evocative of the Rainy day it’s lyrics describe. Then a valiant effort to perform Duchess without one of its ‘key’ components. Before swerving back to Hoover Dam (informing us of his Mothers wish to charge the going rate for this body of work now) and serving up the fine slice of pop that is Beat of My Heart (and Antro Nods in approval).
Next up in the Super-Club Hugh/MiB sandwich is the classic – Strange Little Girl, always a treat to hear Hugh sing this and credit to bass player Caz Campbell for her creative melodic bass foundation here, allowing Hugh the space he really needs to add some sparkling guitar work. All held together nicely by the drum work of Chris Bell.
…Observation: – It’s nice that Hugh is happy performing The Stranglers material again. And it’s worth mentioning that the solo material in this set sits well alongside the classics and, in some cases, could be said to sound fresher and more urgent. The production of Totem & Taboo is totally based on live performance, with minimal or no overdubs. Subsequently, when this material is played live it represents a very close approximation of the recordings, notwithstanding changes of personnel (i.e. Caz/Steve) and progression of the songs themselves as they evolve. In contrast, while some of the classics stand up exceptionally well to the 3 piece treatment and almost always sound great with Hugh singing, others clearly have a keyboard sized hole in them with that particular missing elephant etc etc EiTC…
Then God is a Woman with its creamy bass followed up by Peaches and (for Bob) – is she trying to get out of Camden Town! And the excellent Gods, Guns and Gays with Chris once again taking a steady beat to the extreme while building his shed so hard it’s little wonder he hasn’t destabilised the core of the planet!
Up next Grip, which for me is one of the songs that doesn’t really work in this format, I’d have happily swapped this for the brilliant T&T Bad Vibrations (sadly missing tonight)!
Caz and Chris once again provide that solid platform for the master to perform with the great – A Street Called Carol, seguing niftily into a super punked-up version of set closer Straighten Out…
They return with the atmospheric Dead of Night. Which, in contrast to my prior ramblings, is Doorsy despite lacking the key ingredient, which it does excellently without (Thank you very much)!
Hugh then introduces a very special guest the Lithuanian (from Epsom) youtube artist Seethelittlenuclei (well known for her Stranglers covers) to duet with him for Souls. A brilliant moment, inspired and touching!
A super stonking and urgent Sleazy almost makes Tank seem a little tame by comparison (almost!).
Then Hazel, Sarah and Claire join in for the finale performance of Hanging Around, executed in a fine manner both vocally and musically with a super solo from Mr C.
Just then, the atmosphere cleared enough for our ship to get a transporter lock and beam us out of there!
N.B. at this point Lord London pondered as to if Elvis had technically left the building but as he was in fact beamed out, this has become a matter of philosophical debate among temporal historians of the period(s).
Thanks to all involved. Apologies for errors and omissions.
Photos courtesy of Andy Miller (Thank you very much Sir!)…