Spear of Destiny: 8.9.2021 Exeter Phoenix and 26.9.2021 The Joiners Arms, Southampton
The Spear of Destiny World Service @35 tour (planned as 35 years on from the original release and tour of that now re-recorded album) was a much delayed one, thus fuelling my eagerness to get to see it…..so I went to two dates – The Joiners, Southampton and Exeter Pheonix arts centre. My pre-tour ordered t-shirt is now a lie with old Covid-wrecked dates and the Southampton gig recently switched from The 1865. I got my first Covid jab wearing it so this will become a treasured one, to be wheeled out on the Antiques Roadshow one day eh.
My recent quasi-Lockdown socially distanced Bath Kirk Brandon solo gig is documented in these blogs, as is my last Spear of Destiny gig in Southampton and Kirk history which goes back to Theatre of Hate at Hammersmith Palais and Digbeth Civic Hall, Birmingham in the early 80s….they were for the long term.
The sets at Exeter and Southampton were pretty much identical but the venues and experience varied – so much more right in the sweat of it at little Joiners and a calmer, clearer aerial view from the front row of the balcony at the arts centre in Exeter. I enjoyed them both, obviously.
Southampton is certainly preferable on the journey from Poole front, with a reasonable train option and 40 mins by car as opposed to 2 hours and City Centre congestion in Exeter. Having just emerged from Covid nonsense, the fuel shortage was the new crisis off the press on the Sunday of the Southampton, Joiners gig.
There was a local-ish support act at Joiners: James Krumbock (an Austrian name – he’s from Winchester and the Railway Inn is his familiar stomping ground) – solo with acoustic guitar. Captivating singer songwriter stuff and an interesting cover of The Manic Street Preachers’ If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – a verse in Italian, just for the hell if it. He doesn’t speak Italian – I asked him – but just learned the one verse.
Spear of Destiny open this tour set with the title track of the remade album being toured: World Service. The drums and backdrop match, as does my t-shirt both gigs – never been one for wearing a t-shirt of the band I’m going to see but I felt it an appropriate exception for this.
Most of the set is understandably the World Service album tracks, shuffled. I’m particularly up for All My Love (Ask Nothing), (video link) a single from the album and one I had a huge poster of blu-tacked to my wall in two South Birmingham rented rooms in the mid-80s…. and I found the evidence.
Once in Her Life Time and Rocket Ship are other upbeat faves from what is a great album but Mickey is something special. There was a long period when it didn’t get played but it was a huge favourite with the ample bouncing crowds of the 80s – a tale of injured forgotten soldiers, used and abused.
Now mama’s little boy went to ulster one day
He was lucky he didn’t get his
Legs blown away
They gave him medals for kicking front
Now Mickey’s grown up and he
Your grand daddy fought in the 1418
Your father too in ’44
Now little Mickey’s gonna run away
And find himself a war
I wanna go home
I wanna go home‘Mickey’ SoD
The low slung guitar playing from ex-New Model Army’s Adrian Portas is excellence in action. In Southampton it’s from the gloom (not as dark as the bass side) but visually better from the balcony of the Pheonix.
The set list can just about be made out at The Pheonix, pre-gig from the balcony but I saved it to check up later rather than give myself a spoiler.
Kirk dispenses with his guitar for some songs and gives himself a workout – less room or ventilation in Joiners. Not sure I fancy my chances of matching that effort – I’m still building up my gig standing muscles post Covid, never mind a workout.
After a break Harlan County, Solution and the surprise inclusion of a cover version of Joy Division’s Transmission – less of a surprise at Joiners of course. Cracking choice.
As we come to the end a couple of the best from the second album One Eyed Jacks: Playground of the Rich and the rousing Liberator, a great way to end.
It’s a pity more people weren’t attracted by the Exeter gig – the crowd was a bit sparse and Joiners seemed a better venue to host those sort of numbers. The band put every bit the same effort in at both and the Pheonix balcony won on visible experience – besides, my knee was knackered.
Through the bar and out to the quite narrow rear to the gig room. Funnel through there, passed the small mixing desk and the room opens out just in front of the stage, across its width, and only about as deep as the stage. It’s about as compact as it gets on the recognised gig circuit. I’m happy to lean on the rail next to the mixing desk – always a fascinating watch the mix desk.
The capacity is 200 but that must be a squeeze. It looks like a small old city pub on entry, with an L-shaped bar with an old ticket design on featuring bands that have played there – they’ve had some crackers over the years, not that they all feature in the formica: Green Day, Muse, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead. A few days after Spear of Destiny, Wolf Alice were playing as part or their small venue mini-tour.
There are car parks nearby but on street parking further down St Mary’s Street is preferable for me. Joiners is about a mile from the station. It’s not a great area to wander about in if unfamiliar.
This multi-use arts centre has a good outside decked seating area and decent bar.
The building is a bit of a maze to discover when hunting down the bogs. I was upstairs sat in the front row of the balcony with a recovering knee. I was pleased to see a handy disabled toilet nearby only to find it was out if action necessitating a trek down and up a few flights of stairs and journey around the entire building.
It wasn’t very busy for Spear of Destiny and the 415 standing capacity was not at all challenged. I’ve been here once before for a sell out Half Man Half Biscuit gig and when standing it’s pretty hard to get out of the gig room, especially if you stand on the right looking stagewards.
Lots of decent chain restaurants and other choices nearby – Bill’s, Turtle Bay, the Brewdog bar (shame I was driving but they did Punk IPA alcohol free) – and it’s positioned right in the middle of Exeter.
Guildhall Car Park did the job.
Two gigs on the World Service @35 tour done. Cheers Kirk. Thank you… goodnight.