Wednesday 27 December 2017

The Beat & The Selecter - G-Live, Guildford - 22nd December 2017

One of the best gigs I've ever been to was Ranking Roger's "The Beat" at Sub89 in Reading just a few years ago

So, when I saw they were playing in Guildford, I bought myself and Lauren a ticket.

The tour was a co-headlining one with "The Selecter", who I'd seen once, many, many years ago in a dreadful performance in Bournemouth (That night saved by the exuberance of "The Bodysnatchers" in a 3 hander Two-Tone gig - I can't recall who the third band were!)

On the Friday evening before Christmas, there were a lot of people looking to enjoy their evening. The audience had its fair share of fat 50 somethings in pork pie hats, but also plenty of youngsters, and not all there with their parents.

The Beat were up first and, with a tight timetable, Ranking Roger wasted no time, starting at 8 sharp with "Whine & Grine" medleyed with "Stand Down Margaret" to the delight of the crowd.

After that he explained that his son, "Ranking Junior", was suffering from the flu, so he was on his own tonight, but that "Junior" might appear at some point (He did, for "Side to Side", to a warm reception from the crowd).

I'd been to see Squeeze at G-Live a couple of months earlier and it's a good venue, modern and a nice size (not too big), but I found the sound then of the vocals was pitched at the wrong level for me on the floor and the same, sadly, was true for this gig. The vocals weren't totally inaudible, but not at the right level to be clear above the instruments. I don't know if the sound is better further back or maybe up in the balcony, but this might well put me off going to see anyone there in future.

With only an hour, The Beat delivered a cut down set (The headliners alternated on this tour and "The Selecter" got the role - and the extra time - at Guildford), but it was enjoyable and energetic, as we'd expected from Ranking Roger, but, good thought it was, it didn't match the energy and excitement of that Reading gig, partly, I'm convinced, because at Sub 89 there is no real stage and the, small, audience and the band share the floor! The sound, too, had been better balanced at Reading.

Stand outs for me were "Hands Off...She's Mine","Too Nice to Talk to", "Click Click", "Ranking Full Stop", "Tears of a Clown" and "Can't get used to losing You", but once again Ranking Roger's energy was infectious and the set was very enjoyable, if, by comparison with Sub 89's a bit detached.

So, a very enjoyable performance from "The Beat" by most standards, but not a match for the last time we'd seen them.

There was a 30 minute or so break, while the stage hands switched the branding and we (and everyone else) queued forever for a drink.

We managed to get back in before "The Selecter" started and my first thoughts were that I wasn't going to enjoy them for a second time.

Pauline Black is a very mannered performer ("Weird" Lauren described her as and I won't quibble), whilst long time band-mate, Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson acted as a good foil to her and provide some welcome balance to the vocals (The sound balance seemed better, if not ideal, for them).

The rest of the band looked like young session players, but the sound was familiar, from the opening "Avenger's Theme", through recent track "Frontline" and "Three Minute Hero", but even with the familiar tracks, I wasn't warming to them really.

It wasn't really until "On My Radio", a good 2/3rds of the way through, that they hit their stride for me and I really started to enjoy myself and it and "Too Much Pressure" were the undoubted highlights for me (along with "Madness" performed as part of the excellent encore with Ranking Roger).

I personally wouldn't pay to go and see "The Selecter" alone again (to be fair, I rarely see bands repeatedly), but they 'got' me in the end and I would say their set overall had been enjoyable and added to, rather than detracted from, my enjoyment.

By the time we left, humming our favourites and discussing the gig, I was definitely in a festive mood.


The Beat
From another gig, but pretty close to G-Live, although they played "Side to Side" and "Too Nice to Talk to" as well and obviously dropped a few - I don't recall "Rough Rider" or "Said We Would Never Die".
Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret
Hands Off...She's Mine
Twist & Crawl
Doors of Your Heart
Save It for Later
The Tears of a Clown(Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover)
Click Click
Can't Get Used to Losing You (Andy Williams cover)
Rough Rider(Prince Buster cover)
Said We Would Never Die(The English Beat cover)
Best Friend
Ackee 1-2-3
Sole Salvation
Ranking Full Stop / Mirror in the Bathroom
Jackpot(The Pioneers cover)

The Selecter
I know the order is wrong here, it's from another gig on the tour as "Missing Words" was played earlier and they played "Frontline" at one point too.
The Avengers Theme(Laurie Johnson Orchestra cover)
Out on the Streets
Three Minute Hero
They Make Me Mad
Celebrate the Bullet
See Them A Come
Black and Blue
It Never Worked Out
Street Feeling
Train to Skaville(The Ethiopians cover)
James Bond Theme(Monty Norman cover)
Missing Words
On My Radio
Too Much Pressure / Pressure Drop

Carry go bring home / Time Hard / Murder
My Collie (Not a Dog)
Madness(Prince Buster cover) - With Ranking Roger

Sunday 10 December 2017

Peter Hook & The Light - Salisbury City Hall - 8th December 2017

I'd seen Peter Hook a couple of times before and had slightly mixed feelings...

The first time was when he performed the two Joy Division Studio albums back to back and a few New Order tracks as a bonus.

I had really enjoyed that gig, but a second visit, to see him perform the first two New Order albums felt a bit flat, especially for the first album.

At the time, I suspected some (at least) of that was due to the material - that first NO album falls rather uneasily between a JD album and the different direction New Order would take as they came to terms with the loss of Ian Curtis.

When I saw that Hooky was to perform the two Substance albums (effectively the first 'greatest hits' albums of the two groups), I decided this wouldn't suffer that problem and booked myself a ticket, deciding to drive the 50 miles to Salisbury (a city I used to visit frequently in my early years, but have only, rarely, passed through more recently) rather than face the rush to catch a train home from London.

I set out early and got to Salisbury about 6:15, time to grab a Nandos and wander briefly around the few Christmas market stalls still open and decide I really do need to go to Salisbury for a day sometime again, before making my way to the City Hall.

I'd been here once before, with my son, to see Milton Jones, so I knew what to expect.

Arriving about 45 minutes early for the scheduled 8PM start ("No support" - There was a lot of material to cover, so no loss there!), I decided to take a seat as it was unallocated standing or seating as I wished. My plan was to sit for a while and get up and go to the floor once they appeared on stage, but somehow I never did and I had the relative novelty of sitting throughout the event.

Whether that changed my view of the gig is hard to say, but this is what I felt.

Hooky and his band appeared about 8:10and went straight into a trio of early New Order tracks, "In a Lonely Place", "Procession" and "Cries and Whispers", before starting into New Order's Substance proper with "Ceremony" and "Everything's Gone Green".

I can't ever shake the feeling that Peter Hook isn't Bernard Sumner vocally and, whilst some of the tracks were great, especially "Everything's Gone Green", "The Perfect Kiss", "State of the Nation" and the little played "1963" that rounds out New Order's Substance, and Hooky's base is unmistakable and missed from the current New Order lineup, despite his replacement's best efforts, it didn't really sound like New Order.

It was good, but, given the choice, I'd rather see the current New Order perform Substance, just because Peter Hook, and one of his colleagues who sang a few of the songs, just don't sound like Barney.

I'd imagine it's a bit like seeing Queen, with someone other than Freddie Mercury singing (Not a band I've ever liked, but it seems doubly pointless to see them without their iconic frontman). Also, as NO tracks become more electronic, there are parts where Hooky's bass isn't employed and at times he looked at a bit of a loss, waiting for his chance to return to the fray.

After the New Order set, there was a 15 minute or so interval and then they were back, starting into "No Love Lost", "Komakino", "These Days" and a couple of other early tracks, before launching into the original Substance LP order with "Warsaw" and "Leaders Of Men".

I think it's true to say that Peter Hook does "Joy Division" better than "New Order" - His vocal style on these tracks does mimic Ian Curtis' to a degree, but does so well, and so they sound more like the recordings and whilst you couldn't quibble about the enthusiasm Hooky put into the NO part of the gig, he seemed more comfortable and engrossed in delivering the JD material.

The workrate was relentless, for both albums the tracks followed on instantly from the end of the previous one (A constraint of time, I guess) with few chances to interact with the crowd, except to put one heckler down very effectively early on, wonder at the gap between the audience and the stage and to a have a bit of a joke at one point when the other bass guitarist was having sound issues briefly.

For much of the gig I wondered at the wisdom of performing New Order before Joy Division, but the last 15 minutes of the gig proved Hooky knew what he was doing.

Ending the night on "1963" would have been anti-climatic, even with "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "True Faith" directly before, but by ending on the LP order of Joy Division (actually the latter release of the two, so perhaps another reason for the order, given Factory's obsession with numbering everything!) we were treated to a finale of "Atmosphere" followed by "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

If maybe Hooky doesn't do some New Order tracks as well as the remaining members, they certainly can't hold a candle to his performance of "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

You could have forgiven even a generally dreadful performance for the sheer brilliance of that, but of course, there was nothing to forgive as it had been quality entertainment throughout, even if I'm more convinced than ever about where Hooky's ultimate strengths lie.

As the last note died, he wished the audience a thank you and a Merry Christmas, before the lights came on and we left - No encore required - Nothing could top that finale!


New Order
In a Lonely Place
Cries and Whispers
Everything's Gone Green
Blue Monday
Thieves Like Us
The Perfect Kiss
State of the Nation
Bizarre Love Triangle
True Faith

Joy Division
No Love Lost
From Safety to Where...?
These Days
Leaders of Men
She's Lost Control
Dead Souls
Love Will Tear Us Apart

PS If my review sounds a bit negative on the New Order performance, don't let me put you off. I've been to see Peter Hook and the Light 3 times since he left New Order and I rarely see a band twice.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Squeeze - G-Live, Guildford - 17th October 2017

I'd seen Glenn Tilbrook in the tiny West End Centre in Aldershot and greatly enjoyed the evening, where he'd chatted and taken requests from the audience!

I'm not an avowed Squeeze fan and I ummmed and ahhed for a while before buying a ticket to see him and Difford reunited as Squeeze at G-Live in Guildford.

I arrived a bit later than usual, so only caught the final half of the last song by support act, Nine Below Zero. The audience gave them a rousing ovation, though, so I guess most people had enjoyed them.

About 8:50, after the usual roadie/soundcheck shenanigans, the lights dimmed and Squeeze appeared on stage.

Their opener, "Please Be Upstanding" sounded like a song written to start a gig with, but was catchy and cheerful and soon got the audience on their side.

The next track, the classic "Pulling Mussels", had everyone singing along, although I have to say at times I found the large displays behind the stage distracted me from the actual performance on stage.

Some of the audience seemed to recognize all the songs, but I'll admit I only know their early stuff, so some passed me by.

The classics, though, were performed with enthusiasm and energy, and Tilbrook's voice still sounds good to me, although at times, down near the front and centre of the stage, the sound balance meant I couldn't make out all the words of the songs I didn't know (Someone's posted up some videos on Youtube from the balcony and it appears the sound was pretty good there!)

"Hourglass", "Cool For Cats" (with Chris Difford on vocals for a change), "Take Me I'm Yours" (A great performance with the drummers standing and playing marching drums (See the photo above), "Tempted", "Goodbye Girl", "Up the Junction" and "Labelled with Love" were all fantastic to my ears and reminded me of how clever lyrically Squeeze were/are.

They ended with a 3 song encore, finishing on "Is That Love" and, finally, a 15 minute rendition of "Black Coffee in Bed", that included a name check for all the band.

Well worth seeing and a quality performance by all, especially noteworthy, I thought, was the keyboard player.

All that said, I think I enjoyed the evening with Glenn Tilbrook more!

Set list:

Please Be Upstanding
Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Rough Ride
Annie Get Your Gun
Innocence In Paradise
Cradle to the Grave
Cool for Cats
Another Nail in My Heart
Departure Lounge
Take Me I'm Yours
Wicked and Cruel
Goodbye Girl
Up the Junction
Labelled With Love(with Mark Feltham)
Slap and Tickle(with Dennis Greaves)

Is That Love
Black Coffee in Bed(with Dennis Greaves)

The Hoosiers - The Boilerroom, Guilford - 5th October 2017

This was another of those double take moments...

In my regular 'upcoming Gig emails' I saw that The Hoosiers were playing at the Boilerroom in Guildford, where I'd seen Ben Watt play early in the year.

As it's tiny venue, I couldn't see how a full band could actually fit in, but some investigation confirmed that, yes, it was THE Hoosiers (And not just one of them!) and, yes, they were playing The Boilerroom as part of a small tour to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their first album, the excellent "The Trick To Life", which was being re-released in a special edition (along with a first time vinyl release, how times change!).

I quickly bought a ticket, but still wondered what this would be like in the cramped venue.

When I arrived a support band were finishing (I recall there were two, but little about them, except that one had a very mannered lead singer who actually seemed to spoil a fairly decent set of musicians. I guess he'd call that charisma!

Eventually, about 9PM, by which time it was already pretty toasty and I'd sunk two pints of Asahi, The Hoosiers appeared on stage (which is really a little alcove at one end of the bar - This was one a pub and the layout isn't really that great for music, if I'm honest!)

They performed the whole of Trick To Life from end to end (as bands are wont to do when celebrating the anniversary of releases.

I must say, they were very good, looking and sounding very like they had in their heyday (not that long ago to be fair) and the songs sounded fresh and energetic,as they had then.

This was a band that both myself and Lauren and Ryan really liked and it was definitely more their age group that made up the audience. One group I spoke to agreed they were surprised to see them playing there, one lad saying "I couldn't believe it, there was my 14 year old self getting to see my favourite band!"

After they finished the tracks from Trick to Life, they played a number of other songs, which I didn't know, but the audience received enthusiastically and seemed very much of a similar style.

They even popped in a cover of "We didn't start the fire" by Billy Joel, which I did recognize!

The place was absolutely packed with 20 somethings (I reckon I was the oldest person there by 15 years, at least!) and it got very, very hot, but everyone seemed to have a good time, although I had to beat a retreat to nearer the bar towards the end to cool off (I found one or two people who'd been standing near me earlier had done the same though!).

A good evening, with a great performance by The Hoosiers, but perhaps they were just a bit too big a draw for the tiny Boileroom?


The Feeling You Get When
Worried About Ray
Worst Case Scenario
Run Rabbit Run
Goodbye Mr A
A Sadness Runs Through Him
Clinging on for Life
Cops and Robbers
Everything Goes Dark
The Trick to Life

The Feeling You Get When
Money to be Made
Somewhere In The Distance
I Can't Feel My Face(The Weeknd cover)
We Didn't Start the Fire(Billy Joel cover)

Tuesday 25 July 2017

The Illegal Eagles - Princes Hall, Aldershot - 13th July 2017

I'd never been to see a 'tribute act' before and I'll be honest it was with some trepidation that I did, but you're never going to see "The Eagles" perform again and it was very local and I'd read very good reports of "The Illegal Eagles", so I decided to take a chance.

I'll be honest, I've never much liked the idea of 'tribute acts' - People performing other peoples' songs 'pretending' to be them was my perception, but it didn't really feel like that on the night and I can see the appeal to people who won't ever have the chance to see their favourite acts perform live.

So, what was it like?

First off, The Illegal Eagles (line up Phil Aldridge, Trev Newnham, Al Vosper, Christian Phillips, Greg Webb and Gareth Hicklin) are a very personable bunch to spend an evening with. As Trev observed at one point, "We don't take ourselves too seriously" and they also don't try to 'be' The Eagles.

I'm not a musician, but I thought musically they were excellent, delivering some of the intricate Eagles' numbers solos with precision and feeling. They also seemed to have the harmonies perfected and these two areas (instrumental solos and harmonies) were where they worked best for me.

The downside I feared with a tribute act that I did find was that they don't SOUND like The Eagles. Vocal performances are very hard to replicate with perfection and I don't think they try to mimic the originals, although they do aim for a similar sound, which is probably a better idea.

Some vocal performances, to my ear, worked better than others, even some of those where a solo voice front and centre (Gareth, especially, was excellent on a couple of songs) and it would be unfair to say they were anything other than very good - This certainly isn't your average bunch of musicians doing covers, they really master the instrumental, harmonies and overall 'sound' of the records, but ultimately, you can't sound exactly like the original singer.

Does this really matter? Well, obviously not to the majority of people there. I'm sure most happily listen to their Eagles CDs and Vinyl, but can enjoy the Illegal Eagles for their quality of performance and (the now impossible with the originals) chance to hear their favourite Eagles tracks performed live and let's be honest, lots of older performers no longer sound like they did (in a few cases they can sing better, but some big stars have voices that are totally 'shot' and yet they still attract big paying audiences!)

A good half of the audience responded that they'd seen the band live before and I suspect a good number of those who hadn't will next time.

The band started with a couple of Eagles songs I didn't recognise(I'm not a hard core fan), but they hit their stride with some of the big hits, including "New Kid In Town" (a favourite of mine for reasons I find hard to explain to myself!), "Lyin' Eyes", "I Can't Tell You Why", "Life in the Fast Lane" and rounded off their two song Encore with "Desperado".

For me, the highlight of the performance came after the interval (it was an older audience on the whole, who probably needed a toilet break!) when they started with "Hotel California" - Al's intro was spine-tingling and the whole band absolutely 'nailed' this classic track (as I posted on their Facebook page!).

I still can't say I'm 100% sold on the tribute act as a concept and won't rush to see others, but The Illegal Eagles performed these great songs brilliantly and with clear regard, skill and dedication, so I came away humming and very happy with my evening out.

If you like live music and like the Eagles, I can't imagine there's a better way to enjoy these songs than to go along and see the hardworking, talented and entertaining "Illegal Eagles".

Unfortunately I couldn't find a setlist, but if you have one, let me know

Monday 22 May 2017

Sheryl Crow - Shepherds Bush - May 19th 2017

I've always liked Sheryl Crow, but doubted I'd ever see her perform live.

She'd been on my 'gig alert' from SeeTickets (and others) for years, but never showed up, so I did a bit of a double take when I saw it pop up, but sure enough, Sheryl Crow at Shepherds Bush (a favourite venue of mine) and, it turned out, one of only two shows in the UK!

I was poised over my keyboard as the tickets went on sale and soon had mine.

I'm not sure if it was because it was a Friday, but the drive to Shepherds Bush was busier than I'd experienced before and Westfield's carpark was chaos as they build yet more shops there, but I arrived (after grabbing a quick KFC) about 8:15, half way through the support act, a bloke who performed rather mournful, dirdgy songs, which left me wonder if perhaps Ms Crow was going to give a similarly downbeat performance.

Luckily (as the support act did nothing for me, although he was warmly applauded, so I guess some liked him), I needn't have worried.

At 8:45 a very youthful looking Sheryl Crow (she's my age, but, if I'm honest, she looks better!) and her band appeared and dived straight into 4 old favourites, Everyday Is a Winding Road, A Change Would Do You Good, All I Wanna Do (my all time favourite) and My Favourite Mistake - I was left wondering whether she'd performed the setlist backwards... surely these were encore material?!

Some new tracks followed, Be Myself (the title track from her new album she was in the UK to promote) and others certainly feeling like lost tracks from her earliest albums and being warmly received by everyone.

Can't Cry Anymore and The First Cut Is The Deepest (A track I always associate with Rod Stewart!) followed from her back catalogue, then some more new material and There Goes The Neighbourhood, Leaving Las Vegas and Strong Enough, before a few new, but familiar sounding, tracks and then the crowd sang their hearts out to If It Makes You Happy and they finished on a boisterous rendition of Soak Up The Sun.

The inevitable, but short, encore (right up to the 11PM curfew) was Run, Baby, Run and I Shall Believe.

I'd wondered if maybe Sheryl Crow had grown introspective and a bit ballardy in later years, eschewing the energy and fun of live performance, but there was no sign of that at Shepherds Bush.

She and her band, many of who she said have played, on and off at least, with her for years, seemed to be having a whale of a time and the Empire was packed (as busy as I've experienced it - Again, maybe a Friday night brought out some who won't do a midweek show) with people from their 20s to their 60s, suggesting Sheryl Crow still has a wide appeal (a youngish woman in front of me knew all the words to every track!).

It had been a highly crowd pleasing performance and a rare and welcome chance to see and hear her live.

Getting out of Westfield and around the Green was chaotic, so it took me 90 minutes to get home. I will probably think twice about going to another gig there on a Friday, unless it's someone I really want to see, but Sheryl Crow had been worth the hassle.


Everyday Is a Winding Road
A Change Would Do You Good
All I Wanna Do
My Favorite Mistake
Be Myself
Long Way Back
Alone In The Dark
Can't Cry Anymore
The First Cut Is the Deepest(Cat Stevens cover)
Heartbeat Away
There Goes the Neighborhood
Leaving Las Vegas
Strong Enough
Rest Of Me
Roller Skate
Halfway There
Best of Times
Picture (Kid Rock cover)
If It Makes You Happy
Soak Up the Sun

Run, Baby, Run
I Shall Believe

Sunday 2 April 2017

The Blockheads - Harlington Centre, Fleet - 1st April 2017

If you can find 3 reasons to be cheerful, you can't really complain can you?

So, Reasons to be Cheerful, part 1 - My sometime quiz mate, Steve, mentioned that The Blockheads were playing in the local venue in Fleet. The price was reasonable and I could walk there and back, rather than facing a long, expensive trip into London or elsewhere.

Reasons to be Cheerful, part 2 - I'd rediscovered the Blockheads after watching the excellent film, starring Andy Serkis, about Ian Dury and the band (in which Serkis performed all the songs with the Blockheads) and buying a compilation of their material. Impressively, the line of the bands, sans the sadly demised Ian, has remained remarkably intact, with Derek 'The Draw' (a good friend of Ian's I understand) now taking the front man role. The drummer, John, was far too young to be from the original line up (Someone quipped he was back at school on Monday), but everyone else was a Dury period member, including Chaz Jankel, instrumental (no pun intended) in the sound of the Blockheads.

Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3 - The Harlington Centre in Fleet isn't Shepherds Bush, let alone the Brixton Academy, so you do wonder what a band that once headlined major venues think when they turn up to such a venue and find about 200 people to play to.

I'm sure some acts would think it's not worth their time to deliver a class performance, but that's certainly not something you could say about the Blockheads last night.

Drummer aside, none of them are young men, but they know their craft and musically are top notch - If you listen to Blockheads material you'll know that the songs are musically quite complex (well, some at least) and the band certainly haven't lost their skill in that respect.

Another friend of mine there commented that it was a 'big sound' and it certainly would have been worthy of a packed, larger venue and yet they delivered an enthusiastic, fizzing, musically precise, hugely entertaining and enjoyable performance, as if they had a 2,000 strong crowd.

There were clear hard core fans there, who I suspect travel around to see them play, and I can see why you might, so much fun was the performance.

Derek manages to fill Ian's boots (if not Panties, who knows?) on the early songs, without being too pastiche-y and brings a different sound, albeit still familiar to the newer material (They have a new album out, so clearly the creative urge burns bright still).

Obviously, the classic tracks "Reasons to be Cheerful", "Hit Me With Your Ryhtmn Stick", "Sweet Gene Vincent", "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "What a Waste" got the most positive reaction, but newer (and lesser known older songs) were equally good and performed with aplomb.

Like the seasoned old stagers they are, they deftly built up to a great finale and then came back for a short encore, finishing on "Lullaby for Francies" with the band drifting away one by one, until the stage was empty.

As bands do, they thanked the crowd and said how much they enjoyed performing for us. Bands usually say this sort of thing, but really, it looked like they really had as much fun as the audience.

If you go and see the Blockheads, you'll have plenty of reasons to be cheerful!

Setlist - From another venue, but reads right to me.

Hold Up
If I Was With A Woman
Express Yourself
What A Waste
Wake Up And Make Love With Me
Billericay Dickie
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
I Want To Be Straight
Sweet Gene Vincent
Clever Trever
Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Lullaby for Francies

From Wikipedia - I'm afraid I've forgotten who the Saxophonist was on the night, but he was brilliant!

Current members include Derek Hussey (vocals), Chaz Jankel (keyboards and guitar), Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Mick Gallagher (keyboards and piano), John Turnbull (vocals and guitar) and John Roberts (drums). There is rolling line-up of saxophonists that includes Gilad Atzmon, Terry Edwards or Dave Lewis and from time to time, the original sax player, Davey Payne. The band are best known for their hit singles, recorded with Dury, "What a Waste", "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick", "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3", and "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll".

Saturday 18 February 2017

Ben Watt - Boiler Room, Guildford 10th February 2017

Ben Watt is best known as 'the other half' of Everything But The Girl.

Of course, for many (me included) EBTG is so much (his wife) Tracey Thorn's voice that Ben's contribution (music and songs) is often overlooked.

The few EBTG songs he does sing are good ("25th December", "Only Living Boy In New York" ,etc), but not those that immediately spring to mind!

I'd seen promotions for Ben touring before, but never really considered going to see him, but an email listing a gig in nearby Guildford at a low point in my typical January blues piqued my interest enough to check out his more recent solo work online and I liked what I heard. Enough to order up a ticket, in fact.

When the gig rolled around, I had a cold and it was a wintery night. I almost decided to stay at home and write the ticket cost off (It wasn't a lot), but in the end decided I should get out.

The Boiler Room is an old pub in Guildford, near the Friary Centre, but the performance space is tiny.

This tour featured Ben with just Rex Horan on Double Bass. A very intimate kind of act, which worked well in the tiny space of the Boiler Room.

Most of the tracks were from Ben's most recent solo albums, Hendra and Fever Dream, but he threw in a few EBTG songs, including Rollercoaster, which, of course, he wrote for Tracey to sing. The fact that it seemed so right in his voice is perhaps really not that surprising as he was the writer and it deals with the aftermath of the serious illness he suffered in EBTG's heyday.

The newer songs showed Ben's song writing, guitar playing and singing skills well and I must admit to feeling a little ashamed at my thoughts of staying at home, I really would have missed something excellent!

Ben is certainly not a showman, but he's a confident and unassuming performer, happily quipping with the audience (Although small, the venue was sold out and packed!) and providing the back story to the songs.

Rex Horan played his part to perfection and the feeling was very much of a private jam session in someone's front room!

It was hard to pick out a favourite, but Nathaniel, Rollercoaster and Gradually certainly stuck in my mind.

I came away very happy with my decision to venture out that cold February night.

Of course, I'd still love to hear Tracey Thorn sing live (I fear it'll never happen, though), but now when I listen to Everything But The Girl, it is with different ears and much more appreciation for Ben Watt's part in the band.

If you get the chance, go see him!

from another venue, but close, from memory - I think he played "The Gun" at one point

Running with the Front Runners
Bricks And Wood
Some Things Don't Matter
The Night I Heard Caruso Sing (Everything but the Girl song) (Organ)
Young Man's Game
The Levels
Rollercoaster(Everything but the Girl song) (Organ)
25th December (Everything but the Girl song)
Fever Dream

New Year of Grace