Friday, 11 October 2019

1,156 GAZ BROOKFIELD, B Sydes, Will Davies, Swindon The Victoria, Thursday 10 October 2019

Gaz Top! (the older amongst you might get that reference…!) This was an auspicious occasion, as tonight marked my 23rd time of seeing Gaz Brookfield “live”, either in his solo acoustic guise, or with his excellent Company Of Thieves band in tow, thereby supplanting my 90’s-00’s “live” faves, the Mighty Seafood, atop my “Most Seen” live act list. Move over Messr’s Line, Hendrick and co., there’s a new leader in town! And in town indeed, for Gaz’ Autumn tour promoting new album “Lostfolk” inevitably included a date in Swindon (unfortunately on a school night at the 18+ Vic venue, so Logan couldn’t’ join me; he’ll have to wait for Salisbury next month for his Gaz fix!). Said record is an absolute corker as well; continuing the forward momentum from last album “I Know My Place”, “Lostfolk” is an utterly accomplished (dare I even say, mature…) body of work, featuring musings on the relentless march of time, mental health et al, as well as the usual buddy boy drinking songs, set to some relentless and incendiary powerpoppy punk rock (with a tad, nay, a soupcon of folk thrown in, of course). Easily his best work, I had to hear this “live” with a full band, so I snapped up a ticket for his December SWX full band show, as well as tonight (and Salisbury with Logan)!

But this one first; I headed up the hill for 8ish, running into Dave Franklin and meeting Rich and Ady, whence we 4 put the world of rock’n’roll to rights (of course). Wandered into the backroom venue (following Linda’s lusty bellow heralding the first act!) for opener Will Davies of The Flour Babies. Been meaning to check out his band properly for some time but we just keep missing each other, it seems… anyway, solo Will was a hushed, introspective prospect, with some glacial acoustic Americana which early doors recalled “Fables”-era REM and Sparklehorse’s quieter moments, then later on, the likes of Death Cab For Cutie! Small wonder then that the sole cover was an obscure Modest Mouse number, followed by an original which, according to Will, ripped said number off! Thematically, lots of lovelorn material delivered in an understated, conversational voice which gave the impression he’d been through the wringer a bit and maybe just needed a hug. Anyway, good start and I promise (once again!) to check out Flour Babies properly!

Gaz’ tour support Ben “B-Sydes” was next; Mr. Franklin had introduced us earlier and I’d commented on his “All Roads Lead To Frome” set a couple of years back (gig 1,036), which I found enjoyable if a little low-key. Well, straight from the outset Ben seemed determined to prove me wrong tonight, with a considerably more overt, upbeat and dynamic set. His second number (“about stupid decisions, as my life is held together by [them]”) kicked in with a Bragg-esque “New England” riff, segueing into a plaintive yet strident Dashboard Confessional delivery. “This Used To Be My City”’s understated woah-oh’s were the exception rather than the rule tonight, as this set bristled with upbeat, almost emo-esque numbers, delivered in Ben’s heavily nuanced vocals, which reminded me a bit of Placebo’s Brian Molko (!). At one stage he hopped off the stage and handed me his pick to play the last chord of a song (!!); on another occasion he paused a number midway through to pithily comment to a couple of unwelcome chatty Cathys, “I know the chords, I’m just waiting for people to shut the fuck up!”; and another rousing choral singalong was the feature of set highlight “The Desperate Dance”. Another emo-lite gallop concluded a startling and splendid support set. Well done Ben!

A quick chat with Ben as well as Gaz (manning the merch) as I bought Ben’s CD, then I took my spot down the front, house left for a change, for Gaz. Opening with “Pen To Paper”, his wry musings on writers block (!), he then commented on the “semi-circle of doubt”, the empty space near the front of the stage. Oddly for a Vic Gaz gig, this remained relatively unoccupied throughout, only myself and (later) Ed and Linda daring to get that close. No matter, title track “Lostfolk” was next up, Gaz giving it his usual full-on passionate delivery, all energy and attitude. Happily (for me at least), Gaz found space for ALL the numbers off the new album tonight (despite an earlier comment of “don’t you hate it when you see a band with a new album out and they just play the new stuff?”) as well as a smattering of old faves such as the enthusiastically-received “Tale Of Gunner Haines” and the intense roar of “Black Dog Day”, which had segued directly in from similarly-themed newie “Afterthought”. Before this early double, Gaz had promised to, “get the miserable shit out of the way early so we can concentrate on enjoying ourselves,” and was true to his word; slow-burn newie “Oalaero” had an entertaining intro chat about Gaz’ search for a pedal steel player for the CD version, which then inexplicably diverted into a discourse on the Vic’s blokes’ loo décor (“the then landlord asked us regulars if we had any spare porn! This was pre-internet days – spare porn, what’s that?”), a punky “Uneducated Guess” was breathtaking and brilliant, Gaz’ take on Frank Turner’s similarly themed “1933”, and after the almost melancholy “Just Another Day” finished the set, Gaz commented, “I’m not going offstage [to come back on again for the encore] as it’s just a cupboard – there’s no strippers or cocaine!”. A venomous “I’ve Paid My Money” was an encore highlight, before Gaz took to the dancefloor for final number “Great Minds Drink Alike”, conducting the singalong with Ben Sydes filling in for Jake Martin’s lines. A great way to end another great Gaz set!

It occurred to me that this 23rd time needed noting, so Gaz happily posed for a pic with me, before I bade farewell and headed off. A new leader, and with 2 more “live” Gaz outings before Christmas, he’ll be out of sight by New Year. And a well-deserved accolade for the Top Man Gaz!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

1,155 THE SPIELBERGS, The Belishas, Bristol Louisiana, Thursday 26th September 2019

Third of 3 in 5 days bucked this recent trend of 80’s favourites with a new band – Oslo, Norway’s The Spielbergs. Another that I owe John Robb’s “Louder Than War” publication for, an interesting review earlier this year led to my checking out some of their stuff on YouTube, then picking up their debut “This Is Not The End” CD, which quickly became one of my favourites this year, replete with powerful grungy guitar, occasional urgent frantic pace and some strained, high pitched Mac-from-Superchunk-alike vocals as it is. As if Seafood or …Trail Of Dead had a raucous knock-down, drag-out fight with Manchester Orchestra or first-album Nothing, perhaps, but either way a splendid noisy listen, and a promising prospect “live” in a small venue like Bristol Louisiana!

So, off I did trot, skirting around the building site that Temple Meads seems to interminably pass for, grabbing the last street parking slot outside the Louie and popping in just after 8. Missed openers Lessons, therefore, but I popped up to the sparsely attended upstairs venue, saying “hey” to the ubiquitous Jeff, then checking out next band up, The Belishas, on at 8.30. Their opener (imaginatively title “Opener” on their set-list!) kicked off like Gaslight Anthem doing a cover of Titus Andronicus’ sprawling epic “The Battle Of Hampton Roads”, all layered and seething anthemic guitar, before diverting into a full-on punk rock assault. Vocalist Ewan, sporting a hideous brown suit a clear 3 sizes too big (!), nonetheless had the style and swagger of a young Pete Doherty, hopefully with more substance and without the drug and reliability issues (!). An early “Dorian Gray” (introduced as, “for your favourite narcissist!”) was a fast-paced 90’s indie rock pop blast redolent of Annie Christian (to these ancient ears, at least) with other numbers mining a similar dissonant and menacing seam to the zeitgeisty Fontaines DC and Murder Capital, and a couple of mid-set ones feeling looser-limbed and harmonically Britpoppy. All in all, however, a cracking set, with the bolshy recent single “Chlorine Maureen” (excellent title!) and next single “Foreign Policy” late highlights. Great openers; Ewan had introduced most numbers with, “this is [Song X], please enjoy…” and I did indeed, no messin’!

Some brief compliments with a moist Ewan afterwards (I always appreciate a man who sweats profusely for his art, me) and a break before the main event. The Spielbergs took the stage to a smattering of curious folk at 9.30, easing into the laze-rock Teenage Fanclub-like groove of opener “Five On It”. Initially following the album’s running order, next up was my favourite cut from said record, the irresistibly hooky “Distant Star”, by which time I was shaking a leg down the front and singing the “we could be… PERFECT!” hook back to the impressively maned vocalist Mads. The sound was initially a little thin on guitar, however, but the hooks and the band’s effervescent attitude still carried them through. “We had a day off in Bristol today,” remarked Mads; “great food, went bowling, got fucked up!”

As a thankfully fuller guitar sound kicked in, the jagged guitar lines and backwards drumming of “Bad Friend” recalled Biffy Clyro, no less, with “NFL” proving this band aren’t one trick ponies with some absorbingly morose, slower burn shoegaze, which then built to a faster crescendo. “4AM” was once again hooky heavy powerpop, making this old guy think of Redd Kross or even El Nino, and a swift 45 minutes set was concluded with a frantic, Seafood-like “We Are All Going To Die”, all angular and drum propelled, with a thrillingly noisy and lengthy climax. Fine stuff indeed!

Doorstepped drummer Christian for a set-list afterwards (they didn’t use one – all in their heads!), thence enjoying a nice chat with the man about the road, where to holiday in Norway (the train from Oslo to Bergan was his recommendation) and Norwegian football, Jan Aage Fjortoft inevitably cropping up in the conversation! Grabbed a mad pic with his bandmates, sat outside, on my way out, then a swift drive home for just after 11, after a fine showing from not 1, but 2 promising bands!

Friday, 27 September 2019

1,154 SPEAR OF DESTINY, Feather Trade, Swindon Level 3, Tuesday 24th September 2019

Another trip down Amnesia Avenue tonight, another 10th gig for a band whom I’d seen multiple times in a condensed period in the 1980s… this time it’s Spear Of Destiny, Kirk Brandon’s polemic rabble of dark, sinister anthemic post-punkers, whom I’d caught 5 times in 4 months (!) starting with their support slot on U2’s coronation “Longest Day” gig in June 1985 (gig 29!), then a further 4 times down the years. A poorer showing on their Singles Tour in 2008 (gig 754) was nonetheless followed by a couple of considerably better and more redeeming support showings with Stiff Little Fingers, so I was considering popping down to Bristol to catch their “One Eyed Jacks” 35th Anniversary tour there; then they announced a gig at my old stamping ground Level 3, thus saving me a journey! Kirk Brandon’s strident operatic tones in the confined spaces of Lev? Hmmm, he might just take the roof off on one of his prolonged high notes…!

Drove up and met the Big Man at 8 in the Rolly for some entertaining rock chat, not only with him but with Dave from local alt-rock combo Abstraction Engine (whom I’d initially mistaken for Sheer Music impresario Keiran Moore!) and his mates. Eventually took a wander downstairs to catch the last knockings of support Feather Trade and their gloomy and doomy, bass-dominated grungy final number. Spent awhile spotting old faces from punk days, including being introduced to Claire (a friend of a friend of Rich’s – small world!) whom I recognised as the “Punk Queen” from late 70’s U18 Brunel! My old friend Lynn was there too… Kirk Brandon’s in town, so of course she is!

We were half expecting a second support of Ex Simple Minds man Derek Forbes and his band The Dark (a pun on Hooky’s band The Light, perhaps?) but none was forthcoming, so when the intro music to “The Sweeney” piped up at 9.45, it was Spear Of Destiny who took the stage to a 2/3rds full Lev bottom area (the top balcony closed off completely). Not the best of turnouts, particularly for a band I’d seen headline Hammersmith Palais and Bristol Colston Hall and rock Wembley Stadium on a U2 support, but Kirk and his cohorts played to the people who made the effort rather than lamenting those who didn’t, with a fully-charged, powerful and strident set. The drum dominated stomp of opener “Rainmaker” set the tone for some dark, doom laden yet potent post-punk anthems, none more soaring and terrace chant than “Young Men”, which was preceded by Kirk welcoming us with a jaunty, “Hello Swindonia! Welcome to One Eyed Jacks’ 35… we don’t quite know what we’re doing, but whatever…”

An entertaining run-through of my second favourite SOD LP (sorry, I preferred “World Service”, but “OEJ” is still a good ‘un) ensued, with Kirk’s enduring high-pitched, strident and almost operatic voice the commanding and dominant feature, keyboards and occasional sax providing a textural feel – much like contemporaries The Psychedelic Furs, SOD were never a really guitar riff-heady band… By the rolling dancefloor power anthem “Liberator” I was wishing I still had the knees I had in the 80’s (!), and a couple of numbers later I was down the front anyway with the self-proclaimed SOD “scum” (Kirk, following a welcome anti-Tory tirade, having given us a choice as to which world we wanted to live in – Eton or scum)! “Attica” was a jagged, almost funky jaunt, yet the best number of the “OEJ” run-through for me was “These Days Are Gone”, a windswept and expansive lament, excellently and moodily delivered.

A 6-song (!) encore featuring some new material was nonetheless bookended by tonight’s highlights; firstly a rocking, sneering “Land Of Shame” (by which time Lynn was down the front with me), then a fitting set closer with the haunting keyboard intro to SOD’s best number, “World Service”, Kirk revelling in the reception from the by-now packed dancefloor, and leading the crowd in a lengthy singalong of the “I hear music” hook. The band left the stage at the end of a very fine 1 3/4 hours, leaving Kirk to take the applause, promise Swindonia that “it’s not over yet” (a veiled reference to next year perhaps, when “World Service” turns 35?) and offering us “much love” I’ve had my ups and downs with Mr. Brandon in the past, but tonight he was a star, and this was certainly as good as I’d seen Spear since their 80’s heyday. As I remarked to Lev owner and till-girl (!) Violet on the way out, on this form you can invite Spear Of Destiny back anytime!

1,153 THE CHESTERFIELDS, Rodney Allen, Dai Nichi, Bristol Louisiana, Sunday 22nd September 2019

Hmmm, where to start with this one, on a night where old ghosts – sometimes literally! – seemed to crawl out of the walls…

The Chesterfields for me epitomised the mid-eighties C86 movement, their fresh-faced, buoyant and effervescent ramshackle pop making them the archetypal zeitgeist-catching DIY/fanzine band du jour. I’d seen them 9 ace, mainly alcohol-fuelled times between 1987 and 89, usually with the not-so-big-back-then Big Man by my side – or at the bar getting the round in…! Fluid of line-up, a split between founder members and co-singer-songwriters Simon Barber and Dave Goldsworthy heralded a slow demise for the band, and the tragic death of Goldsworthy in 2003 – victim of an apparent hit-and-run – seemed to put paid to there ever being a 10th time “live” for me. However, news of an ersatz Chesterfields line-up, put together by Barber and featuring Andy Strickland of 80’s contemporaries the Caretaker Race, playing the 2016 International Pop Overthrow Festival, put them back on my watchlist, then finally a proper tour brought them home to Bristol – well, fairly close to their actual home of Yeovil – so I was there, again with The Big Man by my side!

Jason joined us too, so I picked the boys up after a Brixham weekend, getting the drinks in at The Louisiana’s downstairs pub on arrival. We largely decided against checking out openers Dai Nichi, which worked well for us, as the couple of numbers we did see were horribly amateurish. One time the diminutive vocalist apologised for a mid-song ricket, and I thought, which one… From the ridiculous to the sublime, however, with main support Rodney Allen. The “one man-cub and his guitar” of the Tropic support, waaaay back in 1987 (gig 83!), he now sports Reed Richards greying temples but still had the enthusiasm, charm and Weller/Bragg-esque delivery of yore. The achingly yearning kitchen sink drama of “Tell Me On Saturday”, the bolshy “That’s Entertainment”-alike observational “HappySad” and the fun flourish of “The Moped Song”; all familiar numbers from those 80’s days, that he apparently wrote, “when I was 16, and I’m now a man of 50-something!” Some fun, flippant chat too, but the most memorable moment was a bouncy yet poignant reading of The Chesterfields’ “Love Mountain”, for “the one person who couldn’t be here – Davey”. Nuff said.

Great stuff, so I stopped back after a loo break for a brief chat with Rodney, who was downstairs chatting to a young man with naggingly familiar features… I complimented him on his Davey tribute, and he then knocked me sideways by introducing his friend with, “this is Joseph!” Davey’s son, subject of Davey’s “Hopes For Lauren Or Joseph” song, and a man whom we actually toasted the birth of, at the Kentish Town Forum gig (no.100) back in May 1988! No wonder those features seemed familiar… Thankfully, he took my surprise, and subsequent tributes to his dad, with great equanimity. Chip off the old block, indeed…!

Back upstairs and in a spot near the front for The Chesterfields, tuning up onstage. Simon Barber, sole remaining original member, now bald, bearded and be-suited, led his charges gently into opener “Shame About The Rain”, the version slower and almost textural in comparison to the plaintive jangle-pop version of yore. Indeed, early doors this seemed the norm, the band slowly feeling their way into the material, the gig vibe feeling slow-burn and understated despite its’ near-hometown status. “We’re The Chesterfields,” announced Andy Strickland, “we have to say that as we played in Birmingham and Spear Of Destiny [our Tuesday hosts, ironically enough!] were next door – we had some strange people in the house!”

“We’ve had a wonderful week [this being the last date of a 7-date tour] and a wonderful way to remember Davey,” commented Simon before “Girl On A Boat”, the first number they wrote together. Andy then took lead for a Caretaker Race number, before “Fool Is A Man” really saw The Chesterfields step up a gear, with added toughness and conviction finally aligned to their Byrdsian jangle and upbeat bounce. The sharp descending riffery of “Last Train To Yeovil” saw Simon reference the “Milk Train” (caught that myself a few times, back in the day!); “Johnny Dee” was an absorbing slow burner, really taking flight into the final chorus, and an almost mature-sounding “Completely And Utterly”, more melodic and less brash than the original, ended the “set”, although the band ploughed onwards, through to final encore “Sweet Revenge”, sung by Simon’s brother Mark Barber, who also saw time with The Chesterfields. By that time I was bopping down the front, and, rather surreally, shoulder to shoulder with Joseph and signing lustily along to his dad’s songs. I hope Davey was looking down on us and grinning…

Hung fire afterwards for chats with Mark and Simon, who remembered us from those 80’s days, which was nice, then home after a fine way to finally get to my 10th with The Chesterfields. Although, am I wrong to think that my enduring memory of this one will be meeting Joseph and seeing his dad’s features staring back at me? RIP Davey Chesterfield; you’re missed, but thank you for an excellent musical legacy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

1,152 CHRIS WEBB, Swindon The Tuppenny, Thursday 12th September 2019

The acoustic start to my 2019 “Autumn Dance Card” continues with my impromptu attendance at a solo performance by a man I’m more familiar with as part of Gaz Brookfield’s Company Of Thieves… unlike fellow Company man (that’s better than saying “fellow Thief”, right?) Nick Parker, I’d not been privy to Chris Webb’s solo outings, apart from his slot opening for Gaz at the famous “Logan onstage” Southampton gig last February (gig 1,073), a gig where he also helped Logan during his onstage antics, sharing his mic with my son during “Diabete’s Blues”. Been meaning to see him “live” since, just not had the chance (T’uh, excuses, excuses)… This one also seemed a little dicey, given that I was working through a laundry list of jobs in preparation for a family weekend in Brixham supporting my crazy wifey while she swam the Dart 10K Event, but luckily I manages to squeeze in a couple of hours to pop “Up the Tupp”…

Arrived just before 8.30, literally minutes before the man was due onstage, so had time to grab a drink, exchange pleasantries with Dave Franklin, then take a pew near the front for Chris’ performance in front of a score of keen local folk/acoustica fans and curious Thursday night punters. A gently meandering, mostly instrumental opener eased us in gently, then Chris commented on his having been compared vocally to Squeeze’s Glen Tilbrook (hmmm, don’t see that myself), which at least provided an excuse for an early and rather splendid cover of Squeeze’s joyously wordy “Up The Junction”. Great stuff!

“Wordy” in fact was probably a suitable summary for Chris’ performance tonight, albeit in the best possible way… Chatty, urbane and relaxed throughout, he told stories of other alleged comparisons as lead-ins to well-chosen covers (John Martin and Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, apparently), deftly avoided falling into the trap of telling Gaz stories to the Swindon audience, yet praised us as a “lovely” crowd and “Home from home – unlike Aylesbury, that was awful!”. His own material was generally less immediate and more complex than either of his Company bandmates, often requiring either some motormouth gabbling to fit all the words in (viz. the splendid “Heat”), or some seriously intricate finger-picking to cram all the notes in! Works for me, I’ve always been a fan of songs which have more verbiage than they can comfortably hold – The Hold Steady and early Del Amitri (a fairly valid comparison for Chris tonight) being enduring faves of mine…!

A 2-set showing with a break, this, with “Breakfast” opening the second set, Chris suggesting we check Youtube to, “find the video [for this] and watch me dance around like a twat!” “Bittersweet” (introduced as, “an arsey song,” which Chris wrote after a bad trip to Glasgow) featured a packed and undulating harmony line, “Parade” was more wistful and pastoral, oldie “Singing To The Sea” was almost Spanish-guitar influenced, and “Let’s Crash A Ceilidh” racier and the most Gaz-like of his offerings. But my favourite of the set was the upbeat and insistent melody of the closing “Compass”, which was preceded by Chris giving us a flash of his new “compass” gig socks!

So, overall a very entertaining way to spend a Thursday evening, and a prompter for me to check out Chris “live” more often (maybe after the new album – being mastered soon! – drops). As for comparisons? Well, Tilbrook, Martin, Hannon… you know what, with his dextrous guitar work, complex yet melodic material and laconic, laid-back yet chatty and voluble delivery, when I listen to Chris Webb I just hear… Chris Webb!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

1,151 RICHARD JOBSON, Bruce and Jamie Watson, Bristol St. Georges Hall, Tuesday 3rd September 2019

An intriguing way to kick off a packed and ever-evolving Autumn Dance Card, this; something a little different from a recent “live” favourite! My first real musical loves, anthemic Scots punks The Skids, had barrelled a swathe through my recent gigging days with epic and unforgettable performances since their 40th Anniversary reunion in June 2017, not the least being a cracking gig in Gloucester earlier this year (gig 1,124). At that one, it felt as if The Skids were in the process of winding down operations for the time being (a June slot at the Albert Hall on the Pete Shelley memorial gig notwithstanding), and a subsequent acoustic album and Richard Jobson solo tour was announced as a result. Acoustic Skids? Hmmm… Nonetheless intrigued, I looked into tix for this St. Georges gig, remembering the excellent acoustics in this former church hall seated venue, blanched a little at the £47.50 front row ticket price but thought, better that than pay half that for halfway back, and subsequently discovered said price included meet and greet! Looking a bit better value now, methinks…!
A 5.45 start to this social session necessitated an early departure straight from work; I was buoyed to note all the traffic was coming out of Bristol rather than in, so chanced my arm up Park Street, finding a parking spot directly outside the venue. Result! So, in for the meet and greet with a small handful of aficionados; Jobbo happily remembered me (and my son Logan, absent tonight!) from the Oxford meet and greet 2 years ago, complimented my write-up (I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!) and I was able to show him the letter I’d written to “Smash Hits” as an indignant 14 year old fan defending his honour. Bruce and Jamie Watson, Jobbo’s guitar wingmen tonight, also remembered me, and a convivial time passed by in conversation with the performers, fellow punters and merch man/ tour manager Gordon.
Grabbed a drink in the new atrium, bolted onto the side of this venerable old venue, before taking my front row seat, house right, for the “performance”. A larger stage than I’d recalled from previous visits, and proper seats too, not church pews! Not a sell-out, so back-row punters were encouraged to come forward to make for a more intimate gathering. Bruce and Jamie came onstage at 10 to 8 for a couple of warm-up numbers (one a Tex-Mex galloper, the other a more poignant number, which Bruce introduced as the last number he’d written with Stuart Adamson… He then introduced Jobbo onto the stage…
Straight from the off Richard Jobson was his usual voluble and articulate self, commanding your attention with his stories and songs. Explaining tonight’s format, the plan being to give the lyrics more emphasis through these interpretation, he also mentioned a mid-set break; “some of you might need it – it’s a Bruce thing!” “Hurry On Boys” started the proceedings, the singalong hook still as powerful and resonant stripped back, a couple of newies from the recent album following, each benefitting from not only this interpretation, but also from extensive intro explanations from the Great Man.
Tonight being billed as “Songs And Stories”, both were balanced perfectly. Jobbo touched on his childhood epilepsy and his introduction to music by his brother, an early love of Bowie teaching him it’s OK to be different, before a haunting and beautiful “Animation”; he joked about Big Country’s mid-80’s success throughout (tongue-in-cheek, I hope!), juxtaposing this with the ill-fated final Skids album “Joy”, before a baroque, folky “Fields”, and a lengthy story regarding U2 and Green Day’s version of the subsequent “Saints Are Coming” saw us into the break at 9. Ten minutes later he was back, delivering a chilling acapella “The Band Played Walzing Matilda” in his commanding, dark and resonant voice, before throwing the evening open to some Q&As. This prompted a brilliant story about him and Adamson motorcycling down to London from Dunfermline in the snow to buy some leather trousers (!), hanging out with Sid Vicious and attending the first Siouxsie And The Banshees gig as a consequence; gobbing on a Nolan sister on Top Of The Pops (!!); and the sheet joy of hearing “Charles” played on John Peel’s radio show, before an excellent version. I got a question in (about old Skids fans introducing their sons to the band and bringing them along), before an unexpected “Castles In Spain”, a single from Jobbo’s underrated post-Skids project The Armoury Show, together with enough information about his band members to suggest that project was ill-fated at best… Musically, the penultimate “Woman In Winter” was probably my highlight of the night, the mournful tones of the harmony weaving an eerie atmosphere, before the inevitable “Into The Valley” ended a startlingly entertaining 2 hours.
Off at the end for an unencumbered drive home, reflecting on this different interpretation of songs I know so well. The hallmark of great material, I always say, is seeing it seamlessly adapt to different interpretations, and that being the case The Skids oeuvre is quality indeed. Also, Richard Jobson once again proved himself to be a frontman and raconteur of rare and unique talent. Different, but another breathtaking evening from my first musical loves - or at least their main man!

Saturday, 31 August 2019

1,150 RAZE*REBUILD, Swindon Rolleston Arms, Saturday 24th August 2019

A late shout, this particular gig, despite it featuring a pretty firm staple on my gig “Dance Card”, namely Swindon’s finest purveyors of strong-armed, hard-rocking blue collar millennial punk rock, Raze*Rebuild… the lateness of my decision was down to this gig falling on the last day of our Summer family holiday in Cornwall, a superb but completely rammed week of sightseeing, Eden Projecting and Adrenalin zipwiring. A hectic time, then, so I wasn’t sure I’d have any energy left for a Raze gig; however a swift drive back with, amazingly, no traffic holdups, got us back to the ‘don in more than good time for me to sit and chill awhile before setting off for this one. My 18th Raze*Rebuild gig overall in little over 3 years, putting them a clear 4th on my “most seen bands” list… let’s do this!

Donned shorts and kneestraps as usual and hit the venue just after 8.30, catching up with fellow Raze uber-fan Paul Carter and also Pete Monkey, whose rabble-rousing punk combo 2 Sick Monkeys were headlining tonight, and chilling outside in the warm late Summer evening. We were also joined by various Raze folks and friends, including crazy Jon, our late plus-one from May’s Spanish Love Songs/ Pkew Pkew Pkew Exchange gig (gig 1,136), who’d been to Twickenham for the rugby with his mate and was in entertainingly bizarre and profane form. Eventually the witching hour arrived and Raze were pretty much ready for the off about 20 past 9, so I joined the throng (which by now included Shuffle entrepreneurs Ed and Colin) inside the pub for galloping opener “Burden Of Youth”. Not much room for me to rock out as usual, with too many folks walking between my vantage point and the window-located stage to get to the bar, so I contented myself with some vigorous swaying to Raze’s blend of fist-pumping anthemic Springsteen rock and Bob Mould-esque sheet metal popcore. Then there was the sound…

Si had called for more vocals in the mix during third number, “Kat I’m Sorry”, before really dialling up the stentorian roar himself, totally belting out this huge, stately power ballad (and I mean that in the “Taillights Fade”, “Hear You Me” sense, not the squawking Jennifer Rush sense!). However, this became an unwanted theme tonight, Si repeatedly calling on the young soundman’s services to adjust a murky and uneven sound throughout, at one point even quipping to him, “I bet you thought you’d get to sit down tonight, didn’t you?” Luckily Raze* Rebuild are the type of band to just get the fuck on with it, and their songs are the type of material which can stand (and occasionally actually benefit from) a bit of roughhousing, so, true to form, they simply barrelled through it, delivering an American Hi-Fi-esque set of ragged, rampaging rock. “Sand In The Petrol” was thunderous (Si introducing it with, “here’s a ballad – we can do punk rock and ballads!”), “All The Gear” and “Troubled Minds” an old-fashioned power-packed one-two punch Rock Marciano would have been proud of, and after “Poison Air” required a couple of takes, Si losing the vocals completely first time around, closer “Back To The Fall” (“this is our last song – maybe you’ll hear me singing it, maybe you won’t…” deadpanned Si, ironically) was it’s usual roaring, soaring self. So despite the sound troubles, this was again a typically raucous set from Raze!

A chat with Si afterwards confirmed that this would likely be Raze’s last gig for awhile, Si also commenting that their return would ideally coincide with some new material to freshen the set up from the band’s perspective, some new numbers being in a very embryonic stage and needing considerable work before being gig ready. Fair enough, I guess, although personally I’m not getting tired of hearing this particular set of numbers! Towards the end of the set, it had also dawned on me just how busy my day (and week!) had been, so I, tiring fast, reluctantly decided against sticking around for the Monkeys and headed off home. At least I’d got the chance to see Raze*Rebuild one last time before a likely pause in proceedings – let’s see what they emerge with next time… and hopefully we’ll be able to hear it too!