The Sea Girls – live in Southampton

The Sea Girls at O2 Southampton Guildhall 23.11 2022

I am running a bit behind with my trail of gig blogs. I don’t do every gig I go to. A few repeats at familiar venues and local pub gigs which made up my 100 nights (including some days) of live music in 2022, mean the build up to the Christmas and New Year gig desert has been busier than it may appear. The end of November/ early December gig surge did include a newer band though – worthy of some attention – The Sea Girls.

Glastonbury 22 – Sea Girls

It was bright sunny day at The Other Stage at Glastonbury. Perched in camping chairs, eating ice cream and drinking cartons of chilled white wine and some distance from the stage but they got me up to listen and look harder.

The Sea Girls – The Other Stage – Glastonbury 22

An odd name for an all-bloke band based in London – they aren’t all from there originally but nothing close to the sea.

Formed in 2015, their first album Open Up Your Head was released in 2020. Bit of a hard time to push on but eventually a second, Homesick, appeared in March 2022. Both reached number 3 in the UK album chart. Their style of indie rock does lend itself to some singalong moments and frontman Henry Camamile does get a crowd going. He’s joined by three others on guitar and back vocals (Rory Young), bass (Andrew Dawson) and drums (Oli Khan).

On this November night in Southampton I was here with my wife and her son…we were all going to see The Sea Girls a year or so back in Portsmouth but they had a Covid induced postponement and they never rearranged that gig as the venue, The Pyramids, closed for a refurbishment and subsequently stopped putting on live bands.

We delayed our arrival at the Guildhall, having been attracted by an extra exotic beer or two in the excellent Belgium and Blues bar nearby. I only discovered it on a recent visit and updated my O2 Southampton Guildhall blog, which has more detail on location, pre-gig amenities and the building. This meant missing out on the support band – not something I do often.

Full house – expectant crowd at The Guildhall

A big crowd in – a sell-out – but standing level with the mixing desk still gave us a bit of room. It was also easy to get a bit further down the side and up against the wall to take a video or two without getting in anyone’s way.

An air of celebration when the band came on. A bit of a relief to get this tour on. Damage Done from the 2020 album to open, followed by Lucky from the 2022 album Homesick. That balance was maintained throughout with about seven tracks played from each album plus some extras such as early singles and EP tracks.

The Sea Girls – Southampton Guildhall

The Guildhall’s maybe now legendary ‘no crowd surfing’ signs appear to be complied with. Instead, shoulder clambering was the gymnastic feat of the evening – you don’t get that at an old punk gig these days. I feel I may have missed out on this activity. Can’t see me starting now mind. Maybe I could do one crowd surf as a grey-haired gig goer, just for the bucket list. Not at the Guildhall obviously – there are those signs.

Front man Henry Camamile

I grabbed a camera video – new camera – getting hang of it now – of one of their typically anthemic numbers: Sick, which begged a singalong. (Link to my YouTube Channel – Sick)

Although I was only familiar with the 2022 album, I liked all I heard – they have a good set full of songs without any padding. What tonight did underline for me was, like for like, how much more I enjoy the indoor tour gig experience as against the festival set. Granted I wasn’t sat in the sunshine with a carton of chilled white wine or an ice cream but it lacks the intensity of a dark November urban night out.

Yes of course an encore – this is a crowd-pleasing band who don’t shy away from smiling and enjoying the moment. First Daisy Daisy, a slower one from a 2017 EP. Next All I Want to Hear You Say and the best, or certainly the most popular, Call Me Out to end, the main track on that 2017 EP.

Henry Camamile – The Sea Girls

Yup – a good night out and a band to keep an eye on. No ice creams at this one though.

The grey-haired gig-goer – ice cream, wine and The Sea Girls – Glastonbury 22.

Placebo – live in Portsmouth

Placebo at Portsmouth Guildhall 18.11.2022 with Cruel Hearts Club supporting.

Portsmouth Guildhall is an impressive building but it’s rare for me to catch it in daylight, with my handful of visits being in the evening.

Portsmouth Guildhall

Some more notes on the venue can be found in my blog of my last visit here to see Starsailor.

Tonight’s gig saw us visiting the Brewhouse and Kitchen brewpub beforehand, just a few hundred yards off the Guildhall Square and along passed the closer Wetherspoons option. The bars in the venue are fine if heading straight in.

Placebo gigs

My first encounter with Placebo was way back in August 1997 at the V97 Festival near Leeds, during their early days – the Nancy Boy years. I’ve been buying their albums ever since, continuing even after the music streaming options appeared. Their latest album, the one being toured, Never Let Me Go, lived up to the wait. Favourite tracks for me I guess are the single Beautiful James and Surrounded by Spies.

It wasn’t until 2009 that I went to one of Placebo’s own gigs though: Bournemouth Opera House, now the O2 Academy. This was quite small intense gig – I had to join the fan club to get a ticket – fuelled my enthusiasm for some more adventurous trips to see them. In November 2013, we travelled (with now wife Sally) from Brussels (where we were on holiday) to Cologne to see them at the Lanxess Arena. Then in December 2016 we went to the 3 Arena in Dublin to see them. Both great trips.

Brian Molko – Placebo – Lanxess Arena Cologne 2013
Placebo – Cologne 2013

Placebo at Portsmouth Guildhall

We are in the balcony for the show tonight. Top view down over the stage. Cruel Hearts Club are the support. A rocky, a bit punky, female trio. Bright and visual.

The no photos posters were all over the place and warnings are made over the speakers and also with messaging on stage. Similar had been appearing on social media and in emails to ticket holders in the days before the gig. I’m happy to go along with these things.

Comments made by main man Brian Molko at the end if the gig made it clearer that he really was a bit nervous of this sort of close-up gig these days and this may tie in to the phone and camera thing. I don’t buy it that phones and cameras are necessarily a bad gig thing though. They fuel interest and enthusiasm for bands via YouTube and other social media, particularly if you can’t get a ticket or get to a gig. It does drop the nut a bit on my blog material mind but hey ho.

The set tonight was heavily focused on the new album and brilliantly delivered – top sound – loud and sharp. Molko’s voice so consistent and the defining sound.

Brian Molko (guitar and vocals) and Stefan Olsdal (bass and vocals) are the original Placebo members, going back to 1994, with the rest of the band being touring members….even extending to a second bassist allowing Stefan to switch to guitar. Stefan and Brian started the band after meeting at an American school in Luxembourg, which may explain the Brian’s American sounding vocals.

The brilliant Too Many Friends is a highlight inclusion outside of the new album – one of their best ever songs. Infa-Red another perfect addition for me. I used to blast this song out again and again driving to work when it was released in 2006.

The set is a wonderful showcase for the new album but the encores could have been an opportunity to hear some more old faves maybe. Instead, the covers of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and the new cover of Tears for Fears’ Shout and one more, Fix Yourself, from the new album, Never Let Me Go. Still a top performance – up with the best I have experienced this year, but I left just wanting more from the encores to make it a 10/10.

Brian and Stefan say goodnight (photo from a friend)

A snap of the empty stage as I left, gives the balcony view.

Balcony – Portsmouth Guildhall

Gig Venue: O2 Guildhall, Southampton

O2 Guildhall Southampton, West Marlands Road, Southampton SO14 7LP

The Guildhall’s classic frontage

My recent visits to Southampton Guildhall, my first since back pre-Lockdown, have calmed my negativity about the sound at this venue and I will get back into going there a bit more. After numerous echoey sound problems I had tried to dodge the place if possible. 

With a capacity of 1749 standing (with a small rear seated balcony of about 230) it’s a good size to get decent bands. It’s not too far to travel to for me. For so many known bands’ tours, Southampton O2 is on the circuit, like Bristol, when Bournemouth, my local one, is not.

The Guildhall venue does unfortunately have the shape, high ceiling and often the acoustics of a large Victorian swimming pool – stone wall echo as a special feature. On my last two visits pre-‘plague’, I got as far to the front as possible as that seemed to improve the sound – a Band of Skulls gig here introduced me to that idea. Absorb the sound before it hits a wall.

The high ceilings and stone walls

However, recently (Future Islands in November 2022) I found the sound was fine up in the balcony, with an added high level central speaker, suspended from the ceiling near the back, so projecting to the balcony.

The view from up there is a little distant but unobstructed and sometimes these days a seat is appreciated. There is no bar up there but there are toilets.

View from the rear balcony

Downstairs the two main bars are off to each side and are separate rooms which I like – chattering minimised. Usual O2 limitations but pleased to see some decent bottles in the fridges: Tribute and Wytchwood. When I saw Motörhead here in 2011, pre-fancy earplug days, I hid in the bar for songs I didn’t know to save my ears for the best, peering out stagewards. Possibly my loudest gig experience ever. Overkill was a chest and brain pounding monster.

There is another small bar at the back of the main hall, behind a room divider and opposite that bar is the large merch stand.

The building has a very grand classic exterior, although built in the 1930s as part of the large collection of civic buildings – grade II listed and refurbished in 1989.

It’s a short walk uphill from the main train station or if driving my preferred car park is across the park from the venue: Grosvenor Square multi-storey or the flat one next to that if not full. I noticed a one-way system has made it harder to find than last time I was here.

My pre-gig pub recommendation is the Belgium and Blues bar. Astonishing beer menu on tap and in bottles. Plenty of other choices along the Above Bar Street that one is on. One place I haven’t tried which I noticed had appeared on my November ’22 visit is Preez – the little bar on the square, just opposite the front of the Guildhall.

Recent visit (My Blog link)

Future Islands (November 2022)

Future Islands – live in Southampton

Future Islands at O2 Guildhall Southampton 17.11.2022 with Laundromat supporting.

This my first visit for several years to Southampton Guildhall, since back pre-Lockdown for a few gigs in Spring 2019: Suede and The Manic Street Preachers. After numerous echoey sound problems I have tried to dodge the place if possible, but maybe I will think again.  With a capacity of 1749 standing (with a small rear seated balcony) it’s a good size to get decent bands though.

Front of the Guildhall

The O2 Guildhall Southampton

It has the shape, high ceiling and often the acoustics of a Victorian swimming pool – stone wall echo. On those last two visits I got as far to the front as possible as that seemed to improve the sound – a Band of Skulls gig here introduced me to that idea. However, tonight we we’re up in the rear balcony (front row) and an added high level central speaker may have helped as the sound was decent.

In early at the Guildhall

The view from the balcony is a little distant but unobstructed and I appreciated the seat with this being the first of three gigs in three nights. There is no bar up there but there are toilets.

Balcony view

Downstairs the two main bars are off to each side and are separate rooms which I like – chattering minimised. Usual O2 limitations but pleased to see some decent bottles in the fridges: Tribute and Witchwood. (When I saw Motörhead here in 2011, pre-fancy earplug days, I hid in the bar for songs I didn’t know to save my ears for the best, peering out stagewards. Possibly my loudest gig experience ever. Overkill was a chest and brain pounding monster.)

The building has a very grand classic exterior, although built in the 1930s as part of the large collection of civic buildings – grade II listed and refurbished in 1989. There is another small rear bar at the back of the main hall, behind a room divider and opposite is the large merch stand.

It’s a short walk uphill from the main train station or if driving my preferred car park is across the park from the venue: Grosvenor Square multi-storey or the flat one next to that if not full. I noticed a one-way system has made it harder to find than last time I was here.

My pre-gig pub recommendation is the Belgium and Blues bar. Astonishing beer menu on tap and in bottles. Plenty of other choices along the Above Bar Street that one is on.

Support band

First up Laundromat. Nothing for me there. I thought the vocal detracted from the slow melodic indie tunes, but I find later that the singer, Toby Hayes, is the creator of it all.

Laundromat – supporting

Future Islands – looking back

It’s five years since I saw Future Islands, seeing them twice in 2017: at Glastonbury in the John Peel tent and at O2 Academy Bournemouth. I was ushered in to the John Peel tent by friends who said I had to see them. I’d not heard of them although they had been going since 2006. They were right to usher me.

Singles (2014) is the best album for me – a good entry point if you don’t know them – with The Far Field (2017) being a favoured source for material the other times I’ve seen them. The breakthrough for them came the first time the unusual dancing Sam Herring appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.

They are from North Carolina originally (now Baltimore based) and it’s the same lead singer (Samuel T. Herring), keyboards (Gerrit Welmers) and bassist and other guitars (William Cashion) since they formed – the drummer (Michael Lowry) the later addition. It is quite a heavy electro-pop sound with bass guitar only when live.

Future Islands tonight

Future Islands take to the stage

The band line up with Sam Herring loose at the front and the rest of the band on a slightly raised platform behind, which they don’t stray from. A warm welcome – Herring seems a very likeable character. No flash stage clothes – but high kicks, low crouches and some great growls.

Samuel T. Herring – the growler

The set draws from four albums including, I’m pleased to say, four from Singles.

Up in the balcony front row a video clip is an easy task – out of people’s way and nothing in my way and something to lean on. Early set clip of Ran starts with some distinctive restrained throaty sounds and a little bit of light growling.

Sam Herring – Future Islands – Southampton

Sam Herring covers all the stage – side to side – up at the drums – down at the front almost whispering lovingly to front row fans – eyes following every move – cheers for the most ambitious moves. The set moves on and slips by pretty fast. It is a relaxing sound, one that rumbles along with the anxious cries of that distinctive voice box.

Near the set’s end is Seasons (Waiting on You). It’s still the best and what the crowd is waiting for most and I took another pocket camera video (link takes you to my YouTube channel).

Herring – the dancer

Warm applause at the break and some good old pre-encore stomping, after which there are three more songs Inch of Dust, Vireo’s Eye and lastly Little Dreamer that one is introduced with reflections on what that means to them – their long road to recognition and living out their dreams.

Thank you and goodnight

A successful return to Southampton Guildhall for me. I will be less resistant in future and see how it goes….especially if Future Islands are coming.

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.)