Triple Review – Hugh Cornwell – Acoustic – Union Chapel, Islington – 2-11-15.

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…

Ladies first!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Over…

Words: Gill Baglady.
Photos: EiTC.

Legends Next…

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Over…

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…

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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!

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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.

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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!).

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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…

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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.

Top Stuff!

Over…

Words and Photos: EiTC.

Bonus:

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