Kirk Brandon at Chapel Arts Centre, Bath 4.6.21
We finally made it to Bath. This solo Kirk Brandon gig was booked for 13 November 2020 originally. I bought tickets in the desperate search for a live gig that would likely go ahead. A socially distanced and seated arrangement that was still thwarted by restrictions and rearranged several times until we were finally able to stick on June.
With the Covid caution continuing it really was a believe it when you see it gig but that didn’t stop us – wife Sally with me on this one – booking a week’s holiday around Somerset all based on this gig. It worked. The final anxiety came as the thermometer gun was pointed at my forehead on entry to the Arts Centre, on hot Summer’s evening…I passed, we both passed…we were in. Tense moments.
I hadn’t been to Bath for about 25 years and had never seen a gig there. Not sure it crops up on the main or secondary tour circuits, given its proximity to gig-rich Bristol. A great place to visit if a gig does crop up, once you’ve found a parking space.
A wide array of bars, pubs and restaurants obviously – many smart ones. I’d recommend The Raven for the more traditional pub feel , complete with two bespoke Raven ales and The Stranglers’ Raven album framed on the stairway wall. Without booking places, it being Friday night, we were a bit restricted and committed the schoolboy error of failing to eat before a night out on the pop. We should have had a pie in the Raven – they’re renoun for them I’m told.
One pub that looked interesting but a bit out of the way was the Bell Inn on Walcot Street, on the edge of the City Centre. We wandered up there the following night but it was brimming over – Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant have had something to do with raising money to keep it open….another time perhaps.
Chapel Arts Centre
In the heart of the old city, the Chapel Arts Centre used to be known as the Central Club and Window Arts Centre, and the Invention Studios, and normally has a 200 capacity standing, 150 seating or 105 with the exotic sounding caberet style seating which we had for this gig – with the little round tables. With anti-social distancing this brought the capacity down to 48 people. The gig sold out and Kirk added an extra night on the Thursday which sold out also.
To ward off the virus we were treated to the usual ‘masks unless seated’ arrangement along with track and trace and ventilation to go with the distancing – it’s getting tiresome isn’t it, especially having been double jabbed. However, the bonus was we could walk up to the bar and buy a drink (!) – worth the ticket price alone surely. And some decent local beers at the bar, bottled.
The rare opportunity to actually walk up to the bar for a beer was explained carefully on the Arts Centre website, quoting the Bath & North East Somerset Council licensing officer – as it is considered a concert hall and not a pub then as a ticketed event we were free from the shackles of having waited table service. A double edged sword this given our lack of food. 🙄 (I wonder if I’ll find this excessive detail of interest in years to come.)
All very relaxed. Lovely place that have patiently rearranged and promptly communicated throughout the numerous changes brought on through the winter of discontent.
Kirk Brandon solo
I’ve seen Kirk’s Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny many times, way back when (ToH at Hammersmith Palais takes some beating) and in recent years, covered in My Kirk Brandon Years blog, this was only my second solo Kirk gig – well there was a cello accompaniment at the first at Winchester Railway about 10 years ago.
A great idea these shows in these viral times. It suits a seated lower capacity event when everyone’s struggling for ideas about how to legally enjoy some live music.
Kirk has been one of my Lockdown legends: releasing weekly Monday night videos of old Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate gigs, free on Facebook mainly, for long periods over Lockdown/up. Mondays for me, and many others in Kirk’s loyal legion, became Kirk night from 9 til 10pm and then I would listen to Teenage Kicks on Forest FM to round off the night. These were the sort of things that kept me going…I say were, let’s hope this nonsense is over soon 😷
There were also a couple of great paid Kirk solo livestreams from a proper venue and really well produced. A brave move the solo gig: a recorded live session is one thing but touring solo when you’ve been fronting bands live for decades is another level….and it worked for Kirk.
The sound was tops and what a great voice, accompanied by his guitars. It was pure Kirk – no support and a two part set plucking songs from through the decades.
Harlan County was one I noted as a fave from the first half. I particularly enjoyed Grapes of Wrath and Love is a Ghost from the second half and. A great selection.
A track I’m less familiar with but have been playing a lot since the gig is Judas . Pumpkin Man from the Outlands album is another classic. I only have that album on pre-recorded cassette – remember those? – so I’ve given that less of an airing from the earlier Spear of Destiny years. (During Lockdown/up I have retreived a cassette playing device from the shed. What a novelty. I notice some bands are starting to release new stuff on cassette: Gary Numan and Maximo Park for example. Not sure where we are going with that….maybe a re-release of Bow Wow Wow’s cassette single C30,C60,C90 …I keep looking for an original one.)
(One of the reasons I started recording some notes from the gigs I go to was to park photos in some context. I’m usually armed with my Panasonic pocket zoom and a mobile phone and only include my own snaps. Obviously at the Covid restricted seated events you can’t wander about and get the best light. This place was good though. The lighting was sympathetic, good view – even enough to check the turnup size on Kirk’s jeans – got to keep an eye on the fashions – and no bobbing heads and jostling so some benefits eh.)
Yup, really enjoyed this…and after such a wait it was worth it. This was making the best of the black cloud of Covid. An opportunity for these more up-close and personal gigs and I appreciate that the limited capacities mean it’s not great for artists and venues so good on those having a go.
It’s not every gig that you get to have a chat with the artist in the gents before they go on stage, and then meet them afterwards👍Cheers Kirk. Nice one. Will catch up at a few Spear gigs later in the year….all being well. Jab up everyone.
Next stop for me is to see another of my Lockdown legends: Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, in another Covid busting setting.