21 today! Yup, this one is the 21st occasion I'd partaken of the delights of Gaz Brookfield "live", either with his Company Of Thieves, or, as per tonight, on his in-your-face, rabble-rousing, punk-folk semi-autobiographical troubadour tod. This, a sadly-rare Songs Of Praise-promoted date, represented the first time in 18 or so months Gaz had frequented his old home town (still looks the same, though...!) and saw him in good company tonight; not only spritely tour support Jake Martin, but an acoustic Raze*Rebuild line-up (namely Si and Matt, sans rhythm section)! With that prospect on the cards, I couldn't really grab my ticket quick enough...!
Not wishing to faff around parking, either, I headed up early and hit the venue at 7.30, greeting R*R's Si and Matt, SoP impresarios Dave and Ed, Mr. Paul Carter and Gaz himself outside, before heading in, where we were joined by Stuart and The Big Man, both - amazingly - availing themselves of a solo Gaz show for the first time! Stu and I took a front row spot for the introduction of "approximately 50% of Raze*Rebuild, by volume!" Si had expressed slight nervousness beforehand, there being no place to hide in this stripped-back version of the band, but no need as this was an exemplary performance, showcasing the strength of the songwriting, Matt's splendid guitar work (Si commenting, "isn't my little brother good on guitar!")... and, actually, Si's voice! This shouldn't have been a surprise really, but, without the need to compete with the loud guitars in the band line-up, Si dropped an octave, reined in the usual stentorian howl and sang... amazingly well! "Troubled Mind" was a perfect example, and the Northcote cover, "Worry" also benefitted from this treatment. "Kat I'm Sorry" (preceded by some fun preamble about "catharsis"..."sounds like a metal band with a logo made up of sticks!") hiccuped once or twice, but was largely its usual epic self, and closer "Back To The Fall" was a great galloping beast, even acoustically. "Our last song before we hand you over to Chris Webb... Oh fuck, sorry I mean Jake!" remarked Si, reading Gaz' tshirt, ending a great set with a slightly embarrassed smile...!
Chatted with Stu, Rich and recent arrival Ady before Jake Martin then took the stage. "How much did they pay for this Gaz? Come get your money's worth!" entreated Jake, so Stu and I hit the front again. An early "Revolution's Always Late " was a tongue-in-cheek Bragg-like protest number (methinks generally, Jake would have been right at home in those Red Wedge, Tory-protesting 80's, alongside Bragg and The Men They Couldn't Hang), and by now, Jake was in full acerbic flow, reflecting on his role as "the fluffer" on this tour (and delighting on the Swindon crowd getting this porn reference) and acidly and deftly taking down a couple of chatty hecklers, to the audience's loud approval. "For Fuck sake Jake", with the audience participation, was inevitably the highlight, but an excellent "Mountains" (before which he asked for a hand, "for my buddies from Razorlight!", and called out a watching Gaz for being "stage rapey"!) ran it close. By closer "We Sing The Words All Wrong", he'd won everyone over, the communal singalong raising the roof. Nice one Jake!
We kept our spot as the place really filled up and Gaz sloped onstage at 10, with a laconic and funny "Solo Acoustic Guy". Almost an understated start, but that didn't last long, a wide-eyed "Diabetes Blues" getting the singing started early. "Swindon! Fucking hell, it's been awhile... it won't happen again!" confessed Gaz, before Ed, after handing him a can of Thatchers Gold, cheekily enquired, "am I responsible for killing you?" "Under The Table", Gaz' litany of debauchery, was introduced with, "[on] day 2 of the tour I had to play this in front of my mum!", before then confessing during a tribute to his hometown, "I'm sure I took a shit in the bushes next to the Regent!"
Typical Gaz! Again, revelling in the enthusiasm of a home-town crowd, Gaz turned it on, giving a consummate and inclusive performance, also revelling in the frequent mass-singalongs. "I've Paid My Money" ("not directed at anyone in particular", but pointedly dedicated to Jake after his heckler issues earlier) was great, bilious and acerbic, "Banality" was pointed and rollicking, and after the secret of the Aged Revolt tour name was revealed (it's - shhhh, can't say!), the eponymous newie, performed as a duet with Jake, was a flag-waving call-to-arms for the Rebel Alliance. Praise too for The Vic ("the Terminator of venues!") before a superb "Land Pirates Life" rounded off the set perfectly.
Killjoy time now; I hate Whitney – I’m sorry, but I do! - so can really do without that cover, but that aside, the encores were equally excellent, "West Country Song" raising the roof, and finale duet "Great Minds Drink Alike" being delivered "in the round" from the floor by Gaz and his faithful wingman Jake. Superb!
Copious compliments and handshakes with performers, promoters and friends completed a superb night of entertainment, chat and bonhomie. A great 21st - not long now until Gaz inevitably catches and overtakes the Mighty Seafood as my "most seen act", and that will be an accolade well deserved!
PS A fun footnote, the night after, saw Gaz texting me to ask if I'd swiped his setlist - guilty as charged! - and asking for a pic of it!