Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Blow Monkeys - Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury - October 31st, 2019

It was my choice, but it was no choice at all...to sit or to stand

The Blow Monkeys were never a hugely successful band, but for a variety of reasons, I'd always enjoyed their material from their heyday of the mid 1980s. The line "You know it doesn't have to be that way" was often twisted into "Tee Po it doesn't have to be that way" after my wife swapped her FIAT Uno for a Tipo and that may be part of the reason that they stuck in my mind over the years.

The fact that they made catchy, politically astute tunes didn't go amiss either, so I had them on my 'will go and see sometime' radar when I noticed they were touring a while back. When I saw they were coming to Farncombe church, where I'd seen Hue and Cry, I snapped up a ticket, only to forget the date and book a holiday! The organisers were very good and refunded my ticket when I explained the problem (I can't see Ticketmaster doing that!), but I still had them on 'the list' and I noticed a new date added a couple of days earlier in Newbury which isn't too far away. Even though it was the night before I went on holiday, I decided to go.

The day before the event, I got a phone call from the venue and, to be honest, I kind of hoped it had been cancelled, because working and packing and an early start meant getting to the gig was feeling like one thing too many and I had considered writing off the ticket cost. However, the call was to say that due to poor standing ticket sales, it would be all seated, which was a big disappointment, I wouldn't have bought a ticket on that basis and I said so, but it seemed a refund wasn't an option, so seated it was.

In the end, I was packed, work was as sorted out as it was going to get and with a start time of 8PM, I figured I could be in bed in time to get a few hours' sleep before a 5AM start. The drive to Newbury was pain-free and I found the venue, part of a private school site, without any problem.

There didn't seem to be a lot of people there and, while I was a little early, by the times the door to the auditorium were opened I can't imagine there were many more than 100 people there.

There was no support act (no loss on the whole and good for me especially this time) and at 8 sharp, the band appeared. Like us all, Dr Robert has put on a few pounds over the years and the rest of the band (I'm not sure if any were original members) were looking, like most of the audience, to be pushing 60, but once they started there was no doubt that much of the sparkle remained, mixed with a high level of musical virtuosity.

I've struggled to find a setlist (those I've found for the same tour definitely don't match this event or each other, so it seems that they mix it up a bit) and can't recall the opener, but I know it was one of their hits.

The keyboard player also doubled up as a saxophonist on a number of tracks, which comprised a mix of the hits 'Choice', 'Digging Your Scene', '(Celebrate) The Day After You', 'Out With Her', 'It Pays to Belong' and'The Man From Russia' and other tracks I recognized less, such as the 'Coming of Grace' and 'The Sound of Your Laughter', but still enjoyed.

They rounded out the set with their career-defining hit "It Doesn't Have to Be This Way' and delivered a short, but enjoyable encore.

The band sounded good and Dr Robert's voice has held up pretty well. To their credit, despite what must have been quite a demoralizingly small audience, they put on an enthusiastic and professional performance and the audience (pinned in their seats, though we were) warmly received all the tracks.

I suspect this quite late addition to the tour was poorly promoted, which led to the poor sales and, from what I've seen on Youtube other venues had a far better turn-out.

I certainly hope so, as the band put on a good set, impressive musically and enjoyable and would be well worth seeing again - I just wished they'd sold more standing tickets as sitting twitching was no substitute for dancing to their catchy numbers.

Setlist from Farncombe Gig:
(Provided for a taste of the tracks performed, but it was different in order and content at Arlington)
Come on Down
On the Wings of the Morning
(Celebrate) The Day After You
Crying for the Moon
OK! Have It Your Way
It Pays to Belong
Digging Your Scene
Out With Her
Said Too Much
You Don't Own Me
The Wild River
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

Heaven Is a Place I'm Moving To
Wicked Ways
God’s Gift
The Sound of Your Laughter
Man From Russia

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