Duran Duran live in Hyde Park

Duran Duran in Hyde Park 10.7.2022 with Nike Rodgers and Chic; Aurora; Laura Mvula and Rozzi

Back in October 1980 I stumbled upon what was one of Duran Duran’s first gigs outside their native Birmingham. I went to the Lyceum, just off The Strand, to see Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls – it was a double headline with both Pauline Murray and John Cooper Clarke being backed by the Invisible Girls. The Durutti Column were the named support – we were in early to lean on the front barrier. (I was with two mates from school Wayne and Paul).

But first… who’s this? They look a bit like Japan. Flamboyant clothes and powdered faces and a bit of eyeliner. “Ladies and gentlemen – give a big London welcome to Duran Duran.” They sounded alright. Quite poppy. Months later, in February 1981, they released Planet Earth and then they hit Top of the Pops – jaws dropped, “we’ve seen that lot”.

My ticket for one of Duran Duran’s first appearances outside Birmingham – fourth on the bill at The Lyceum

Later that year I found myself in Birmingham as a student, a city I stayed in for seven years, and where Duran Duran songs began to infiltrate my mind. The hits kept coming. They were played everywhere: nightclubs, pub juke boxes, 80s discos. (No they weren’t actually called 80s discos in the 80s – they just were.)

I even went to the legendary Duran Duran hangout, The Rum Runner on Broad Street – only once that I recall. It was packed and the erotic film Caligula was playing on tv screens throughout the club. It was knocked down in 1987, the year I left the city.

That was it. I never bought any records. I never saw them, or even contemplated it, but the Duran Duran boys were a classic 80s backdrop sound. Nearly 42 years since that first chance gig I’m here in Hyde Park after taking gig buddy Dave up on an offer of some tickets bought a few years ago, before we were locked down. Here in the garden area to the side of the stage with access to stage front. It is bloody hot mind. Everyone is flocking together under any available shade.

The garden area – BST Hyde Park

Singer songwriter Rozzi, 19 and from San Francisco sounded pretty good from the shaded bar area and I should have shifted earlier into the burning sun at the front of the stage. I was moved to see Laura Mvula while a lot of the audience, especially the front section, were keeping out of the way in the shade. This is a bit of a problem with the divided ticketed areas and Laura commented wondering where everyone was. I found myself stood just back from previous act Rozzi to watch.

Rozzi watching Laura Mvula
Laura Mvula – afternoon in Hyde Park

A reminder of who is on next from the t-shirt in front and next up that is Aurora.

Aurora is Norwegian. Intensely Norwegian I’d say. A fairytale appearance and a Bjork-like high singing voice (and a squeaky speaking voice). I watched open mouthed I suspect.

Aurora – Hyde Park

All this is passing the time pleasantly but not much more than that. I started to wish I’d come out to see Rozzi first.

The interest cranks up a notch when Nile Rodgers takes to the stage with Chic – whoever Chic are these days . The crowds pile in from the bar areas. I caught the end of Nile Rodgers at Victorious Festival last year and thought I’d missed something.

Nile Rodgers at BST Hyde Park

I’m no Chic boogie man but I was intrigued to see this set. It started with a string of Chic songs including Everybody Dance and I Want Your Love and then Nile Rodgers started to talk about and play some of the songs he wrote for and with others: I’m Coming Out (Diana Ross); The Greatest Dancer and one I really do like We Are Family (Sister Sledge) and on to some Madonna with Like a Virgin and Material Girl. I didn’t know he wrote all this stuff. Interesting intros and explanations.

Everyone enjoyed this live juke box performance in the sun. A few Bowie songs: Modern Love and Let’s Dance and the alarmingly catchy song written with Daft Punk, Get Lucky.

The Nile Rodgers boogie in the Hyde Park sun

Yes they/he did do the Chic trade mark number Le Freak. I enjoyed this expansion of my musical education.

C’est Chic – Nile Rodgers

And on to the main event – Duran Duran, some 42 years after my first sighting. I was surprised. I didn’t know what to expect. Simon Le Bon didn’t come out of the Queen’s Jubilee concert very well – his voice sounded weak at that. But what was delivered here could not have been better, I don’t think.

Duran Duran are on

I really don’t know any of their album material. The singles though have got engrained in me over four decades, so playing those was always going to be the winning bit for me.

Simon Le Bon

The chant of Wild Boys to start and they’re off. Top start. My pick would have been their Bond film song, View to a Kill. Great song. Other top early half choices were Union of the Snake and Hungry Like the Wolf (which I nearly missed as I had sloped off to grab some food ironically).

Nile Rodgers came on to help out on a few, including Notorious (he produced and played on that album) and Pressure Off (which he co-wrote and co-produced).

Simon Le Bon – Hyde Park

Singles Reflex and Planet Earth, that first breakthrough chart hit, helped the build up to the encores of Save a Prayer and, of course, Rio.

Le Bon

I can’t imagine seeing Duran Duran better than that. My curiosity, after 42 years, is satisfied. I don’t need to see them again. That was just great.

(I have now acquired a greatest hits album for 50p from a local charity shop.)

From the Jam + The Selecter, live in Bournemouth

From the Jam at O2 Academy Bournemouth 9.7.2022 with special guests, The Selecter

My fourth From the Jam gig. No, I never saw the Jam: only Weller. I will be brief as my last FTJ blog put them in personal context. That was at The Brook in 2021, an acoustic show.

A familiar local venue for me as well, so extensive details on that are updated from my visits here in my O2 Academy Bournemouth blog.

The Selecter – tonight’s special guests

What a bonus eh? I’ve always liked those first two albums, Too Much Pressure (1979), Celebrate the Bullet (1980) but I didn’t go beyond that. My appreciation was aided I guess by living in Coventry for many years, their 2-Tone hometown. I didn’t see them live back in 79/80 and have had to content myself with buying the live vinyl album of a Coventry gig of that time, at what is now the library (a recent Record Store Day special).

It wasn’t until 2016 at Victorious Festival I saw them live. By this point it was originals Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson remaining.

Victorious Festival 2017 – The Selecter – main stage

On a few years and we turned up early doors for their gig at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea (me and now wife Sally). I bought Pauline Black’s excellent autobiography ‘Black by Design’ and had a chat. Later, she dedicated a song to me which was one hell of a surprise mid-set.

Wedgewood Rooms 2019 – pre-show at the merch stand with Pauline Black
Merch stand purchase – 2019 Southsea
The Selecter – Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea 2019

So on to tonight and we are down the front, early in, a row behind the barrier. 8pm and the place is still filling during their set. (Here with wife Sally and bro-in-law Rich tonight.)

Pauline Black – The Selecter – O2 Academy Bournemouth 2022

After the introductory Avengers Theme, the bouncy 3 Minute Hero. Hard to keep still. An enthusiastic start.

The band look to be having a party and it rubs off. Some great sax and organ sounds accompany the guitars and a returned original drummer, all providing the rich ska backdrop for Pauline and Gaps to vocalise onto. Lots to watch. I find myself mesmerized by their dancing feet. Smart variations of Doc Marten footwear.

Pauline Black – Bournemouth 2022
Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson – The Selecter – Bournemouth 2022

Missing Words was always going to be a top one for me, mid-set. That’s followed by the ska anthem cover Last Train to Skaville. The Selecter get a 13-song set, only one less than From the Jam so it is a double header effectively.

Before what was their biggest single, On My Radio (it reached number 8 in the UK chart), Pauline says “put your phones away – no one needs to see another video of this one.” Guess not. Just enjoy it.

To finish: Too Much Pressure, merging into another classic cover, Pressure Drop. An encore maybe? No, that’s it.

Pauline Black in Bournemouth – more than a three minute hero

From the Jam tonight

This is a Sound Effects tour, celebrating that album. They dodge the idea of playing all the songs from that one, in order, opting instead for seven tracks from it, starting with Pretty Green.

Russell Hastings – From the Jam – Bournemouth

I particulary enjoy Start, Man in the Cornershop and the wonderful That’s Entertainment.

Russell Hastings tells of his recent heart attack and stent fitting. Scary stuff. He checks his wrist monitoring device and says he’s already exceeding the limit after just a few songs, but on he goes. Jam original Bruce Foxton has had his own medical problems and procedures so these boys have had a worrying year. You wouldn’t think it looking at them performing tonight.

From the Jam – O2 Academy Bournemouth
Bruce Foxton – bass

Russell Hastings’ voice is amazingly similar to a younger Weller – shut your eyes and yoù get your own time machine.

Leaving Sound Effects behind, the set shifts into top gear: Strange Town – with a reminder as to what an A-Z Guide Book was – David Watts, Town Called Malice and A-Bomb in Wardour Street.

Russell Hastings

The magnificent Eton Rifles ends the main set. Can it get better? Yup…one of the greatest songs written in my lifetime, in my nostalgic mind: Down in the Tubestation at Midnight. Weller has left us with all this but it’s so hard to squeeze a Jam track out if him these days From the Jam are the best shout for a Jam fan’s night out. To end Heatwave. Great night.

Bruce Almighty from THE Jam

The Rolling Stones live in Hyde Park

The Rolling Stones at British Summer Time Hyde Park 3.7.2022 with Sam Fender, Courtney Barnett and The Dinner Party supporting

This is a big one. My third gig in London this weekend with gig buddy Dave. Really looking forward to it. I have seen the Stones once before, in Cardiff in 2018. That was before I had properly explored their back catalogue – I only knew what I had heard on the radio.

Cardiff Principality Stadium 2018

It was the first of a 2018 eight gigs in eight days extravaganza that was a miracle of logistics and good fortune that my gig buddy Dave engineered (he went on to a ninth gig in nine afterwards!)

That first gig was a real eye opener for me: seeing these legends at close quarters and appreciating the highly mobile and energetic Jagger. It was also here that I took one of my favourite ever gig photos – with the trusty pocket zoom I still use.

Jagger right in front of me – Cardiff 2018 – one of my favourite snaps

Moving on to the gigless grinding boredom of the 2020 Summer Lockdown and I found myself working through a list of the top 100 albums of all time (Rolling Stone Magazine’s take on it anyway). Several things emerged from this: a rapidly induced obsession with Bob Dylan; Revolver was by a fair margin my favourite Beatles album (not Sgt Pepper as I’d imagined); I really didn’t get the Bat Out of Hell thing, even when Meatloaf died; and the Rolling Stones old stuff was a goldmine I had failed to tap into. It started with Sticky Fingers and after playing that for several weeks I started to take remote recommendations from my mate Al, which led me to Let it Bleed, Some Girls and a timely remastered re-release of Goat Head Soup (in which we find Angie).

So now, still a relative novice, I am in a better place to appreciate The Stones live.

A beautiful sunny day in one of the most wonderful urban green spaces there can be, Hyde Park: the far eastern end of it, north east of the Serpentine. I’ve been to several of these British Summer Time (BST) concerts now: Taylor Swift 🤪; The Cure; Green Day; The Killers and Bob Dylan/ Neil Young. You need to be in a premium price front section if you can – easy said I know but back behind the front barriers of the general admission area, on the flat as it is, is pretty frustrating and faced with that again I would try for another venue to see someone. It is divisive and for some bands the usual enthusiasm of ‘down the front’ is distant with an unhealthy infiltration of less interested corporates and media darlings stage front. Support bands can get a particularly raw deal with a patchy crowd in front of them while the buzz is in the garden drinky area to the side.

….and there I was, sat in the garden bar area along with the rest of them for the first few support acts: The Dinner Party and Courtney Barnett, who was worth a better look. I was saving my aging legs, honest, while a miraculous supply of beers kept arriving via friends John (The Dove) and Jeanette 😁. (Here with them, gig buddy Dave and our wives Ann and Sally, wary of repeating the recent Killers gig waywardness.)

You can see the bands on the stage side big screen but I just had to go into the arena for Sam Fender. This the third time I’ve seen him, once here with Neil Young/Dylan and recently his great Glastonbury set, with songs from his excellent new Seventeen Going Under album – belter. A singer songwriter with some edge and a proper band to play live with. Everyone’s noticing him now after a stuttering few years since his first album, Covid hiatus and some other gig cancellations followed. So much to come.

Crowd builds – Sam Fender
Sam Fender from The Toon
Sam Fender at Hyde Park supporting The Stones

Even Sam Fender was a bit under supported given the magnitude of today’s headliners. The arena stage front paddock quickly fills as the Stones start time approaches. It is still so bright; a lovely warm glowing bright, but any lighting is a bit lost until much later. It’s exciting. Old rockers peer eagerly stagewards.

Stones on sun out Hyde Park

No sooner is Jagger on than he is off down the walkway, his walkway into the crowd. His body seems to absorb the music and move like a cartoon to it, effortlessly. The trade mark rounded arm hand claps, the pouting lips and side to side head wobble. What a front man and he’s done this for decades – still looks as fit as hell.

He dedicates the gig to the recently departed drummer Charlie Watts, Charlie’s face having been up on the pre-show backdrop.

I’ve taken the precaution, Stones relative novice that I am, of creating a Spotify playlist of recent tour dates. It is a crowd pleasing set and that tactic still pays off. (Subsequent reviews five star.) The addition I hadn’t anticipated was Angie, from Goats Head Soup. Probably my favourite Stones song. Brilliant. All a bit emotional such is the hugeness of the moment.

Ronnie Wood’s illustrated setlist, print available from his website for £80

You Can’t Always Get What You Want is the earworm that stays with me for days. It’s a good response to all manner of situations. Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone is a celebratory cover thrown in: I could almost detect a pause before the ‘self-mentioning’ chorus.

Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards

There is a Wood-Richards led pair of songs during which they progress up the walkway a bit, but this is Jagger’s territory. The Stones guitar engine room generally seems happy to stick to the task: playing rock’n’roll. The whole gig is playing what people have come for, and in a way they want to hear it. No fancy nonsense.

On screen Jagger
Mick Jagger… a bit too sunny

Paint it Black : more classic history. In front of 60,000 people out in the park, they manage to give it raw uncluttered sound of a small club. There is a sense that this is a band returning to celebrate in their home city, after all they’ve done. Sixty years. It is amazing. I’m lapping it up. It’s my 49th and best gig of the year: the performance; the set; the nostalgia; the weather; the company; the boys are back in town thing. Tops.

Rolling Stones – Hyde Park BST

I gave up with my camera after a bit – enough for the memory jolter when I’m sat in a home one day. I will beat the Stones to it at this rate.

The run in from Paint it Black escalated beautifully. There was a polite break for a play at the encore game and while the more predictable Satisfaction was the last, Sympathy for the Devil a preferred gem. That’s where I am heading next: the Beggars Banquet album to continue my belated education.

Guns N’ Roses live at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Guns N’ Roses at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London 2.7.2022 Gary Clark Jr and Michael Monroe supporting

Approaching Tottenham Stadium

A first gig at Spurs

My first trip to the new Spurs ground for any reason. It is very impressive, rising up between the residential streets and the scruffy High Road. We arrive on the 476 bus up from Angel, Islington. On match day I suppose regular fans get to know the best routes in and out but this is a pretty awful place to get access. (Getting out and back to more central London later proves to be a horror.) Not sure if these gigs are the first held here – could well be.

Confusion abounds as regards where to go – a lap of the stadium and a bit of queuing and we are in on an early entry ticket for 3pm….yes, we are here for seven and a half hours.

Stadium view early on

Reports are of around 70,000 people here today, with the all-standing on the pitch giving that added capacity to a football match which sees 62,850 when Spurs can fill it. This really is big stadium rock. I’m learning.

Predictably expensive (£6.70 for a pint of lovely Neck Oil) for drinks and food but service is fast and the quality good. They use bottom filling plastic glasses. Novel. Lots just drip beer down the front of your trousers so I spend the afternoon looking like I have a bladder disorder. Clean spacious concourses and plenty of smart toilets. No queues.

Michael Monroe

First support band on

The first of two supports is ex-Hanoi Rocks man Michael Monroe – he’s Finnish. A real old school rocker look and glam rock is the label that gets applied to him. Didn’t know any of his material but really enjoyed it – easy going hard rock – maybe it was the relief of some music at last after a few hours sat around on the plastic pitch covering.

Michael Monroe

Stage bathed in sunshine at this point. That doesn’t last into the evening but helps the afternoon pics. 60-year-old Mike goes climbing up the side of the stage, still singing, with a leap on his descent that would have put me out of action for weeks.

Stage climbing antics

There’s not much wind so the sound is pretty good near the front and central, although there were complaints up the back… it is a bit of a way back there.

Looking back over a grey-haired gig going head

I was thinking I would have to give Hanoi Rocks a Spotify spin sometime and I see he’s had 11 solo albums.

Gary Clarke Jr

Guess who’s on next

The second of the two support acts is Gary Clark Jr, from Austin, Texas. Bluesy guitar rock and wow is this good. New to me and a bit different. I’d like to have seen a longer set – he impressed.

Second support at Spurs
Bluesy rocker Gary Clark Jr

Then came the wait, the long wait. All announcements were urging people to be in and ready for Guns N’ Roses to come on at 6.45pm. That sounded a bit early but the stage video backdrop and sound kept hinting at a start: it was on a loop and it would all go quiet again. This went on for over two hours, most of which I spent cross legged to save my legs, on the plastic floor while above it clouded over.

The mood flattens. A bit of booing. It’s around 8.15pm. Action. Here they come…and the wait is forgotten.

The waiting game – it’s a
Guns N’ Roses thing

Guns N’ Roses live

My first GN’R gig. These things need to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity as we all rock ’til we drop.

Once again I find myself on unfamiliar musical territory – we all know the big hits but I have none of their records. I doubt I’ve ever listened to one of their albums all through on Spotify even, so I don’t recognise what they start with (here is the setlist for the record).

Then several songs in and with a rumble on the drums it is possibly the best song they perform all night: Welcome to the Jungle. It’s so heavy metal and brimming with excitement. An anthem of the genre. Axl Rose gives his all on this one and I wonder if he blew a gasket.

His voice appeared to deteriorate after this monster effort. He disappears periodically in the latter part of the set, leaving Slash to his solos, Duff to front a few and there’s a seated guitar acoustic interlude later. At one point he utters “welcome to the world of baritone”.

Axl Rose and Duff McKagan

Axl, with a Union Jack t-shirt from his stage wardrobe for the day, offers an arbitrary solution to Hong Kong’s troubles, calling for the UK to take it back. That was the evening’s political insight.

Slash at Spurs

The Wings cover Live and Let Die is a mid-set highlight – it was only last week I was watching McCartney do it – and they beef it right up. One of six covers in the set.

Hard to take your eyes off Slash and his magic fingers, looking a bit gnarled on the big screen close ups. He’s out to either side of the stage beyond the screens, wandering up over the drum podium, on to speakers, little jumps down, just playing on and playing on relentless, his mouth regularly quivering and distorting in concentration. One of the sights of live rock’n’roll.

The legendary Slash

It’s raining properly by the end of the set and people aren’t dressed for it. I settle for my emergency plastic see through poncho, complimenting my Pretty Green festival jacket beautifully for that London tourist caught in a shower look. Knocking on Heaven’s Door gives a lift. Great song, usually performed better by everyone other than Dylan.

Axl Rose in the July rain at Tottenham Stadium – no November Rain tonight

It’s pissing down now. The set finishes and they return promptly – their lateness means they’re up against the 10.20pm curfew now – and the three guitarists play the Beatles’ Blackbird, sat together round the drums. Then Axl announces the pre-planned help he’s got in: American Idol graduate and country singer Carrie Underwood. On she comes in sparkly country style boots, Axl with his cowboy hat on. Yee haw. The first bars of Sweet Child o’ Mine play. Massive roar. Shame Axl can’t do it justice but she belts out the high notes. I’ve always envisaged seeing this played on a sunny day at a festival rather than in a rainy football stadium. You can’t have it all eh.

Paradise City to finish, another banger with Carrie on vocals and it’s thankyou and goodnight. Off into the mayhem of the High Road with a street of thousands flowing down passed curious hurdles of bits of roadworks and casualties in heaps on the floor, to closed overground station entrances, mobbed bus stops and local onlookers. Cars hooting, speeding, skidding… sirens. Eventually it clears the further you go and a bus heading south lets us on to travel to civilisation.

That’s my Guns N’ Roses experience. A big one….maybe one day I will stand in a sunny field, half drunk, and hear them play Sweet Child o’ Mine.

Kings of Leon live in London

Kings of Leon at 02 Arena Greenwich 1.7.2022 with The Snuts supporting

The first of three gigs in three nights and the weekend after five days at Glastonbury (Gig buddy Dave is setting the pace). I am just about back recovered to ‘gig fitness’. Glad we are seated though – back of the lower tier, quite well forward up the right-hand side. Great view. I’ve never stood on the main floor of the O2, I’ve had a seat there, but everyone stands up anyway so it’s quite a challenge to see well.

I’ve done a handful of gigs here and keep out of the upper tiers and it’s fine. O2 phone contracts get you into the Blueroom bars before and that is always welcome – get in early for a seat. It’s a massive venue yes but if that’s where performers are going to play, it’s take it or leave it.

View from rear, side lower tier – O2 Arena London

What’s odd to me is that Kings of Leon fill this place. A great sound. A solid band. Stadium rock? I don’t get it. This is the first of two nights here. To be fair I don’t have enough familiarity with the band. Who am I to judge?

I saw them in Birmingham Resorts World (The NEC) in February 2017 and that was full then. Good solid rock’n’roll, from the US music heartlands of Nashville, but I haven’t been moved to explore much and that makes me badly out of touch. Doesn’t stop a good night out mind, although I will have to be brief on detail.

The Snuts are tonight’s support, from West Lothian. Indie rockers with a variety of pace and a set that very much keeps the interest.

The Snuts

Frontman Jack Cochrane has a voice that at times slows and raises pitch to sound a bit like Passenger I thought. Variety is the key and with an 11 song support slot there is plenty there to admire. I would seek them out again.

They finish with Glasgow, their first proper single. It’s a good’un.

They had their first album out in April 2021 and a new album is on its way this Autumn. That’s going to be worth a listen.

The Kings of Leon emerge. Not easy to see though, especially in the early part of the set.

Kings of Leon – somewhere there in the O2
Kings of Leon – O2 Arena

Occasionally the lighting allows more of a glimpse of where the good sounds are emanating from but it’s all a bit of a gloomy scene for this big place. A lot of bright back lighting hampers a decent view of the band.

(I only recently realised the band includes three brothers and a cousin. All Followills.)

Kings of Leon – there they are

I don’t know their set list – some are more familiar but I couldn’t put a name to them. The crowd love it. There’s even a scrap down the front which stops the show: what is this? The villain is offered up by the crowd and manhandled over the barrier into the pit before being led away by that many security he could be Hannibal Lecter.

Frontman Caleb Followill comments at one point about playing gigs where they are more popular than anywhere….they do seem to have hit the spot with the UK.

It’s only at the end of the main set when they do Use Somebody that I can name one and then they are off.

The encores dutifully follow: Revelry, The Bucket and, how could they leave without playing it, Sex is on Fire.

Sex is on Fire to finish

I guess it must be hard for them to leave a venue without playing it, such is its status. They’re here again tomorrow, different support (The Vaccines). I’m off to Tottenham in the morning.

ABC live in Bath

ABC at Bath Forum with The Southbank Sinfonia 18.6.2022

Bit of a special one this. Out in Bath to celebrate my gig buddy Dave’s big birthday – a group of mates from our early 80s Birmingham days, with partners – the five of us were geography students so we had half a chance of finding the place (OK six of us were here last night for Elvis Costello ).

Signed tour poster

It’s the 40th anniversary of ABC’s Lexicon of Love album being performed with an orchestra, a pretty full one that fills the stage: The Southbank Sinfonia. Worth making an effort then, so Dave’s international tailors kitted us out. A lot of fun wandering around Bath in these and Martin Fry and the guys appreciated it.

No no.. that’s not the band

ABC may be classic early 80s pop but I never saw them back then. I didn’t see the shimmer of their jackets until the 80s revival gigs: for me these were in the form of a one-day festival at Newton Abbot Racecourse in 2016 and later at Let’s Rock Exeter, Powderham Castle in 2021. Both positive experiences but without the indoor focus of a specific gig of theirs… and without wearing a fancy jacket.

No support tonight… not sure they could get any more people and instruments back stage. The orchestra is an impressive size, almost spilling off the stage, as they take their places and warm up. The Southbank Sinfonia barely leaves room for the members of ABC.

Out come the band; Martin Fry last – looking as cool and smart as ever, jacket maybe not as flash as ours 😉 and they start with When Smokey Sings. One of the best.

ABC take the stage – with orchestra

We are sat in the front row – nine of us all told – almost too close to wave a camera about so I was quite restrained with the pics. The sound is fantastic with the orchestra – it’s a polished, stylish opening that never deteriorates. In this first half it’s the non-Lexicon of Love part with the other big song of note being The Night You Murdered Love (you know… the one you used to point at your mates during the chorus of, when dancing to it.)

Part one set list nabbed post gig

Nearly everyone is seated in this first part but with the occasional enthusiastic woman appearing to drag a jacket clad geographer up for a dance. Hard to say no eventually but I daren’t look up at the crowd – fortunately we’d been drinking all afternoon or I may have glued myself to my seat.

After the interval, which saw the huge bar queues move surprisingly fast up upstairs, ABC return with their fine orchestral backing to play The Lexicon of Love, in full. The album was released on 21 June 1982 so it is pretty bang on 40 years ago.

Fry ups the ante on the jacket front

The front section fills up as the hits roll out; ending up as a large standing area. Look of Love, Poison Arrow, All of My Heart and above all The Look of Love. 80s dreamland. It is a hard not-to-like album if you were there at the time. They’re a hard not-to-like band with very hard not to admire frontman in Martin Fry.

Fry with orchestral conductor behind

Fry turns out in a change of jacket in part two, commenting on the tuxedo wars breaking out. He ups his game with a shimmering gold number for the later songs, clearly rattled by the competition and he romps over the line as tonight’s winner.

Front row view

What a happy gathering. It’s not often anyone sees me bopping about in sparkly jacket but this was a party night, for everyone from what I could see not just our birthday crowd. Great atmosphere.

Happy birthday Lexicon of Love; happy big birthday gig-buddy Dave.

Elvis Costello live in Bath

Elvis Costello and the Imposters at Bath Forum 17.6.2022 with Ian Prowse supporting

A first visit to Bath Forum and to see a man I’ve enjoyed listening to since I was 14 years old.

My early Elvis years

I bought the Elvis Costello and the Attractions break through single Watching the Detectives and albums followed, starting with the classic and my favourite This Year’s Model (from The Squeeze Inn at Ashford Common parade, near Bobby Davro’s dad’s discount store with some birthday money); backfilling with My Aim is True and being up the shops promptly when the next two were released (Armed Forces and Get Happy)….. and off I went, dipping in and out with CD aquisitions and with some fallow periods. King of America is one that passed me by initially later finding it one of the best. Knowing I was coming to this Bath gig, I’ve given the recent Boy Named If a good play and I like it a lot.

As for the live experiences, they’ve been a bit sparse, given my Elvis enthusiasm. I applied for tickets to see him, with the Attractions, at Hammersmith Odeon in the late 70s. It was the old stamped, self-addressed envelope, postal order and letter in my best handwriting. I waited. The instantly recognisable, self-addressed envelope arrived: I opened it in anticipation of what would have been my first ever gig. My letter bore a heartless rubber stamped ‘SOLD OUT’ and my unused postal order dropped out. A huge disappointment that left its mark. I moved on to other live band priorities.

It wasn’t until Glastonbury 1987 that I caught up with him. He played what seemed like a full but short set, including a memorable and passionate version of Tramp the Dirt Down, spitting the words out into a misty night. I was right down the front with my mate Sean (SMu). Returning for ‘an encore’, he announced “ladies and gentlemen…The Attractions” before a curtain dropped and revealed the full band, then they all continued for another set.

My 1994 ticket

It was another seven year wait until I saw him in November 1994 at Wolverhampton Civic Hall (with mate Chris and our ex-wives) and then jump to May 2015 for a bit of a disappointing gig with Elvis solo at Salisbury City Hall (with wife Sally and a friend). Which Elvis will be at the Bath Forum tonight?

(Here in Bath with wife Sally as a warm up for gig buddy Dave’s BIG birthday celebrations – Dave and Big Gra are sat nearer the mixing desk with wives Ann and Hils.)

The Forum, Bath

This is a big, old and very grand art deco cinema building, which opened in 1934. A modest capacity of 1640 seats, not too distant to the back of the stalls and a large overhanging, steep balcony.

The Forum – all seated

I like the ability to stand up at the back behind the seats, unchallenged, with a clear view and a convenient escape from nearby irritants.  As we’re near the rear anyway this is very welcome. Tonight I have a tall couple, flown in from Love Island🙄, to sit in front of me on the end of the row – I  peer through the regularly closing gap between them. They in turn endure the Yo-Yo family, a foursome with either an insatiable thirst for alcohol, multiple bladder disorders or both. Up and down. Up and down. Yes, the rear standing option is very welcome.

The bars are just about functional. They are upstairs – little more than large hall areas with several orderly long lines at both. The queues look terrible but move at a decent pace. Functional: nothing more.

Tonight’s Gig

Tour promotion

I’ve been looking forward to this – Elvis again. I’ve just not seen him enough for it to be routine, despite my long-term admiration. I know he can be difficult live – reviews of his recent Liverpool appearance were terrible due largely to the sound.. Which one is turning up here?

Support: Ian Prowse

Ian Prowse – supporting

Support is from Ian Prowse, in a four piece band. The lead singer with bands Amsterdam and previously Pele; he’s a friend of Costello and has recorded a cover with him; supported him several times and his band was the house backing band on The Jonathan Ross Show when Costello appeared. A short easy listen of a set with some folky violin and a song that was worth some more plays later: Does This Train Stop on Merseyside. (Studio YouTube clip.)

Elvis Costello tonight

On comes Elvis. The excitement turns to horror as he starts with a car crash of a version of Accidents Will Happen. The sound appears all over the place with over-dominant keyboards in plinky plonk mode. Green Shirt is a big improvement but the sound is not good early on – I thought it improved as we went on but that wasn’t a unanimous view.

On comes Elvis – Bath


Costello live does have that deliberately breathy and hesitant style, pulling back from the mic making the vocal so quiet at times – hushes as we strain to hear – before bouncing back with that beautifully distinctive raspy voice. “Turn it up” screams a voice from near the mixing desk a few times.

Watching the Detectives is better – again a version, another song, Invisible Girl, injected into it but it works. What a classic.

The height of my disappointment was Brilliant Mistake, the brilliant opening track from the King of America album. Wrecked. Red Shoes – all a bit slow and slurred.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters – Bath


The relief as he just plays a song just like he recorded it. Clear and loud enough – Mr Crescent, from the latest Boy Named If record. Love it. There you go – just play the songs. I suppose he gets bored of knocking out the old stuff in the same way, so gives it the real live experience by experimenting. As every song starts there is that nervous anticipation of what’s happening next. He does comment about playing what he wants and hoping we like it.



He is chatty. Lots of introductory commentary. I was wondering about The Attractions and The Imposters backing band transition but as he points out there is only one of the Attractions that changed, and that was 20 years ago: it’s still Pete Thomas on drums and Steve Nieve on keyboards. They were all here back when Costello last played Bath…. in 1979!

Things do improve massively later in the set, and I do like the new album material live.

Elvis


(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea hits the spot along with another from This Year’s Model, captured here from my temporary rear standing position – Pump It Up.

It’s a two and a half hour set all told with the main set finished beautifully with What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding – a song that need to find its place again.

He said he didn’t do encores but tonight proceeds to return a few more times, after bows and goodbyes.

The Man You Love To Hate he introduced as being written about himself. Another more conventionally delivered recent album track that sounded great. There was Wings cover in there Let Me Roll It, recognising Paul McCartney’s birthday this weekend.

Imposters take a bow


Song of the night? Hard to top Alison I guess, with the ‘other sticky valentines’ who were sat in front of us – I was stood at the back again by this stage thank goodness.

The end was a song I wasn’t familiar with, but a belter: All Cowards Now (2020 Hey Clockface album). It seemed like Costello was taking extra care to ensure the lyrics were right out there, clear and angry.

“The emptiness of arms
The openness of thighs
The pornography of bullets
The promises and prizes can’t disguise
We are all cowards now

They’re draping stones with colours
And a roll of stolen names
Except those we never cared about
And those we need to blame
We’ll extinguish that flame, just the same
We’re all cowards now……

…So, close the windows tightly
Lower lamps and shades
On the screen, silent rehearsals
For tomorrow’s parades
For tomorrow’s parades
For tomorrow’s parades
We are all cowards now”

(Elvis Costello 2020)

The Flaming Lips live in London

The Flamings Lips at the O2 Forum Kentish Town 2.6.2022 supported by the Heartless Bastards

Here at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, a venue I’ve been to several times – last time to see former Gene frontman Martin Rossiter’s farewell show. Some more notes on the venue and approaches to it there.

Here with gig buddy Dave (DPi), after a day at Lord’s cricket ground watching many wickets tumble on the first day of the first test match of the series between  England and New Zealand. Great day but not the best way to build up for a gig. A fair walk from Lord’s to a Camden hotel and on up to Kentish Town. I was knackered but we are in just in time for the Heartless Bastards, supporting tonight.

Support from The Heartless Bastards

Rocky, bluesy and a bit country: they are a pleasant listen and hold the interest. They’re from Cincinnati and have been going for about 20 years so they’re no slouches. Very much a supporting slot: quiet mellow and uneventful given what was coming.

We hold a space just behind those in early to lean on the rear of the mixing desk area, which sinks down into the lower standing area. A decent view but a while into the Flaming Lips I lose my spot on a mission back to the gents and the bar.

Now I’ve never seen the Flaming Lips and, other than the odd track on evening radio, they aren’t a band I’d listened to until recently. They are a band that I thought I’d see given the opportunity arose and given the reputation of their live shows.

They come from Oklahoma, formed in 1983, so a lifetime of building a following, dare I say a weird one, well certainly an eclectic one – I went walkabout in the venue so I saw a variety.

Cheers as people come on to the exceptionally well dressed stage, with large shiny bird cage-like structures to either side. This isn’t the band coming on amid the dry-ice though, it’s roadies to inflate a large plastic ball in front of the two drum kits. Cheers become a roar, as lead singer Wayne Coyne greets the crowd and gets into the bubble and gets on with the  show.

Wayne Coyne – The Flaming Lips

The ventilation must have been good as it doesn’t steam up and the vocals still sound…OK.  He is in there for a few songs before roadies are on again inflating a giant rainbow…. then tickertape starts shooting everywhere.

Flaming Lips wow O2 Kentish Town

The set list for tonight takes a back seat to the extraordinary on stage distractions. Wayne Coyle is really good at building the atmosphere and reaction like an old music hall host talking up the act..but he and the band are the act. He repeats the possibility, given Covid and all the bad stuff, that what if this was to be the last Flaming Lips show we ever saw, then they were going to give us “the best f*cking show in the World”.

The Pink Robot battle

The album I’ve been listening to is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) but it still takes me a while to work out what is being pumped up on stage. Ahhh. Penny drops.

As the pink robot deflates, I nip back to the gents, try and get anywhere near bar service and give up and return to find the crowd has sealed itself in, around where I was stood. Legs flagging I ask security if I can try and get a seat upstairs, separately ticketed. “Welcome to try but it’s pretty full up there”. I  go up. It’s rammed. All seats taken, people standing in the rear aisles, but there are some places to lean up at the back and I sit on the back step for a bit. It’s been a long day. Not a great view with some legacy Covid perspex partitions up. It’s huge up here.

There is a bar behind the auditorium mid-way up and another one right at the top rear. I stopped at the middle one as no one queueing and DJ Jo Wiley appears next to me to which I do a bit of an animated double-take. She has that yes it’s me look without me needing to ask anything stupid. Radio 6 man Shaun Keaveny then appears behind. This band really do have a reputation then.

The bubble in smoke – rear balcony view

I stand, lean and sit in a few places upstairs, only getting a seat with a half decent view near the end. Front half of the balcony here would be worth chasing sometime. A lot ismade of a toy bird which Coyne builds a story on…. a flight out into the crowd. This was lost on me and I couldn’t see at this point.

Towards the end of the main set a young girl is introduced – I think Coyne said she was 12 – to sing while they played a cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand. Great song although the performance and inclusion of it a bit abstract.

Wayne Coyne – back in his bubble

Coyne returns to the bubble for the end. The faithful clearly loved it. I felt like I had experienced their unusual and much heralded show but my lack of familiarity with their work hampered me. It was thanks and goodnight… some big bangs, more sparkly tickertape and some thoughtful bespoke ballons float out as I stagger downstairs for the walk back to Camden…..via the Bengal Lancer which does some good paneer dishes.

Goodnight London (Dave DPi pic)

The Flaming Lips were in Q Magazine’s 2002 list of one of the bands to see before you die, at number 14. I can see why with all the distractions. I feel I’ve done it now though.

The Killers live at Southampton F.C.

The Killers at St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton 30.5.2022 with Blossoms supporting

This one was a long wait, with it being originally scheduled for June 2020, and we certainly gave it a good go. A boozy night at Southampton F.C. football  stadium…to the extent that the detail maybe fuzzy. We were in the stands, under cover, with access to the Mike Channon lounge before and afterwards with the help of eagle-eyed ticket man Dave (DPi). This saved us from the rain but not the bar. Oh dear. Note to self, again, eating’s not cheating. I can’t hide from the fact I went too early and was found wanting at the end of the game.

I guess it was always going to be a big one with a group of six of us staying over in Southampton for two nights. We did it justice, starting with an extended lunchtime in the old Duke of Wellington pub – very good. I couldn’t do a replay.

Previous encounters

This was the sixth time I’ve seen The Killers, the last time being at Glastonbury 2019, which fuelled this group outing – best I’ve seen them. The first two Killers gigs disappointed: O2 London 2012, with bad high up seats and Brandon’s sore throat, and Wembley Stadium 2013, on the pitch with poor sound and a poor view that got worse as places were lost. Hyde Park 2017 was a vast improvement to re-inject enthusiasm and that not long after the worse kept secret gig on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury 2017, which was exciting to be at but I was just outside the tent peering in (with back of my head burning).

The crowd are on the pitch… at Southampton’s football ground

Support band Blossoms are also familiar faces live: one of the first bands on at Glastonbury 2017, Victorious Festival 2021 and my last gig before Lockdown at O2 Bournemouth, indeed my wife probably contracted Covid at that one.

Blossoms on stage at St. Mary’s

Blossoms

Tom Ogden fronting Blossoms

Blossoms played a good indie pop set including the singles that I would have thought would get a bigger reaction, rounding off with There’s a Reason Why and Charlamagne. Maybe their gentle sound isn’t punchy enough for a big outdoor stadium gig, but that wasn’t evident from their festival appearances I was at. Maybe a bit of rain had dampened things on the pitch and down the front… but the reception seemed a bit dampened to me. Enjoyed them though. ‘Half-time’. More Czech dark lager.

Killers live in Southampton at last

Killers awaited at St. Mary’s

The crowd on the pitch packs more densely in anticipation of The Killers. It’s still light. On they come, starting with one from the Imploding the Mirage album – well it is the Imploding the Mirage tour – My Own Soul’s Warning.  It’s not the latest album though, such is the Covid disruption. That is Pressure Machine, released a year later in August 2021 and with lots of talky bits between the tracks, from residents of the town Brandon Flowers grew up in (before he went down to Vegas). They only played a couple from that one. Maybe they’re saving it for another tour.

Killers – Southampton

Some old stuff : the next four songs, from the first two albums, get people out of their seats, including Jenny Was a friend of Mine, and Smile Like You Mean it – two of the best. It was about that time I noticed the beer taking its toll. I popped down to the gents and returned to the stand and up the steps looking like I needed ropes and crampons. I made it. Maybe no one noticed. 😬

Killers – more shiny bits

Several blasts of shiny tickertape pieces give it that stadium show feel. Must be a bugger to clean up after mind. Saints’ ground staff will be cursing come the pre-season.

Brandon Flowers with more sparkly bits

I said it was all a bit hazy by this time but Shadowplay, the Joy Division cover, was a standout one and a regular Killers set appearance. Party in full swing now – particularly in our row.

Killers – Southampton – at last

As the gig went into extra time a popular if predictable finish. Nothing wrong with predictable if everyone knows them: Spaceman and the signature anthem Mr Brightside.

Extra-time at St Mary’s

I understand they ran out of vodka down in the bars for the standing area. Maybe if the beer taps had run dry in the Mike Channon suite, I might have been saved from paying the penalty for this Killer session.

Pet Shop Boys in Bournemouth

Pet Shop Boys 25.5.2022 at the Bournemouth International Centre

I bought these tickets two and a half years ago in anticipation of a June 2020 gig. Then the plague came. You book these things looking at other events and gigs but now it’s all been shuffled. Well a Wednesday night isn’t so bad but I’m wondering why I bought these now. Curiosity, good tunes, the legendary syth-pop status and it’s on the doorstep…well a bus ride away.

We are quite late in, five minutes to spare before the 8pm start, to dodge the BIC bar drink offering and take full advantage of the new Brewdog pub in the nearby BH2 complex – here with wife Sally this evening. There’s no support act.

The BIC, mainly seated tonight – looking back from front right of standing area

The seating set up tonight in the Windsor Hall is with the bank of seats coming down from the balcony, leaving a smaller standing area at the front – so a capacity somewhere between the 6,500 all ground floor standing and the 4,045 all seated capacity. We go to the front right. With the speakers elevated the view is decent, close, yet at an angle and ears don’t get a blasting like the old days of a giant stack of speakers either side of any stage.

Neil Tennant – Bournemouth

The show starts with a minimalist look – just Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe on stage, both wearing some unusual glasses the meaning of which is lost on me. Suburbia is a good start. I like any anthem to the suburbs – my roots – however mocking.

The Pet Shop Boys are represented by a long string of hits that have filled radio play lists for decades, especially the 80s and 90s – Tennant is 67 now, but the voice still works.

Neil Tennant – the Pet Shop man – BIC

After a while the interim backdrop lifts to reveal a more elaborate set with a band of sorts – backing singers, more synths and percussion – no guitars although Tennant plays an acoustic one at some point. Initially I’m sceptical about what I’m watching but it is a party, quite an irresistible one.

Neil Tennant – oven ready

Always on my Mind is one of the top songs to really hit the nostalgia button. I only have a greatest hits CD from a bargain bin to go on so it’s the big hits for me.

Tennant does a few costume changes; coats seem to be his big thing. He’s good at wandering the stage so all the audience gets a look – I’m sure it all looks better from a central viewpoint but we are close and we were late in.

Neil Tennant

The Village People cover Go West is the anthem I associate most with The Pet Shop Boys, adapted to terrace chant ‘one nil to the Ar-sen-al’ for over use by them and others for years. There’s a bloke in front of us with an Arsenal football shirt on – how very ungig-like. I took a phone video of Go West which is here on my YouTube channel.

The best song for me from the setlist tonight is It’s a Sin. Anything starting ‘When I look back upon my life…’ is going to feel nostalgic. Yes, glad I came.

The stage set shrinks back to the smaller front part with the street lights of ‘suburbia’, leaving just the two Pet Shop Boys, Tennant and Lowe.

The near two hour set of greatest hits whizzed by and it was soon encores time: West End Girls, another highlight. To end, a tongue-in-cheek choice maybe, Being Boring. A low-key finish but they’d done enough to feed the party.

The Pet Shop Boys – back in suburbia, ‘being boring’ – Bournemouth  BIC