GigswithIvan: a grey-haired gig goer

I’m a 59 year old grey haired gig goer. I get to a lot of gigs and festivals in a variety of places. The last five years or so it’s cranked up a notch with the help of a similarly (even more gigaholic) enthusiastic mate and my gig-loving wife.

I seem to be on one massive tour and keep squeezing in the music where I can.

Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper with The Hollywood Vampires at Birmingham Resorts Arena (NEC)

I thought I could leave a blog trail as I go on my gigaholic wanderings – the bands – my photos – the venues – the festivals – bits on travel and parking – the odd handy pub and all that stuff.

With Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs at The Roundhouse

All photos are my own unless I mention otherwise. I use a Panasonic compact pocket-sized zoom mostly, a TZ60. Unobtrusive and only ocasionally not permitted, and that’s where there is a no phones or cameras rule which I always abide by. I occasionally take a better Nikon bridge camera to outdoor gigs, especially festivals so the pics there are best quality. Then there are gigs when I forget my camera, run out of battery etc 🙄

Keith Flint of The Prodigy at Victorious Festival

My mobile phone camera is pretty bang average, on an older Samsung A6, but I do take an occasional video clip if it isn’t going to get in anyone’s way – I like a pillar or a wall behind me. In Spring 2022 I started putting these on a YouTube channel. It saves memory on the WordPress account if nothing else but is getting hundreds of views in its own right, occasionally over a thousand. Link to my Grey-Haired Gig Goer channel.

The Covid pandemic hit activities hard but through my blogs you can see the various attempts to keep gig-fit and measures brought in during this awful period in our history.

Keep rocking!

Gary Numan – Bristol O2 Academy
  • Bob Dylan – live in Bournemouth, England
    At fairly short notice I was amazed to see that Bob Dylan was coming to Bournemouth – I had to buy a ticket – sat in the BIC with Bob onstage and it’s still hard to believe he’s here.
  • The Hunna – live in Southampton
    Rock-tober is over and it’s gig 83 of the year for this grey-haired gig goer: a mid-week trip to The Engine Rooms to see The Hunna.
  • The Damned – live in Hammersmith
    The Damned original line up gather in Hammersmith for two nights of gritty punk nostalgia. The grey-haired gig goer returns to see them in Hammersmith after 42 years….wearing the same badge.
  • The Blow Monkeys – live in Islington
    Dismiss any thoughts of 80s pop band plugging away – last two albums from the 2007 reformation of the original Blow Monkeys are top drawer.
  • Deep Purple – live in Birmingham
    My gig going tonight strays into the traditional heavy rock scene – never thought when I was a dismissive punk influenced youth that one day I would be at a Deep Purple gig, lapping up Smoke on the Water along with the hairies.

Bob Dylan – live in Bournemouth, England

Bob Dylan at Bournemouth International Centre 5.11.2022

Yup… Bob Dylan…in Bournemouth. “What, the real Bob Dylan?” asked the librarian when I went to print my tickets off. “Yes, yes the real one”. Why would I be rushing to a library on the day of the gig to print off tickets when everyone is going paperless? I’d read the ‘no phones’ warning email that arrived the day before, stating that you couldn’t even use your phone to show your tickets to enter.

No Cameras No Phones – secure pouches

So the novelty for me at this event was technologically enforced mobile phone and camera ban so I shall expand on this experience.

Of course, there are many events where personal cameras and phone use is not allowed, and not so appropriate. An all-seated theatre performance of anything is not where waving phones is what most people want. The quieter and more intense performances also benefit from a bit of phone restraint. Some artists just don’t like it due to publishing rights or disclosure of new material – that’s fine – but with the arrival of security pouches this is starting to be enforced more rigorously on occasions.

I had my pocket camera locked away at The Palladium once for a Morrisey gig but tonight is my first experience of the security pouch, to prevent any unauthorised phone use beyond the venue doors. In this age of etickets, mobile phone payment, car parking apps and Uber pick-ups, not going out with a mobile is not very practical. Besides I wanted to see how this system worked so I was always taking mine.

The BIC sent a warning email to explain what was going to happen, including that you could not enter the venue without a hard copy ticket or print-off. My urgent library trip to print my tickets off on the afternoon of the gig was successful – mildly concerned my tickets (cheaper ones at £100 a go!) might go to waste. I may have gone paperless too early it seems.

On the approach to the BIC there were numerous staff offering to help those with no print off or hard copy ticket. It looked like they viewed your phone etickets and gave you a token to verify that. At the door all phones were removed, and searched for, and then we are given a soft neoprene type pouch with a secured closure which once shut can only be opened with an associated electronic device held by security staff. You have to turn your phone off first or you will be in a spot – if it rings in the performance you won’t be able to open the pouch to stop it ringing. Bob would not be happy.

Pouch photo from Yondr website

This pouch thing is now of course much bigger than your phone – they are designed for the largest – so you then have to find somewhere to stuff it. On departure after the gig, there were none of the delays I was expecting. Plenty of staff available to unlock the pouches and take them from you – that is the essential bit. If you needed to make an urgent call you could go to a cordoned off area, have your pouch unlocked and stand on this naughty step to make that call. Still, I expect a few people got in a right mess – there must be some stories.

The secure pouch firm being used was Yondr and more details on that link.

There you go – I say my blogs are less attempts at traditional reviews and more a reflection of my gig experiences, a digital scrapbook… and a context for my photos, although that puts me in a bit of spot with this one eh 🙄.

Discovering Bob

I have seen Bob Dylan before at Hyde Park in July 2019, with Neil Young who I’d gone to see. At that point I hadn’t been through my period of Dylan enlightenment.

In Lockdown, in those desperate days of containment, I found the Rolling Stone magazine Top 500 albums of all time and started work my way down through the top 50. This brought me to three Dylan albums which got multiple plays: Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde – in that order (9,18 and 38). That was me hooked. Building on those through recommendations and other ‘best of Bob’ lists, I was drawn to Street Legal; The Freewheeling Bob Dylan; Slow Train Coming; Desire (which I bought in a second hand shop in Bridport) and Nashville Skyline, enhanced by Johnny Cash and my September trip to that fabulous city of music.

Then came Murder Most Foul (2020). I heard it on the radio not realising there was new Dylan material coming and thought is was an epic. 17 minutes of Bob’s genius commentary on modern misery. The album, which I bought as my first new Dylan album, Rough and Rowdy Ways – a double vinyl – I think is one of the best if not THE best. Hence, I am pleased with the fact Bob played the whole album tonight with only Murder Most Foul missing – must be too long.

Bob Dylan live at the Bournemouth International Centre 2022

No support tonight. The Windsor Hall at the BIC fills slowly – we watch it all having got in about an hour early and avoided the sordid queues for unimaginative and expensive beer. (The Brewdog pub is a short walk away and the Royal Exeter hotel bar over the road are preferable for pre-gig refreshments.)

The house lights dim and a white stage set illuminates: the whole added stage floor is lit with no lighting from above and just a few extra side and stage uplighters. The stage is contained by huge theatrical curtains giving the the look of a lounge club or 70s Vegas hotel show.

To the right is Bob’s piano. Nothing grand but an upright honky tonk piano with a rough back you would expect to be hidden up against a wall. When the band and then Bob come on, all I can see is hair, eyes and forehead…. but he is here…he is in the same room…in Bournemouth.

The first few songs are old ones including one from Blonde on Blonde. The Bob live style is more poetry with piano these days, squeezing the words out quickly so it takes me a while to recognise old songs. That ripple of polite applause, as a song is recognised by the hard core down in the front blocks, gives away the ones I feel I should know.

Gems from the latest album, False Prophet and Black Rider are separated by a second old one – another just released as a single (and on greatest hits albums). Full Setlist here, published on the Dylan website.

My concentration is broken – boy this makes you focus – it’s intense stuff – when the chap next to me nods off and lets his ugly two pinter of horrid expensive lager go down my leg and on to soak someone’s puffy coat in front. No one is happy but hey – I’ve had my moments – let it go.. and later he did. At least he served as a human barrier to the splayed leg troubled geezer who I was originally sat next to.

After another new album gem, Key West, is the best of the set maybe: Gotta Serve Somebody (San Francisco album 1980). There are whoops to add to the applause ripple to the start of that one. The flow of Rough and Rowdy Ways material is next interrupted by the crooners’ cover of That Old Black Magic: it fits well with the backdrop curtains and the jazzy side stage drum kit, occasional double bass and the dinner suit style of the band.

Bob steps out from behind his piano a few times so we can see him and he bows gently and smiles. He stands and sits to play… he is 81 now and small and frail but still dressed for rock’n’roll.

Goodbye Jimmy Reed (tribute to a Blues artist) is the penultimate song – another very recognisable track from the last album. The harmonica is out on this one – I could hear a quiet gasp of appreciation and here and there people were moved to get to their feet to applaud its arrival. Great song.

Bob, after saying hardly a word all evening, says, “It’s been my privilege to play for you tonight – I could carry on all night like this.” He seems quietly happy and content. And in to the last long: Every Grain of Sand from the 1981 album Shot of Love. Crowd on their feet now. At the end Bob steps out and bows and stands once again absorbing the adulation and respect. Single flowers are thrown on to the stage from several of the front block devotees. The cheers and applause go on and on but no more… the lights come up. Thanks for coming to Bournemouth Bob. What a wonderful experience.

The Hunna – live in Southampton

The Hunna at The Engine Rooms, Southampton 2.11.2022 with Kid Kapichi and Lucy Deakin supporting.

Bar at the rear of The Engine Rooms

A Wednesday night drive over to Southampton as we enter the new early darkness season: leaving the house just at the moment I might think about wrapping it all up for the day and sticking the kettle on. No – there’s a gig to see. Rock on 😎

I first saw The Hunna in Bristol at the O2 Academy in January 2018: a very lively sold out event which was a recommendation. Not sure I would have found them otherwise. I was double the age of the average crowd member then and it’s the same tonight.

Their first album 100 (released 2016) is the one I am most familiar with but the second, Dare, gets quite a bit of in-car play with wife Sally. (She’s here tonight and son Ben – he found ’em for us.) The third album passed me by and the eponymous fourth was out last week so just a few Spotify plays for that one. Sounds promising.

The Hunna at The Engine Rooms

The Hunna are from Watford. A four piece fronted by Ryan Potter – guitar and vocals – plus guitar, bass and drums. Indie rock is quite a broad term but that’s where they are and tonight it’s up the rockier end. First time I saw them I remember it being more indie-pop with power. A more rocky edge now.

We got in intentionally late – Engine Rooms detail in my venue blog – just catching the enthusiastic last Lucy Deakin song. The next band, Kid Kapichi, from Hastings, kept the attention with a short set of poppy rocky punky tunes.

Kid Kapichi – supporting
Jack Wilson – Kid Kapichi

Then shortly after 9pm – it’s time. A roaring welcome for The Hunna. Ryan Potter comments between songs to say where it’s going. He’s upbeat and talkative throughout. He is clearly relieved that the fourth album has appeared at last and is so pleased with it that he wants us to hear it all…now. The crowd seem pretty well versed in the lyrics already judging by the first few songs – it was only out last week!

Ryan Potter – The Hunna in Southampton

He thanks the audience for being so cool and hearing out the album and he seems to have got away with playing the whole thing. There’s no frustration – just euphoria. The best of the new ones to my ears are Circles and Take a Ride (Official video on YouTube.)

The Hunna

It is hot in here and it doesn’t take long for the rock’n’roll stripped-to-the-waist look to appear. Very good sound: loud without pushing it over the edge – it does the album justice. I’m sold on it.

Ryan Potter – The Hunna

Potter mentions the producer of this latest album, Gil Norton and that he’s in the venue seeing his first Hunna gig. He’s worked on albums for the likes of The Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World and The Pixies. Wow. This explains the rocking up of the sound to emphasise the band’s extra power or rock-edge.

After the fourth album feast they disappear for a little bit. Ryan Potter returns alone to play a slower version of Lover from second album Dare. Great stuff.

Ryan Potter – it’s hot in here
Bassist – Junate Angin

The key crowd pleasers are Babe, Can I Call You? (Dare album) and the big one off the first album, She’s Casual. I grab a few videos – the new pocket camera copes better than my phone with the sound. That’s nearly it. Two more to end a fab Wednesday night out with largely the youth of Southampton… lot of students in I’m supposing.

One lad is moved to ask us what we are doing here and is quite taken by our gig activity and enthusiasm – he’s been to two gigs this year. Be careful young man…don’t grow up too soon. Enjoy yourself.

(As ever, all photos taken by me on the night. Two videos linked also this evening.)

The Damned – live in Hammersmith

The Damned (original line-up) at Hammersmith Apollo 29.10.2022 with The Rezillos supporting

This is the second of two London gigs, part of a short tour, featuring the original 1976/77 line-up. This was the line-up featuring the ever-present Dave Vanian, the usually present Captain Sensible, returning drummer Rat Scabies and Brian James on guitar, the songwriter and original guitarist for the first two albums.

My Damned Memories: 42 years

My first Damned gig was in December 1980 at the then Hammersmith Odeon – I am wearing my 1980 tour badge tonight.

My badge – worn tonight and in 1980

The memories have been helped by a cutting I kept from that gig but I remember it being pretty wild. Captain Sensible chucked a pint of lager over where I was. We were in about the fourth row – it was all seated then – a few of those seats were casualties – all a bit frustrating at the time the seats thing. I remember Lemmy (Mötorhead) coming on sweeping the stage with a massive broom and other guest Ruts coming on during the Damned set to play. (I thought Paul Cook and Steve Jones put in an appearance as well, as The Professionals – maybe someone can confirm that.) That was The Black Album tour, still one of my favourite Damned albums.

The scrapbook – Sounds 1980

By my calculations this is my 11th Damned gig. The other early one was in the early 80s at Birmingham Locarno (became the Powerhouse) on 25.11.81 – I still have the ticket and The Anti-Nowhere League and GBH supported. Then in 1984 I remember an outdoor gig, marred by violence, in Brockwell Park as part of the series of save the GLC concerts. I still remember blokes running about with broken big beer bottles during New Model Army’s set.

1981 ticket

Bit of a gap then to the noughties when I saw them play at the London Roundhouse and then a variety of other places headlining such as Weymouth Pavilion, The Brook Southampton, Bournemouth O2 and then supporting Green Day at Hyde Park and The Hollywood Vampires in Birmingham. The support slots are never quite up to the mark of when a band is headlining and everyone makes the trip to see them.


When I was at school Hammersmith was a reasonably handy one as a bit of a gateway to London from the South West suburbs and it was very active for decent gigs with the Odeon and the wonderful and long gone Hammersmith Palais. We used to go in The Swan pub beforehand and that’s where we congregate tonight – a different ‘we’ but I am absorbing the sense of history.

Outside we used to dodge the calls of ‘got a spare 10p mate’ from chancers looking for beer money and tonight I don’t know what inflation has done but it’s now the hapless cries of ‘got any spare change’ from a bemusing mix of drug abusers and god knows who. Takings must be poor in the cashless new world.

Afternoon stroll passed the venue

Earlier in the day we pop down, to the right of tonight’s venue, to the relaxed riverside pubs – two nice ones with good beer choices near Hammersmith Bridge – and we opt for The Blue Anchor. Keep walking west along the towpath and you’ll find The Dove (a cracker but can be over popular).

Tonight’s Venue

The Apollo (The old Odeon) has stood firm since 1932, unconcerned by the flyover that so rudely appeared across its iconic facade, and with little discernible outside change aside from the maze of security barriers. The building closed for a major renovation in 2013 and remains one of the nation’s great venues. Everyone has played here: I’ve seen The Ramones, The Stranglers, David Byrne, The Cure, Killing Joke to name a few.

Inside the bar and entrance hall is an art deco beauty: it’s almost enough to distract from the beer prices. Glad we stopped in the Swan and didn’t linger too long here though. We have missed two early supports but the shared decision (when etickets are on one phone a consensus has to be reached) was to get in for The Rezillos set – I’m sporting my glow in the dark Flying Saucer Attack t-shirt after all.
It’s a 5000 capacity without the seats downstairs (3500 with them in) and the sloping floor aids the view, although easy to take a tumble as the spilled drinks flow gently down. Last night was sold out but there seems room this evening. We move down the right side and stop as the slope flattens two thirds of the way down.

The Rezillos – supporting

The Rezillos – supporting

The Rezillos are on. It’s up the loud end and the sound is a bit crash bang – an additional pair of old style speaker stacks sat on either side of the stage, and so one in front of us may be part of the problem.

In the last five years I have seen The Rezillos quite a lot, twice already this year, and once again I am reminded that if you like a band then when they’re not headlining be prepared to be a little disappointed. Still, always good to enjoy Destination Venus and Top of the Pops again.

The Damned (1976/77) Live

The Damned – Hammersmith again

This is one hell of a moment. The original Damned take the stage. A huge sense of nostalgia and of just being here. The stage set is no frills and old school. No flash lighting – it looked like my early gig recollections. Just the gear and these old men, in their 60s, about to make a beautiful racket. It is bloody loud….I Feel Alright to start (first album and Stooges cover). Next a few off the Music For Pleasure album… well if you include the extended version with The Beatles’ Help! Fast and messy I would describe it as..that’s how the first two albums are and there is that authenticity in the performance.

Brian James – original songwriter and guitarist 1976/77

The set is all of that classic first album Damned Damned Damned – scrambled with half of Music for Pleasure, not an album I warmed to much beyond the Stretcher Case Baby and Problem Child singles.

I maybe hadn’t mentally prepared enough for seeing the old less sophisticated Damned. The sound, besides being loud as ever, was distorting. Maybe it was where we were stood but it is a very early days crash of sound…exciting though it is.

Dave Vanian

The Captain is far more restrained than usual… well that is until the end when he smashes up his bass – yes he’s back on bass tonight. Far more uplifting than it should be – smash it up, smash it up (who can forget that Old Grey Whistle Test performance).

Dave Vanian looks at fit as ever, darting all over the place; into the darkness of the stage edges. Brian James looks to be physically struggling with it all – he was escorted on stage and doesn’t venture far from his amp – but plays on unconcerned. The Rat on drums is wild and it’s hard to take your eyes off the white light illumination of the drums.

The Rat is back
The Captain – quite Sensible

Neat Neat Neat is one of the best. Some songs you can’t stop punching the air to… Stab Your Back follows. It’s raw and short..abrupt….that’s how it was.

The end of the main set and it’s So Messed Up… music to fall around drunk to. To quote that Sounds cutting from 1980… a ‘choreographed chaos’ of a song. It’s done. I feel I’m standing wide-eyed wondering what I’ve witnessed.

The crowd are adoring. Adoring the moment and the history. The band return… and into New Rose. This must be one of the best live songs you can hear – it sounds so live even on the record. I may be over stating it but I think I’d pay the ticket price alone to see them play this…here. It’s a moment. A stage invader leaps over the barrier, is downed by security and saved by Dave Vanian to enjoy the moment… like the rest of us. (New Rose captured on YouTube)

After that, what can there be: a few covers Pills (Bo Diddley) and a poignant This Could Be the Last Time (Stones) in which The Captain smashes things up (caught by someone on YouTube here).

Smash it up Captain

This was a gig for nostalgics. I guess that was the intention. Objective achieved. Thank you. Brian James we salute you. I will be back for the new Damned sometime soon…. will Rat Scabies want to come out to play again? Go on.

Goodnight – Thank you

The Blow Monkeys – live in Islington

The Blow Monkeys live at The Assembly Hall, Islington, London 28.10.2022

A good spot for a night out: Islington, between Angel tube to the south and Highbury and Islington tube to the north. A top range of pubs. I’m up here with gig buddy Dave (DPi) having last been to the Assembly Hall for a My Vitriol gig in 2019 and more details on the venue and some of the pubs around are in my My Vitriol blog.

One additional pub visit of note, on the way down from Highbury and Islington tube station, was to The Hope and Anchor. The legendary live album recorded here, including The Stranglers, is in a frame along with some other memorabilia.

Live at the Hope and Anchor album on the wall

We rock up to the Assembly Hall not long before it’s time for the main band, missing the support. Upstairs, the seated balcony, is all closed off tonight and we find some space down front left.

Looking up to the closed-off balcony

Back in the day I just heard those 80s Blow Monkeys’ singles but didn’t listen to the albums. It was only when seeing them in 2017 at The 100 Club that I realised how much they had to offer. That was just after The Wild River was released – a great album which I play regularly. I have caught them since when they supported OMD in Bournemouth. I wouldn’t have made a special trip for this but we are in town for The Damned tomorrow.

Dr Robert – The Blow Monkeys – Islington Assembly Hall

The band has all its original members, having split in 1990 and reformed in 2007. It is all very centred on Dr Robert as the vocalist, guitarist and songwriter – he has had a solo career – but some great musicians in the band, the most eye and ear catching being the saxophonist and keyboardist Neville Henry. The sax is such a defining part of any song it features in. The strong sax and high impact drumbeats, added to with bongo drums gives added depth to the Blow Monkeys’ pop-rock tunes.

Neville Henry and Dr Robert
Neville Henry on sax/ keys

Singles Digging Your Scene and It Doesn’t Have to be This Way, are the most recognisable and get big cheers when introduced mid-set.

Assembly Hall – The Blow Monkeys

It’s a really good sound in here – easy to focus on the different instruments but all the while Dr Robert filling the stage with his guitar and vocals.

Dr Robert

Last song of the set is the title track of The Wild River. I’m pleased with that – it means the band see it as a special one – it’s not just me. (YouTube vid of that track at the 2017 100 Club gig I was at)

This is relaxed entertainment – good sounds – good auditorium – decent beer – great location – not too packed. I wasn’t expecting so much.

In the encores there is the gem of John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth. Love that. Now it’s out and down to find Slim Jim’s Liquor Saloon. Thank you… The Blow Monkeys.

Deep Purple – live in Birmingham

Deep Purple at Utilita Arena Birmingham 25.10.2022 with Blue Oyster Cult supporting

When I started my record collection around 1977 I never really looked back. I mean I hardly acknowledged any music released before that date. The ‘hairies’ at school would wander the corridors with albums in clear plastic sleeves for me to scoff at. I got exposed to a bit of new heavy metal as it came out and warmed to a bit of Motörhead and Iron Maiden, but I never got involved in older heavy rock. Those legends passed me by. Legends like Deep Purple.

Eventually one grows out of these things and I allowed myself the odd peek – the odd guilty pleasure. It took me a good 25 years though. By 2007 I had worked out that it might be a good idea to go and see Deep Purple before they packed it all in. I tried to get a ticket outside for a sold out gig at the Bournemouth International Centre: Deep Purple, Styx and Thin Lizzy (minus Phil Lynott). Nothing doing and I had to go home thinking that was that.

Move on another 15 years and here I am in the centre of Birmingham chatting to Deep Purple’s keyboard player Don Airey before their Arena show. I was hoping my ignorance of the band’s extensive discography would not be exposed – the only album I am properly familiar with is Machine Head, a wedding gift sent from my mate Al in France (Cheers Al).

Keyboardist Don Airey entertains pre-show (no I don’t remember what was so funny)

I got away with it. Lovely guy. Don and Ian Paice were the longer time band members that did a bit of signing stuff, along with new boy Simon McBride who I was later to realise was an extrovert guitarist of jaw dropping quality.

Simon McBride; Grey-Haired Gig Goer; Ian Paice; Don Airey

The support band tonight are another bucket list rock act: Blue Öyster Cult. Yes they finished with Don’t Fear the Reaper (now there’s a song that’s starting to resonate!) and just before that another of their hits Godzilla. Main ingredients Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom are still with the band, a band that started in 1967. Classic rock. Glad I wore my jeans. Wish I had a leather jacket.

Buck Dharma – BOC
Blue Öyster Cult – supporting

When the legendary Deep Purple take the stage, right in front of me – we are just a few rows back – it is the familiar ground of Machine Head to start. Indeed five of the main setlist are from that album. I got lucky.

Gillan vocals, Airey keyboards – I’m seeing double

It is Ian Gillan on vocals – still belting it out aged 77 – and Roger Glover on bass, adding to the aforementioned Airey, Paice and McBride. Deep Purple have had many reincarnations but Gillan is a frontman with his own legendary status as well as his established part in Deep Purple. Gillan’s voice has held up – the power with control. When a Blind Man Cries (Studio version) was one in the set that hits the mark best for me.

Ian Gillan
Simon McBride – guitar solo

It’s a heavy rock band so everyone has their moment. McBride’s staggering guitar solos, Glover’s bass piece in the encores, Paice’s rumbling drums and Don Airey’s monster keyboard solo – that was up on the big stage screens to see as well as hear. It’s pretty damn loud but I refrain from any sound dampening plugs – it feels inappropriate for these heavy rock legends. Feel the noise.

Keyboards – Don Airey
Gillan amid an Airey solo
Ian Paice – drums

Two from Machine Head end the main set – that’ll do me. Space Truckin’ and then yes, thank you for obliging, it’s Smoke on the Water. Got to be one of the top songs to hear live at least once. There are some very happy old boys in here (yes it’s a man-crowd); and they have waited quite a while for this while the plague cleared. Some people are going to sleep well tonight. (YouTube: Smoke on the Water live in Birmingham 2022.)

After a short rest, the claps, cheers and roars for an encore are answered. Gillan gives a warm thanks to the respectful thousands – must be 8,000 in – hard to tell as they can adjust the 14,800 capacity Arena size.

Hush first (a cover on their 1968 LP), the Glover bass solo and to end, the very familiar Black Knight. Rock on! Glad I made it. What an opportunity.

Billy Idol – live in Birmingham

Billy Idol at Resorts World Arena , Birmingham on 23.10.2022 with Killing Joke and Toyah supporting

Quite a line up this. Maybe a bit odd slotting Killing Joke between Toyah and Billy Idol but they are all out of my vinyl record box days. Originally the support was to be The Go-Go’s, then Television but Covid rearrangement and other illness put pay to those.

The World Resorts Arena

The venue is the arena at the NEC to save any confusion. I guess I’ve grown into the practicalities of such places after my early years in the area (My blog: Oh No They’re Playing the NEC) and for this trio we are off centre in the second row. A perfect view. Gig buddy Dave comes up trumps again – cheers.

Toyah, the punk queen of King’s Heath B14, is clearly delighted to be performing to this big Birmingham crowd. A half-hour set opening with Thunder in the Mountains before Echo Beach, her regular Martha and the Muffins cover.

Toyah – first on

Of course It’s a Mystery is here and I Wanna Be Free to end, which is Toyah’s anthem really. Her best song is, as it ever was, Neon Womb, from that early Sheep Farming in Barnet EP that I bought after her appearance on BBC TV’s Shoestring detective series. That was 1979. Not long after that I could be seen heading to the London Rainbow wearing my black Harrington jacket with Toyah Tippexed on the back – rock’n’roll eh. I took a bit of a ribbing for that off school mates, even back then.

Toyah – I Wanna be Free

That’s my fourth Toyah gig in the last three years and I’m always left with a smile on my face. Where’s that bottle of Tippex?

Killing Joke next, a band I have seen many times (my last Killing blog tells the story). A very good greatest hits selection emerges from their extensive catalogue – if hits is the right word, Killing Joke have rarely been mainstream (Love Like Blood aside).

Again a band I have a long-term affinity with, having bought their early double A-side single a few days after seeing them in a crowd estimated at 80,000 in Trafalgar Square after a CND rally. They play both A-sides: Requiem and the brilliant Change.

Jaz Coleman – Killing Joke in Brum

They are up against it with this Billy Idol arena crowd. Jaz Coleman doesn’t let that put him off. I’m out of my seat punching the air but an occasional glance over my shoulder doesn’t meet with the tribal acclamation you’d get at a KJ headline gig, despite the early offering of Wardance.

Geordie – Killing Joke

The Wait is an epic inclusion, as ever – Jaz’s grasping hand at its most evident – and the urgent early single Pssyche gives as much as you could want from a Killing Joke support slot.

A break before the ole King Rocker appears. Billy Idol is about as rock star as they come. He’s 66 now, 67 in November. It’s a long time since he left Generation X and the UK for New York to make a solo career back in 1981. He has managed to carry people with him though, through the decades and hence these arena tours.

Last time I saw him was in Las Vegas on my wedding night – so he is now entrenched in my history (My Billy Idol wedding blog) even more so than through my record boxes. His last two EPs are good – each with four tracks that could all be singles. There’s the 2021 Roadside EP, after which the tour is titled and The Cage released this year, with Running from the Ghost the winner there.

Billy Idol – Resorts World Arena Birmingham

The visuals for this gig are perfect. No gimmicks, just great sound, lighting, set, outfits and ‘Billy f*cking Idol’ as he roars late on. We are so close that the pics turn out a treat. The new pocket zoom does the job (Panasonic TZ90).


Dancing with Myself to open and not long after we get to Eyes Without a Face – a great single – I still have the gatefold sleeve version.

There is a Generation X song – he hasn’t forgotten his roots: 100 Punks. Love it. He also refers to his West Midlands roots – grandparents from Coventry eh.

Steve Stevens and Billy Idol
Steve Stevens

Steve Stevens, Billy’s long time collaborator, gets his chance to showcase his guitar playing with some intricate solos and his bit: Blue Highway and into the Top Gun theme that he wrote.

Rebel Yell ends the main set. Toyah covers this one regularly and Billy must have won the rights to play it tonight. The crowd is lively and appreciative and their reward of White Wedding comes at the end of the encore. I suppose he has to play it every gig – no would let him out otherwise.

Goodnight Birmingham

Billy’s happy. He says he has to go – got to save something for tomorrow night. “Birmingham. Thank you for making my life so f*ing great!”

The pleasure’s all ours Bill. Goodnight.

(More photos from tonight here in my 2022 Live Bands Flickr album. Page 3. Recent pics are at the end.)

Inhaler – live in Southampton

Inhaler at The Engine Rooms, Southampton 17.10.2022 with Stone supporting

A Monday night gig in Southampton – another long awaited rearrangement post-Covid, if indeed we are post-Covid. This was a ticket obtained by pre-ordering the first album – It Won’t Always Be Like This – released in July 2021. It’s been a long wait.

In the meantime I have already seen Inhaler twice in 2022: at Glastonbury in the John Peel tent and at Victorious Festival in Southsea. (Links are to songs from each event on my YouTube channel.) Both very good experiences but it isn’t the same as an indoor gig is it? Not for new bands anyway.

Due to an emergency road closure I did a tour of Southampton before arriving at The Engine Rooms later than even the planned lateness and just in time to see support band Stone, from Liverpool, do one song and say thank you and goodnight.

The place is packed, right back to the bar – the commonly seen divider curtain near the mixing desk is not deployed tonight. (Details of The Engine Rooms can be seen on my Engine Rooms venue blog.) We forget any idea of drinking anything and head for the wall to the right and forward of the mixing desk – a good leaning spot, tucked in front of a large bin and so protected from the everlasting flow of barging passers-by. The new replacement pocket zoom can be held aloft here without being in anyone’s way or being hit by flying beer.

When the band comes on there are proper screams, the likes of which I’ve not heard since a reluctant witnessing of a McFly gig about 15 years ago (they were sound..really) – lots of students in by the looks of it and a more mixed audience than some of the ‘lads outings’ I go to.

Inhaler – Engine Rooms

It’s exciting stuff – a new and well supported band, over from Dublin, after a successful first album and a second – Cuts’n’Bruises – set for release in February 2023.

Tonight the lighting is pretty damn dark, to the point it is pretty hard to make out anyone most of the time, except front man, singer and guitarist Elijah Hewson. (Photos of all the band here in my Victorious Festival blog.)

Elijah Hewson – Inhaler – Southampton

Yes, I’m sure the fact that Elijah Hewson is Bono’s son was suitably influencing to help me listen to the early releases but they are a great new band with a fine debut album, with six singles taken from it.

Inhaler – Elijah Hewson

Tonight, nine of the 13 song set are from that first album. But first two new ones – still greeted with movement and cheers – before When It Breaks, which I capture on phone video. It really is bouncing and yes it does remind me of the early bouncing days of U2 before it all went a bit stadium and preachy. Indie rock or alternative rock, whatever, it’s good traditional rock’n’roll without gimmicks just good musicians, one great voice, good songs and guitars. There is a touring keyboard player to add to the four main band members.

It’s bouncing

Elijah is appreciative of this lively audience without saying a great deal. Certainly well worth the trip over to Southampton on this Monday night. After the initial cancellation of this Vanilo Records organised event and repeated queries regarding rearrangement getting nowhere for ages, it is something of a relief and surprise to get here, before Inhaler are catapulted to stardom and bigger venues…surely.

The set – around an hour all told this one – winds up with the title track of the first album It Won’t Always Be Like This and then Cheer Up Baby: cue euphoric leaping, people on shoulders and concerned security. A break, crowd roars and the return. A slow new one first to calm everyone for the inevitable… the big single.”C’mon let’s do this shall we…..eh” cries Elijah… and with the opening bars of My Honest Face the place goes nuts.

Good luck lads. See you again soon.

Howard Jones – live in Basingstoke

Howard Jones trio at The Anvil, Basingstoke 15.10.2022 with Roxanne de Bastion supporting

A rare trip to Basingstoke….yes Basingstoke! My third trip to The Anvil here and the previous two, as with tonight, were both to see bands emanating from the 80s, but in the last five years: China Crisis and an ’80s Invasion’ tour with Big Country, Midge Ure, Nick Heyward and Curiosity Killed the Cat, well the singer anyway.

Tonight’s trip, induced by some spare tickets going 😁👍in the front row, was an easy drive up the M3 with a stopover, which turned out to be in the same hotel as Howard Jones and the others in his trio – Nick Beggs (once of Kajagoogoo) and Robin Boult.

The Anvil is a theatre with a 1,400 seated capacity. It opened in 1994 and looks smart once inside – a relaxing place with plush carpets and smiling bar staff who look like they are enjoying the evening. Sometimes an all-seated medium sized theatre can be a constraint (I felt like that when I saw Big Country here) but it was ideal for tonight’s show. You get a focused audience listening carefully – no chat – no phones – no cameras. No pics from me then but hey it’s good to have a rest sometimes.

Tonight’s support was solo singer-songwriter-keyboards-guitarist Roxanne de Bastion. The theatre was a perfect environment for her voice and to absorb the emotion in her lyrics… and her semi-acoustic Rickenbacker guitar.

She refers to growing up in Berlin, lives in London now, as she sings Wasteland (official video on YouTube) from her new album and that one sticks with me – modern Berlin sat across decades of horrible history (my wife Sally bought a copy of the album at the interval – You & Me, We Are the Same.) There’s encouragement from the attentive audience, even some participative singing and an 80s reward with a version of Erasure’s A Little Respect. Such a clear voice and sounding so uncluttered with the Rickenbacker or the keyboard.

Sally’s interval CD purchase from Roxanne de Bastion (er..right)

At the break I almost say hi to someone I thought I knew then realise I don’t: it’s designer Jeff Banks. I wish I’d stopped to thank him for the Debenhams expanding waist, smart work trousers I wore when I was my previously more portly self. He did some work on Howard Jones’ outfits – a hastily Googled fact that confirmed it was him.

Howard Jones

I’m of the Live Aid generation and grew up with those massive Howard Jones 80s radio singles but I have only seen him once: that was at Let’s Rock Exeter in 2021. I feel my knowledge and appreciation is a bit superficial for a seat right in front of the man, just in front of the centre stage. It doesn’t matter though: this performance is so absorbing.

Songs are introduced to enhance the context and understanding, and appreciate the Jones journey. The musicians either side of him – Nick Beggs (with an ornate upright bass stringed instrument and something I had to look up – a 10 string ‘Chapman stick’: fascinating) and Robin Boult (guitars including acoustic 12-string) – are an incredible watch. I’m in awe of that 12-string made to look so light and just hover in Robin Boult’s hands.

The set respects the popularity of the first two Howard Jones albums with more than half the songs from those. Only one from the 2022 album Dialogue and a hand-picked selection from across his other albums – with the synth-keyboard at the heart of it all with some great piano improvisation for the others to watch and follow.

Room is made early on to introduce Too Shy, number one single in 1983 for Kajagoogoo and co-written by Beggs. Howard points out that it’s not just anyone that can write a global number one hit record, teasing the audience about not being able to play it for contractual reasons…..before obliging.

The set draws to a close with the string of hit singles. Familiar 80s synthpop classics: Like to Get to Know You Well; Things Can Only Get Better; What is Love and then New Song. The audience are on their feet to salute the climax and the trio return for another single from the first album, Hide and Seek.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it – hard to imagine otherwise as the show is so well put together to perfectly exhibit the talent and experience on the stage.

Nick Beggs – Howard Jones – Robin Boult (Basingstoke Anvil) (pic by Sally)

As I said, no pics from me tonight but my wife Sally did grab a photo post-performance. Oh …and go on then, there was one before the gig.

Howard Jones and a grey-haired gig goer

The Lemonheads live – Southampton

The Lemonheads at The 1865, Southampton 12.10.2022 with Bass Drum of Death supporting

This was an extraordinary evening – possibly the most disappointing gig I have ever been to in over 40 years of gig-going. I wasn’t annoyed; it was just so sad to witness the flawed talent and waste of it all. I didn’t want to leave however awful it got – I had to see it out and make sure there wasn’t one last flurry of brilliance….there wasn’t. No explanations and no excuses. Just a capitulation to the situation as Evan Dando, who IS The Lemonheads, disappeared off stage shortly after a pathetic bit of solo drumming and slurring in front an increasingly bemused audience.

Evan Dando – The 1865 – 2022 – oh dear

Although a quarter or more of the audience had left by the end, most if the remaining fans had been patient and lovingly supportive, willing improvement and prepared to cut the man some slack – some slack it was mind! We are all aware Dando has had some substance abuse problems over the years but tonight he seemed to be ill, exhausted, frustrated, troubled by technical problems as well as being off his, once beautiful, face.

I was here with my old mate Chris (CMe) – he’s not old but I’ve known him a long time 😉. We went to see The Lemonheads first time back in June 1994 at something called The Que Club, in Birmingham, in what was the Central Methodist Hall on Corporation Street. I still have my ticket stub.

We remembered drinking cups of tea bought from the dated refreshment room at that odd venue – we were both driving that night – we felt like the oldest people there by about 10 years and girls there to swoon at Evan Dando were being picked up later by their waiting parents afterwards. We felt old then and now it’s 28 years later!

A hazier recollection was our trip to The Lemonheads’ 1994 Reading Festival appearance. We drove down for the day from Coventry, something we did for several years to that Festival.

It’s a Shame About Ray and Come on Feel the Lemonheads were the albums I had back then – I’ve been adding some vinyl more recently including a good 2006 eponymous album which I had been unaware of. ‘Ray’ was the biggy though, that everyone liked and hence some excitement about seeing it performed in full tonight – excitement that was soon dampened, severely.

(Evan Dando appears on Later with Jools Holland back in 1994: Being Around.)

The Lemonheads were originally from Boston and a significant part of the 90s grunge boom, but in a very tuneful and mellow poppy part of it. It was always about Evan Dando, his guitar, his voice, his tunes and his hair. The line-up has changed regularly over the years and it is only Dando who has survived – Dando effectively IS The Lemonheads.

Back to tonight and we missed the first band on, just caught the end as I explored the balcony up from the rear bar – I’d never seen that balcony area open to all on previous visits. (Read my venue blog on The 1865 for more details on this location.)

The main support, Bass Drum of Death, originally from Mississippi but started out in New York, were pretty good. Just two guitars and a drummer – no bass. They’ve had four albums (2011-18). ‘Alternative rock’ that rumbled along well.

Bass Drum of Death

After a bit of hanging around – 20 minutes after the posted timings – Evan Dando appeared in an orange puffa jacket, hood up, which he took off and threw into the audience once up on the stage. It was instantly apparent all was not well.

His acoustic guitar had some lead connection problems. He burbled his technical frustrations – assistance slow to appear – and gave up after several false starts and picked up his electric one. It wasn’t the equipment though: the voice was already gone. Deep notes only were happening and any attempt to lift it and he croaked and lost it.

A troubled night for Evan Dando

The first solo section exposed every flaw – you can’t hide when it’s one man and a guitar and no backing or looping tricks. The Outdoor Type was nearly there and the amusing lyrics audible but we knew we were in trouble early on.

The next section was the It’s A Shame About Ray album in full, solo. So recognisable and nostalgic that the guitar did carry him to an extent but songs ran into each other, sometimes curtailed and slurred and croaky throughout. (Title track live captured on YouTube in case you doubt my judgement.) He asked if anyone knew the words to Alison‘s Starting to Happen well enough to join him onstage. Some brave woman did and gave it a go.

Next the band came on for their bit – six or so songs. A drummer and a bassist. They looked nervous. They knew this ship was going down. I understand there was another guitarist earlier on the tour – this is the last night – but he must have jumped overboard early.

The band helped a bit. At least we got some tunes going and there was some minimal vocal assistance from the bassist. They couldn’t get off fast enough when the time came though.

This left Dando to the face the horror of another solo section. Usually I pop some notes in my phone on songs played etc but all that was notable and memorable was being witness to this car crash of a gig. Into the drum kit for what was to be the last song before he fled the stage. Wide-eyed punters looked around. Some cheesed off accepting smiles. It was hard to clap anything and had been for some time. I didn’t hear one boo though – too much love in the room for the real Evan Dando. A pause and the lights mercifully went on. We all shuffled out like a memorial service was over.

I hope the real Evan Dando is still in there somewhere and returns. I will be back. It’s a shame about everything..Ray, Evan the lot.


The Enemy live in Bournemouth

The Enemy at O2 Academy Bournemouth 7.10.2022 with Little Man Tate supporting

Tom Clarke – The Enemy live in Bournemouth 2022

Call the police
‘Cause things are getting ugly
Get on your feet
I want you running with me” (Aggro – The Enemy)

That’s the opening – The Enemy are back. The crowd have been bouncing for a while and now they’re going nuts. What a fabulous atmosphere. It’s the We’ll Live and Die in These Towns reunion tour – we are 15 years on but once they are on, it feels like yesterday.

“What a f’cking room, Bournemouth!” exclaims main man Tom Clarke. He said they’d never seen an audience like this on the South coast before. It is absolutely rocking, with a pleasant, aggressive edge.. if you get me. I’ve been upstairs on the first floor standing balcony to see the enjoyable support band Little Man Tate – I didn’t know them, just the name and they were good – well received – indie rock from Sheffield and similar era to The Enemy.

Little Man Tate – support – from the balcony

But down here on the floor it’s the We’ll Live and Die in These Towns album being embarked on, in full, in the track listed order, making for one of the most explosive starts to a gig in a long time.

I’m so sick, sick, sick and tired
Of working just to be retired
I don’t want to get that far
I don’t want your company car
Promotions ain’t my thing
Name badges are not interesting
It’s much easier for me see
To stay at home with Richard and Judy.
Away, away oh oh oh away from here” (Away From Here – The Enemy)

Tom Clarke – The Enemy – Bournemouth

Brilliant – remembering he wrote that through the eyes of disenchanted youth and not a 59-year-old grey-haired gig goer. I’m still carrying some post-Covid lurgy but this is all lifting the spirits. Tom Clarke is spitting the words out – the anger of the songs is still there. The first five songs of the album, including title track We’ll Live and Die in These Towns (Official video release), are like a greatest hits EP – four of them were released as singles.

Clarke and Hopkins
Andy Hopkins – bass

It’s the original trio, Andy Hopkins on bass and Liam Watts on drums, with another touring guitarist. They formed in Coventry in 2006, several years after my years in the city but I think the Cov thing still drew me to them when that first great album, featured tonight, came out in 2007 and went straight in at number one in the UK album chart.

My first Enemy gig ticket

I saw them later that year at Southampton Guildhall. I bought their second album Music For the People (2008): a good follow up. Those first two albums were in a different league the third, Streets in the Sky (2012) and I’m not familiar with their fourth and last album, Automatic.

Tonight is the fourth time I’ve seen them. There was another, October 2012, Southampton Guildhall gig and in 2009 I saw them at more of a distance, at Wembley Stadium supporting Oasis.


Tonight’s set is only a little over an hour: it really is over in a flash with no let up until the quieter last track of the featured album and main part of the set, Happy Birthday Jane. Throughout, until that one, the room was wonderfully rowdy, right to the back arms punching the air and people on shoulders.

Tom Clarke

I’d initially gone down the front left side to take a few photos but I couldn’t move after that – glued to it – aside from a quick trip back to get a view from there and pop to the bar.

Rear view

For more on the venue see my updated blog on the O2 Academy Bournemouth.

Tom Clarke – lead vocals/ guitar
Andy Hopkins – bass

The band return to adoration and four more songs: Be Somebody and No Time for Tears from the second album, Gimme the Sign into Saturdays from the third and to finish the second bit of This Song… which started in the main set.

Goodnight Bournemouth

An absolutely storming gig. One of my top ones this year…and this was number 74 in this hectic year for me. I was just looking to see if I could get to another one on the tour but that would be pushing it….unfortunately. I have been getting a YouTube-full of it though since. (Birmingham gig looked fun.)

[All photos taken by Ivan, the grey-haired gig goer at 02 Academy Bournemouth.]