Thursday, 31 October 2013

Steve Hackett - Sheffield City Hall 30 October 2013

It's not often I get excited (just ask my wife), but my anticipation of last night's gig by Steve Hackett was quite high. I had very much enjoyed his reworking of some of Genesis's back catalogue, Genesis Revisited II, which he released last year, and had heard some glowing reports of earlier concerts on this tour. So it was that #2 son James and I found our way to Sheffield City Hall for the penultimate show of the tour.

Sheffield City Hall is quite an intimate venue for an arena that seats around 1,500 people, and our seats on the end of the front row of the circle gave us a great view of the stage. Despite the tickets saying that there was no support act, we were treated to a 30 minute acoustic set from Alan Reed, who entertained us wonderfully with songs about the dangers posed by religion, the Balkans conflict, the Holocaust and (just to cheer us up) the delights of his homeland of Scotland. A brilliant, rousing set, which warmed the crowd up well for the main event.
Alan Reed

The set, which stretched to 2 hours 25 minutes with the encores, was made up of songs from the classic period of Genesis's creativity from 1971-76, re-created by the 6-piece band of Steve on guitars & backing vocals, Nad Sylvan on vocals & percussion, Lee Pomeroy on bass, pedals, guitars & backing vocals, Gary O'Toole on drums and vocals, Roger King on keyboards and Rob Townsend on flute, sax, keyboards & percussion. They played as a tight unit, and clearly enjoyed what they were doing - as did the large, knowledgeable and appreciative crowd. These are all highly proficient musicians, and the music was excellent, with some great improvisations in places around the main themes of the songs, and they seemed completely unphased by an apparent keyboard malfunction during 'Blood on the Rooftops'. The music was enhanced by some stunning visuals and a great light show.

The set list:
Dance on a Volcano

Dance on a Volcano
Dancing With The Moonlit Night
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
The Lamia
The Return of the Giant Hogweed
The Musical Box

Blood on the Rooftops
Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers...
...In that Quiet Earth
I Know What I Like
Firth of Fifth (joined by Steve's brother, John for the flute solo)
The Hackett brothers during Firth of Fifth

The Fountain of Salmacis
Supper's Ready
Watcher of the Skies
Los Endos (including Slogans from 'Steve's solo album 'Defector')

Rob, Roger, Nad, Steve, Lee & Gary

It was quite poignant to hear something from 'Defector' in this show, as the last time I saw Steve, which was in the same venue, was back in 1980 on the Defector tour. I got to meet him back-stage then (a big thrill for a 19 year-old), and I was fortunate after this gig to attend the after-show and meet Steve, Nad, Lee & Gary (still a big thrill for a 52 year-old!).

A wonderful, unforgettable night with wonderful people.

Me, Steve & my son, James

Nad Sylvan & me

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Late Birthday Present

I turned 52 in April of this year, and throughout the course of the day I received a number of messages and greetings. One of those was from my eldest son, Mike, who rang me from work. The conversation went something like this...

"Dad, could you buy me 2 tickets for John Mayer for your birthday, and I'll pay you back when I've got some money?"
"Erm, OK."

Now I enjoy Mr Mayer's work, but Mike is a BIG fan, so I was left wondering just who this present was for, but, whatever...

Those tickets were for the first of his two London shows this month, which took place at the O2 last night. Let me tell you about it...

We travelled down on the National Express from Sheffield on Sunday morning, arriving in Victoria Coach Station at around 15:15. The journey was uneventful, and the weather when we arrived was pretty miserable. We grabbed a bite of lunch in Subway, then hopped on a tube to Greenwich. The O2 Arena - the old Millennium Dome - is quite an impressive place, and this was the first time I'd visited the place. A touch of t-shirt shopping (a necessary ritual at any gig) and then a spot of Fish & Chips before taking our place in the queue.

Having booked the seats on the day they went on sale, and having asked for 'best available' when I booked, we were, naturally, almost as far away from the stage as it was possible to be and close to stratospheric in height. Despite not being able to make out much detail on the stage, however, it wasn't a bad view once the screens came into play, and by 19:30, along with around 18,000 others, we were ready to enjoy the show.

First on, for an opening 30 minute set, was Gabrielle Aplin. When she was announced as the support act Mike was doubly delighted as he'd been enjoying her music since before she became 'big' and had seen her last year at 'The Plug' in Sheffield. This was clearly a scary prospect for her, playing such a large venue and to such a huge crowd, but she managed very well indeed, despite the screens not being on and the lighting not being tailor-made for her set. Her music spoke for itself, and spoke eloquently.

John Mayer's set was brilliant throughout. He covered material from a number of his albums; his guitar-playing, both electric and acoustic, was tight and energetic - in fact I would say that, on his day, he is one of the top blues guitarists around at the moment; his voice, which had been causing him some problems recently, was back to its best, and whether it was country, blues or rock, he was throughout the consummate showman. The knowledgeable crowd joined in with most of the songs, too.

The Set-list:
Half Of My Heart
Paper Doll
I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Something Like Olivia
Going Down The Road
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
Free Fallin'
Blues Run The Game
Queen Of California
Dear Marie
If I Ever Get Around To Living
Waiting On The World To Change
The Age Of Worry.
Why Georgia
Can't Find My Way Home

The show was accompanied by a backdrop of scenes from Monument Valley animated with stars, snow, blossom falling, Chinese lanterns taking off, and people dancing around camp-fires among other things, which visually enhanced the spectacle, particularly for those of us who couldn't make out the players on the stage. The band were excellent (I didn't make a note of their names, sadly) and all-in-all it was an excellent evening in a great venue.

All that was left was to find Mike's friend's place in Lewisham, where we were crashing for the night, which took us about an hour, as every taxi I tried to hail completely ignored us. Home today after a tourist-y stroll around Westminster & St James' Park.

I can truthfully say that, as birthday presents go, it was definitely worth the wait!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Temperance Movement

My maternal grandmother (God rest her soul) was, among other things, a staunch tee-totaller and zealous member of the local branch of the Temperance movement. She tried many times, without success, to get me to 'sign the pledge' when I was about 8 years old: by the age of 22 I sometimes wished I'd taken the hint. But I'm pretty sure that she would not have been that keen on this Temperance Movement.

I came across the band 'The Temperance Movement' at the recent Greenbelt Festival, and was quite simply blown away by their energy and the sheer earthiness of their rock 'n' roll, and decided there and then that their up-coming debut album was one to buy.

The eponymous collection loses nothing of the dynamism of their live performance. This is rock music in the tradition of the Stones: riff-heavy, driving, bluesy for the most part, but with light and shade too. Ballads like 'Pride', the country-tinged 'Lovers and Fighters' and the delightful 'Chinese Lanterns' sit wonderfully alongside the heavier R'n'B (in its original sense) of 'Ain't no Telling' and 'Be Lucky', and the downright boogie of 'Midnight Black' and 'Take it Back'. Phil Campbell, the singer, gyrates on stage like a youthful Jagger, and his voice has the edge of Frankie Miller, with the band reminding me of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band - but with balls!

A genuine delight of an album - if you like good old-fashioned blues-based rock 'n' roll, then you won't be disappointed.