My Easter this year consisted of an ambitious tour embracing eight gigs in ten days, travelling to three countries and four cities using trains, planes and automobiles and walking a lot. This was a whistle stop tour and the blog this time is very much that… a photo assisted shoot through an amazing and exhausting week, and I was only watching.
Thursday 14 April: Simple Minds at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Maundy Thursday and the Easter traffic was building as I drove into Wales and through the tunnels, slowly, near Newport and all in time to see Simple Minds at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. A really good night with great seats (cheers Dave) smack in the front of this seated hall.
Jim Kerr was on top dancing and pointing form. Great band with new additions on drums and backing vocals from Brian Ferry’s touring band and Berenice Scott from Heaven 17 on keyboards.
Charlie Burchill, the other original and key to the song writing, wandered the stage smiling while Jim’s-nastics continued. Two sets with a rest in between. Fantastic to hear I Travel again live – throbbing synth opening. First time I heard that live was in 1980 at Hammersmith Palais when they supported The Skids.
One of the Easter highlights this one and looking forward already to the hinted at New Gold Dream tour next. On Good Friday it was back home and off to Southampton to see the band I first saw supporting Simple Minds in the early 80s at Birmingham Odeon.
Friday 15 April: China Crisis at The 1865, Southampton
The heart, and humour, of China Crisis is still there with Gary Daly (vocals, stories and an occasional melodica) and Eddie Lundon (guitar and vocals) who are joined by keyboards and sax.
The set is in two halves with the one after the break being ‘the ones you’ve heard of’ as Gary Daly put it….and that’s where the place really warms up, starting with African and White. Daly intersperses the classic electro-pop hits with stories and elaborate introductions – he really is a very entertaining raconteur and he appreciated the particularly lively audience on this Bank Holiday Friday night.
Black man Ray; Wishful Thinking; King in a Catholic style and Tragedy and Mystery were the best of set and Christian to round off.
Gary Daly popped out after for a chat and sign some stuff at the merch stand. Surpassed expectations this one.
Sunday 17 April: Sparks at The Roundhouse, London
After a ‘rest day’ in the London suburbs it was up to The Roundhouse for the legendary Sparks brothers, still out on this major European tour in their 70s. I can’t claim to have followed them but one of those ever-present acts from the 70s that just kept going innovatively and never stopping.
As with the rest of this Easter bonanza I’m with gig buddy Dave (DPi), tonight sat in the centre balcony for a polished and tight electro-pop rock show which was lapped up by the Sparks faithful, who were back out in force.
Number One Song in Heaven – of course, This Town Ain’t Big Enough – of course, but that was the popular end for people like me. Edith Piaf was another gem from earlier in the set. Ron even got to do his dance before the end. He still looks just as mysterious and unsettling as he did on Top of the Pops when I was a lad.
Tuesday 19 April: Luke Haines & Peter Buck at the 100 Club, London
After another rest day with my mum in the suburbs it was back into town to The 100 Club to see Auteurs’ main man Luke Haines and REM’s Peter Buck perform work from their recent collaboration Beat Poetry for survivalists. Jack Parsons and Andy Warhol Was Not Kind would be my recommended tracks, both of which they played.
It’s quite an intense performance with Luke Haines getting on with it and Peter Buck looking relaxed but bored by the whole thing. We were over by the bassist and drummer and so it was easy to appreciate their input to this quality rock’n’roll sound, with a rough edge befitting of the classic 100 Club surroundings: garage rock.
In common with all the artists this week so far, and tomorrow’s, no support act. This seems to be a way of reducing Covid spread in the tour and has caught on.
Wednesday 20 April: Suzi Quatro at the Royal Albert Hall, London
We moved south to Kensington and after a very worthwhile Albert Hall official tour, Queens Arms lunch session and a self-guided amble through Kensington, its blue plaques and a few Freddie Mercury houses, we met up for a few beers in The Goat with another old mate Dave (DSy). Not too many beer options near the Albert Hall but The Goat is another one to add the often rammed Queens. (Stein’s Berlin’s outside terrace and the Kensington Gore Hotel’s Bar 190 are very upmarket quieter alternatives.)
So, Suzi Quatro. What to expect here eh? Look-In magazine pin up and leather suited 70s rock’n’roll woman….from the 70s and in her 70s….and she just rocks. No messing. No funny face work – grey highlights – and a good ole rock’n’roller from Detroit. A really good show and friendly feel in the vast space of the Albert Hall. We were in the front left corner, surrounded by excited photographers for the first three songs.
48 Crash was the first big hit to be rolled out, followed by a great version of Neil Young’s Keep on Rocking in the Free World which underlined my sentiments behind this Easter trail of self-indulgence while war raged to the east.
Special guest Andy Scott from Sweet came on a guest guitarist and on drums was Don Powell from Slade. A trio of 70s legends.
Suzi returned in the full leather suit for part two, which included Devilgate Drive and Can the Can (My YouTube clip). I can’t quite believe I have seen these performed live after all this time…a bucket list item I guess… the songs and the Suzi in her leather suit thing. I think I was affected by Look-In magazine as a youngster and the leather suit memories don’t leave you easily without counselling I guess.
Thursday 21 April: The Mission at O2 Academy Bristol
After a long day travelling – train to the suburbs and a drive via Gatwick, Basingstoke and on to Bristol – it was time for The Mission.
This was as tired as I got all week. I arrived at the Premier Inn, Bristol at 7pm and 15 mins later met gig buddy Dave downstairs, with energy levels boosted by a whole Aero Easter egg one of my sisters had given me.
A support band at last: The Rose of Avalanche. A very Sisters of Mercy/ Mission vibe but up the pub rock end. Decent start to the evening.
The two-hour performance included a very long version of Tower of Strength at the end of a series of encores. Not an entirely gothed up audience but a hard core of disciples in the middle and at the front, including some watching from on top of shoulders.
Wayne Hussey was completely chilled, literally at one point, asking for fans to be switched off above the stage. A fair bit of chat, including the tricky area of local football teams which got some Bristol City supporters going – I think Hussey is a Liverpool fan.
Wasteland was my obvious favourite but Deliverance and Amelia induced my subsequent second-hand album purchase – Carved in Sand.
Wayne Hussey’s bright summery shirt undermined the darkness of his goth rock guitar and distinctive haunting voice.
After a very long day I was anything but a Tower of Strength by the time that one finished off the set. All the better for an alcohol-free day though and ready to fly north to complete the Easter extravaganza.
Friday 22 April: Blondie with Johnny Marr at the OVO Hydro, Glasgow
The main purpose of the Glasgow trip was the Scotland Calling one day festival on the Saturday but to keep us from a heavy day in the pubs of Glasgow, gig buddy Dave had sorted some tickets to see Blondie… with Johnny Marr supporting. We met up with our old mate Big Gra (GGu) on arrival and soon after we were in a pub over from our hotel – The Clutha – the one a helicopter crashed into some years back.
It was after my discussion in a school Chemistry lesson in 1977 with Big Gra that I bought Denis by Blondie, reassured by him as to their punky credentials, me having heard it on the radio (He used to have spikey hair and Doc Martins so I had some respect.) Here we are striding along the Clyde footpath up towards the Glasgow Ovo Hydro arena some 35 years later to a Blondie gig! Who’d have thought eh?
A modern new build in Glasgow’s exhibition centre district, capacity 14,300 – very much Scotland’s answer to Greenwich O2. My first visit.
For some reason our rear balcony seats were swapped on arrival by the box office for much closer seats on the main floor which was a welcome. surprise – a decent view for what was a big gig.
Johnny Marr – what a fab addition to the tour. He used his time well with some of his new and older solo material (including Easy Money) and some Smiths classics which were absolutely fantastic to hear again in these big crowd surroundings. Panic, This Charming Man and the beautiful There is a Light That Never Goes Out, with crowd in full singalong mode. A couple of Electronic songs were the other treats in this well chosen and overtly crowd pleasing set: Getting Away With It and Get the Message.
Best of all How Soon is Now. I can feel the emotion of it just thinking about it. That powerful opening – I just wasn’t ready for that – and in a ‘warm up’ set. I am struggling to think of a better support band set I have ever seen….I mean ever seen.
The Blondie set was also a very well crafted arrangement, with some unusual encore choices perhaps: No Exit/ Fragments/ One Way or Another/ Tide is High. The hits were out there though and the nostalgia juke box was appreciated. It was as much celebration of their career as a gig. I felt like I was saying goodbye. The band have had to wait for this tour for over two years now. Chris Stein is one of the casualties of this wait and he had to pull out of the tour due to ill health – just Debbie Harry and Chris Stein as remaining originals.
Clem Burke’s influence is immense for a drummer. He is right there in the middle of it all with drum solos growing out in various places. There are some excellent musicians with them but not sure of the need for exquisite guitar solos in a Blondie song – not really the CBGBs rough and ready attitude, and Clem Burke was wearing the t-shirt.
After a bit of head scratching as to who the mature bloke on bass was, mate Dave rumbles the fact it might be ex-Pistol Glen Matlock. A zoomed photo confirms the spot.
Debbie Harry made a fine effort at looking the trendy New Yorker she has been – much trimmed down from when I saw them in Reading in 1998 – but her face was mildly disturbing with that scary distortion aging ‘work done’ can bring. I should remind myself she’s 76 but it’s still the ‘scary’ word I come back to. Maybe because we are all just getting old.
The performance is still there though, voice waivering at times in favourites like Picture This but yes she’s 76, seventy bloody six. God help us….and Union City Blue didn’t lose anything.
A hugely enjoyable evening. Quite reflective and I feel quite old after that.
So by this stage I had reached the end of this Easter marathon in one piece and there is just one more test – last lap – well a few laps – an all day punk festival Scotland Calling. That’s for another edition.