Inhaler – live in Southampton

Inhaler at The Engine Rooms, Southampton 17.10.2022 with Stone supporting

A Monday night gig in Southampton – another long awaited rearrangement post-Covid, if indeed we are post-Covid. This was a ticket obtained by pre-ordering the first album – It Won’t Always Be Like This – released in July 2021. It’s been a long wait.

In the meantime I have already seen Inhaler twice in 2022: at Glastonbury in the John Peel tent and at Victorious Festival in Southsea. (Links are to songs from each event on my YouTube channel.) Both very good experiences but it isn’t the same as an indoor gig is it? Not for new bands anyway.

Due to an emergency road closure I did a tour of Southampton before arriving at The Engine Rooms later than even the planned lateness and just in time to see support band Stone, from Liverpool, do one song and say thank you and goodnight.

The place is packed, right back to the bar – the commonly seen divider curtain near the mixing desk is not deployed tonight. (Details of The Engine Rooms can be seen on my Engine Rooms venue blog.) We forget any idea of drinking anything and head for the wall to the right and forward of the mixing desk – a good leaning spot, tucked in front of a large bin and so protected from the everlasting flow of barging passers-by. The new replacement pocket zoom can be held aloft here without being in anyone’s way or being hit by flying beer.

When the band comes on there are proper screams, the likes of which I’ve not heard since a reluctant witnessing of a McFly gig about 15 years ago (they were sound..really) – lots of students in by the looks of it and a more mixed audience than some of the ‘lads outings’ I go to.

Inhaler – Engine Rooms


It’s exciting stuff – a new and well supported band, over from Dublin, after a successful first album and a second – Cuts’n’Bruises – set for release in February 2023.

Tonight the lighting is pretty damn dark, to the point it is pretty hard to make out anyone most of the time, except front man, singer and guitarist Elijah Hewson. (Photos of all the band here in my Victorious Festival blog.)

Elijah Hewson – Inhaler – Southampton


Yes, I’m sure the fact that Elijah Hewson is Bono’s son was suitably influencing to help me listen to the early releases but they are a great new band with a fine debut album, with six singles taken from it.

Inhaler – Elijah Hewson


Tonight, nine of the 13 song set are from that first album. But first two new ones – still greeted with movement and cheers – before When It Breaks, which I capture on phone video. It really is bouncing and yes it does remind me of the early bouncing days of U2 before it all went a bit stadium and preachy. Indie rock or alternative rock, whatever, it’s good traditional rock’n’roll without gimmicks just good musicians, one great voice, good songs and guitars. There is a touring keyboard player to add to the four main band members.

It’s bouncing


Elijah is appreciative of this lively audience without saying a great deal. Certainly well worth the trip over to Southampton on this Monday night. After the initial cancellation of this Vanilo Records organised event and repeated queries regarding rearrangement getting nowhere for ages, it is something of a relief and surprise to get here, before Inhaler are catapulted to stardom and bigger venues…surely.


The set – around an hour all told this one – winds up with the title track of the first album It Won’t Always Be Like This and then Cheer Up Baby: cue euphoric leaping, people on shoulders and concerned security. A break, crowd roars and the return. A slow new one first to calm everyone for the inevitable… the big single.”C’mon let’s do this shall we…..eh” cries Elijah… and with the opening bars of My Honest Face the place goes nuts.



Good luck lads. See you again soon.

Howard Jones – live in Basingstoke

Howard Jones trio at The Anvil, Basingstoke 15.10.2022 with Roxanne de Bastion supporting

A rare trip to Basingstoke….yes Basingstoke! My third trip to The Anvil here and the previous two, as with tonight, were both to see bands emanating from the 80s, but in the last five years: China Crisis and an ’80s Invasion’ tour with Big Country, Midge Ure, Nick Heyward and Curiosity Killed the Cat, well the singer anyway.

Tonight’s trip, induced by some spare tickets going ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘in the front row, was an easy drive up the M3 with a stopover, which turned out to be in the same hotel as Howard Jones and the others in his trio – Nick Beggs (once of Kajagoogoo) and Robin Boult.

The Anvil is a theatre with a 1,400 seated capacity. It opened in 1994 and looks smart once inside – a relaxing place with plush carpets and smiling bar staff who look like they are enjoying the evening. Sometimes an all-seated medium sized theatre can be a constraint (I felt like that when I saw Big Country here) but it was ideal for tonight’s show. You get a focused audience listening carefully – no chat – no phones – no cameras. No pics from me then but hey it’s good to have a rest sometimes.

Tonight’s support was solo singer-songwriter-keyboards-guitarist Roxanne de Bastion. The theatre was a perfect environment for her voice and to absorb the emotion in her lyrics… and her semi-acoustic Rickenbacker guitar.

She refers to growing up in Berlin, lives in London now, as she sings Wasteland (official video on YouTube) from her new album and that one sticks with me – modern Berlin sat across decades of horrible history (my wife Sally bought a copy of the album at the interval – You & Me, We Are the Same.) There’s encouragement from the attentive audience, even some participative singing and an 80s reward with a version of Erasure’s A Little Respect. Such a clear voice and sounding so uncluttered with the Rickenbacker or the keyboard.

Sally’s interval CD purchase from Roxanne de Bastion (er..right)

At the break I almost say hi to someone I thought I knew then realise I don’t: it’s designer Jeff Banks. I wish I’d stopped to thank him for the Debenhams expanding waist, smart work trousers I wore when I was my previously more portly self. He did some work on Howard Jones’ outfits – a hastily Googled fact that confirmed it was him.

Howard Jones

I’m of the Live Aid generation and grew up with those massive Howard Jones 80s radio singles but I have only seen him once: that was at Let’s Rock Exeter in 2021. I feel my knowledge and appreciation is a bit superficial for a seat right in front of the man, just in front of the centre stage. It doesn’t matter though: this performance is so absorbing.

Songs are introduced to enhance the context and understanding, and appreciate the Jones journey. The musicians either side of him – Nick Beggs (with an ornate upright bass stringed instrument and something I had to look up – a 10 string ‘Chapman stick’: fascinating) and Robin Boult (guitars including acoustic 12-string) – are an incredible watch. I’m in awe of that 12-string made to look so light and just hover in Robin Boult’s hands.

The set respects the popularity of the first two Howard Jones albums with more than half the songs from those. Only one from the 2022 album Dialogue and a hand-picked selection from across his other albums – with the synth-keyboard at the heart of it all with some great piano improvisation for the others to watch and follow.

Room is made early on to introduce Too Shy, number one single in 1983 for Kajagoogoo and co-written by Beggs. Howard points out that it’s not just anyone that can write a global number one hit record, teasing the audience about not being able to play it for contractual reasons…..before obliging.

The set draws to a close with the string of hit singles. Familiar 80s synthpop classics: Like to Get to Know You Well; Things Can Only Get Better; What is Love and then New Song. The audience are on their feet to salute the climax and the trio return for another single from the first album, Hide and Seek.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it – hard to imagine otherwise as the show is so well put together to perfectly exhibit the talent and experience on the stage.

Nick Beggs – Howard Jones – Robin Boult (Basingstoke Anvil) (pic by Sally)

As I said, no pics from me tonight but my wife Sally did grab a photo post-performance. Oh …and go on then, there was one before the gig.

Howard Jones and a grey-haired gig goer

The Lemonheads live – Southampton

The Lemonheads at The 1865, Southampton 12.10.2022 with Bass Drum of Death supporting

This was an extraordinary evening – possibly the most disappointing gig I have ever been to in over 40 years of gig-going. I wasn’t annoyed; it was just so sad to witness the flawed talent and waste of it all. I didn’t want to leave however awful it got – I had to see it out and make sure there wasn’t one last flurry of brilliance….there wasn’t. No explanations and no excuses. Just a capitulation to the situation as Evan Dando, who IS The Lemonheads, disappeared off stage shortly after a pathetic bit of solo drumming and slurring in front an increasingly bemused audience.

Evan Dando – The 1865 – 2022 – oh dear

Although a quarter or more of the audience had left by the end, most if the remaining fans had been patient and lovingly supportive, willing improvement and prepared to cut the man some slack – some slack it was mind! We are all aware Dando has had some substance abuse problems over the years but tonight he seemed to be ill, exhausted, frustrated, troubled by technical problems as well as being off his, once beautiful, face.

I was here with my old mate Chris (CMe) – he’s not old but I’ve known him a long time ๐Ÿ˜‰. We went to see The Lemonheads first time back in June 1994 at something called The Que Club, in Birmingham, in what was the Central Methodist Hall on Corporation Street. I still have my ticket stub.

We remembered drinking cups of tea bought from the dated refreshment room at that odd venue – we were both driving that night – we felt like the oldest people there by about 10 years and girls there to swoon at Evan Dando were being picked up later by their waiting parents afterwards. We felt old then and now it’s 28 years later!

A hazier recollection was our trip to The Lemonheads’ 1994 Reading Festival appearance. We drove down for the day from Coventry, something we did for several years to that Festival.

It’s a Shame About Ray and Come on Feel the Lemonheads were the albums I had back then – I’ve been adding some vinyl more recently including a good 2006 eponymous album which I had been unaware of. ‘Ray’ was the biggy though, that everyone liked and hence some excitement about seeing it performed in full tonight – excitement that was soon dampened, severely.

(Evan Dando appears on Later with Jools Holland back in 1994: Being Around.)

The Lemonheads were originally from Boston and a significant part of the 90s grunge boom, but in a very tuneful and mellow poppy part of it. It was always about Evan Dando, his guitar, his voice, his tunes and his hair. The line-up has changed regularly over the years and it is only Dando who has survived – Dando effectively IS The Lemonheads.

Back to tonight and we missed the first band on, just caught the end as I explored the balcony up from the rear bar – I’d never seen that balcony area open to all on previous visits. (Read my venue blog on The 1865 for more details on this location.)

The main support, Bass Drum of Death, originally from Mississippi but started out in New York, were pretty good. Just two guitars and a drummer – no bass. They’ve had four albums (2011-18). ‘Alternative rock’ that rumbled along well.

Bass Drum of Death

After a bit of hanging around – 20 minutes after the posted timings – Evan Dando appeared in an orange puffa jacket, hood up, which he took off and threw into the audience once up on the stage. It was instantly apparent all was not well.

His acoustic guitar had some lead connection problems. He burbled his technical frustrations – assistance slow to appear – and gave up after several false starts and picked up his electric one. It wasn’t the equipment though: the voice was already gone. Deep notes only were happening and any attempt to lift it and he croaked and lost it.

A troubled night for Evan Dando

The first solo section exposed every flaw – you can’t hide when it’s one man and a guitar and no backing or looping tricks. The Outdoor Type was nearly there and the amusing lyrics audible but we knew we were in trouble early on.

The next section was the It’s A Shame About Ray album in full, solo. So recognisable and nostalgic that the guitar did carry him to an extent but songs ran into each other, sometimes curtailed and slurred and croaky throughout. (Title track live captured on YouTube in case you doubt my judgement.) He asked if anyone knew the words to Alison‘s Starting to Happen well enough to join him onstage. Some brave woman did and gave it a go.

Next the band came on for their bit – six or so songs. A drummer and a bassist. They looked nervous. They knew this ship was going down. I understand there was another guitarist earlier on the tour – this is the last night – but he must have jumped overboard early.

The band helped a bit. At least we got some tunes going and there was some minimal vocal assistance from the bassist. They couldn’t get off fast enough when the time came though.

This left Dando to the face the horror of another solo section. Usually I pop some notes in my phone on songs played etc but all that was notable and memorable was being witness to this car crash of a gig. Into the drum kit for what was to be the last song before he fled the stage. Wide-eyed punters looked around. Some cheesed off accepting smiles. It was hard to clap anything and had been for some time. I didn’t hear one boo though – too much love in the room for the real Evan Dando. A pause and the lights mercifully went on. We all shuffled out like a memorial service was over.

I hope the real Evan Dando is still in there somewhere and returns. I will be back. It’s a shame about everything..Ray, Evan the lot.

.

The Enemy live in Bournemouth

The Enemy at O2 Academy Bournemouth 7.10.2022 with Little Man Tate supporting

Tom Clarke – The Enemy live in Bournemouth 2022

Call the police
‘Cause things are getting ugly
Get on your feet
I want you running with me” (Aggro – The Enemy)

That’s the opening – The Enemy are back. The crowd have been bouncing for a while and now they’re going nuts. What a fabulous atmosphere. It’s the We’ll Live and Die in These Towns reunion tour – we are 15 years on but once they are on, it feels like yesterday.

“What a f’cking room, Bournemouth!” exclaims main man Tom Clarke. He said they’d never seen an audience like this on the South coast before. It is absolutely rocking, with a pleasant, aggressive edge.. if you get me. I’ve been upstairs on the first floor standing balcony to see the enjoyable support band Little Man Tate – I didn’t know them, just the name and they were good – well received – indie rock from Sheffield and similar era to The Enemy.

Little Man Tate – support – from the balcony

But down here on the floor it’s the We’ll Live and Die in These Towns album being embarked on, in full, in the track listed order, making for one of the most explosive starts to a gig in a long time.

I’m so sick, sick, sick and tired
Of working just to be retired
I don’t want to get that far
I don’t want your company car
Promotions ain’t my thing
Name badges are not interesting
It’s much easier for me see
To stay at home with Richard and Judy.
Away, away oh oh oh away from here” (Away From Here – The Enemy)

Tom Clarke – The Enemy – Bournemouth

Brilliant – remembering he wrote that through the eyes of disenchanted youth and not a 59-year-old grey-haired gig goer. I’m still carrying some post-Covid lurgy but this is all lifting the spirits. Tom Clarke is spitting the words out – the anger of the songs is still there. The first five songs of the album, including title track We’ll Live and Die in These Towns (Official video release), are like a greatest hits EP – four of them were released as singles.

Clarke and Hopkins
Andy Hopkins – bass

It’s the original trio, Andy Hopkins on bass and Liam Watts on drums, with another touring guitarist. They formed in Coventry in 2006, several years after my years in the city but I think the Cov thing still drew me to them when that first great album, featured tonight, came out in 2007 and went straight in at number one in the UK album chart.

My first Enemy gig ticket

I saw them later that year at Southampton Guildhall. I bought their second album Music For the People (2008): a good follow up. Those first two albums were in a different league the third, Streets in the Sky (2012) and I’m not familiar with their fourth and last album, Automatic.

Tonight is the fourth time I’ve seen them. There was another, October 2012, Southampton Guildhall gig and in 2009 I saw them at more of a distance, at Wembley Stadium supporting Oasis.

Tom

Tonight’s set is only a little over an hour: it really is over in a flash with no let up until the quieter last track of the featured album and main part of the set, Happy Birthday Jane. Throughout, until that one, the room was wonderfully rowdy, right to the back arms punching the air and people on shoulders.

Tom Clarke

I’d initially gone down the front left side to take a few photos but I couldn’t move after that – glued to it – aside from a quick trip back to get a view from there and pop to the bar.

Rear view

For more on the venue see my updated blog on the O2 Academy Bournemouth.

Tom Clarke – lead vocals/ guitar
Andy Hopkins – bass

The band return to adoration and four more songs: Be Somebody and No Time for Tears from the second album, Gimme the Sign into Saturdays from the third and to finish the second bit of This Song… which started in the main set.

Goodnight Bournemouth

An absolutely storming gig. One of my top ones this year…and this was number 74 in this hectic year for me. I was just looking to see if I could get to another one on the tour but that would be pushing it….unfortunately. I have been getting a YouTube-full of it though since. (Birmingham gig looked fun.)

[All photos taken by Ivan, the grey-haired gig goer at 02 Academy Bournemouth.]

Gig Venue: The 1865, Southampton

The 1865, Brunswick Square, Southampton SO14 3AR

The rather secluded entrance to The 1865

The more I come here, the more I like it. Once you’re in it’s quite cosy with its respectfully priced and carpeted raised rear bar. Even the stage has a patterned carpet as well as the rear half if the floor. It has a 750 standing capacity and I have seen some tall tables and chairs dotted around nearer the back when less busy.

The 1865 is just about a mile from the central station, down the bottom of town in a well signposted but unlikely looking street when you get to it – like a small trading estate road off Bernard Street.

If driving, more common for me, I find that College Street Car Park is best: a surface car park thus avoiding sleeping beggars and it’s just a few hundred yards walk from the venue. Obviously we have to keep an eye on these things but last visit – The Lemonheads 12.10.2022 – it was still free after 6pm. There is some major building work going on adjacent to that car park so you need to drive around the block to get in for now.

The bar prices, beer range and feel of the place makes going as soon as the doors open quite an attractive option. If around town beforehand, it’s only a large half mile walk down from the range of pubs and eateries in Above Bar Street. If you have more time I recommend the Dancing Man Brewery, right down near the Isle of Wight Ferry Port area. Great brews and interesting setting in the end of the city walls – about 0.4 miles from The 1865. There is also the similarly individual Platform Tavern, just east of the Dancing Man, along the main road. Really good food choice and some good beers.

From the outside, The 1865 looks like some sort of industrial unit – it can’t be here can it? But yes it is. Hopefully a little queue will be there to reassure the unfamiliar.

I like the location of the bar here, up the stairs away at the back of the venue. You can stand up there and survey the place, including the merch stand, have chat and it not be in the way or disruptive for the stage. Perfect to see a support band from.

Some hand pulled beers on – last visit I had a few pints of thw Palmers Gold. Lovely and a good range of drinks that are very reasonably priced for a venue…and service is swift.

View from the raised bar area at The Undertones gig in October 2022

The mixing desk is just in front and below where the photo above was taken from. The merch stand is usually to the right of the staircase down to the main floor, in the corner.

There is a balcony on the right hand side, up another level from the bar, with some seating up there to the rear of the balcony. I had not seen this open until I went to see The Lemonheads on 12.10.2022, which was really busy. Previously I had only seen it used as an area for special guests/ performers.

Balcony with seating at rear – open for The Lemonheads in October 22
The Skids – July 2022
Looking back from in front of the stage after seeing The Skids

There is another smaller bar on the right hand side as you look at the stage and some pillars down that side – handy for a lean or photo-taking place, without annoying people behind you. On my visits I have always found it easy to move close to the stage down either side for a clearer view.

China Crisis – April 2022 at The 1865

I will keep this blog updated. My blogs from gigs at The 1865 are below. I am pulling away from a blog from every gig as my blogging progresses and as I start to revisit bands and venues I’ve covered before. Updating and expanding my venue blogs for places I visit more regularly is something I want to grow though.

The Skids (July 2022)

My Easter tour, including China Crisis (April 2022)

Spear of Destiny (Sept 2019)

Slow Readers Club live in Oxford

Slow Readers Club at O2 Oxford Academy (upstairs) 24.9.2022 with Klangstof supporting

I have written before in these blogs about Manchester’s Slow Readers Club, so more on how this recently rising band have got here, with me watching and listening, is here in my Slow Readers Club live in Southsea blog. This my sixth time seeing them, four times previously in Southsea and once in Glasgow.

The trip to an Oxford venue is a bit more novel though. [This trip is with gig buddies Dave and Ann, wife Sally (big Readers fan) and we catch up with ‘local’ Paul who we met at Glastonbury this Summer.]

After an afternoon punt on the river (!), a wander around and through excited graduating students, and a pint in the secluded Turf Tavern courtyard – a boozer visited by Prime Ministers, non-inhaling Presidents and Oscar Wilde – we head up Cowley Road to find the O2 Academy.

Some careful research (cheers Ann) leads us to The Oxford Blue pub, just off a side road right at the lower end of the Cowley Road. We are greeted by a beautiful black Labrador at the door, while a sleeping Lurcher guards the kitchen. Lovely woody pub with some tasty DNA golden ale and an interesting food selection that we get involved in. I had to try both types of pickled eggs for a starter. Beautifully presented – much better than my last experience from a jar on the counter of the Prince of Wales in Moseley, Brum.

Pickled eggs at The Oxford Blue

We head on up the bustling Cowley Road for the O2’s early start: doors at 6pm with a 10pm curfew, before the kids’ club shift kicks in. I was surprised to see Frank Turner was playing in the same venue but downstairs. We are ushered upstairs, having mastered the O2 App ticketing finally…and we have enough phone reception to show someone.

I have been here before but only a couple of times: for an emerging Elbow about 20 years ago and in the last 10 to see Echo and The Bunnymen. These were downstairs I’m sure and 20 years ago it was the Oxford Zodiac.

The frontage of the O2 just blends into the high street shops – it would be easy to drive by without noticing it. Inside there is a main room with a 1050 capacity and where we are, upstairs, is a square room, 436 capacity, with a rear left side well-staffed bar. There are some seats to the rear behind a wall but you couldn’t see a band from there – the merch is there in the gloom. We opt for some mixing desk rail leaning, handily placed for the bar, which has an inflatable blue shark over it. Best ale option is the Shipyard Pale – but no, later I found they had a stash of bottled Hobgoblin in the fridges.

So it’s all pretty small scale for an O2 Academy but I like it. I am staggered by the size of the audience; no not that it was so full but it was the ‘land of the giants’. An unrepresentative sample of tall men rise up in front of us. I wondered if the floor sloped backward or maybe the giants were thoughtfully keeping to the rear. A good crowd though. A friendly well-behaved crowd and a crowd who knew Slow Readers Club and had some voices.

Tonight’s support are Dutch indie band Klangstof. A trio lost in their sound which I shall describe as experimental. A short set with nothing to grab me. I had to look them up afterwards as I saw or heard no clues as to who they were when they were on stage.

Tonight’s support: Klangstof

The place is quickly bouncing when the Slow Readers Club start, with Yet Again, a catchy one from the most recent album 91 Days in Isolation.

Slow Readers Club – Oxford O2

The sound is good here and front man Aaron Starkie’s vocals are really clear – great range, with him crouching low on the bassy bits. He offers the room the mic to encourage the crowd to join in – not much encouragement needed. It shows how much they have come on now that the whole audience can pump out the words with him on a lot of the songs.

Plant the Seed is an early favourite which I captured on a phone clip, here on my YouTube channel.

Above the giants’ heads

The vocals are so well controlled and a real feel that it leads all the instruments – no chance of getting lost in guitars. It cranks up nicely with the crowd wrapped up in it – here to watch, listen and sing, not just another night out. Enthusiasts. This is still a relatively unknown band with little national radio play. They already have a great discography to pick from. The main set concludes with On the TV and I Saw a Ghost. Two crackers, but there’s more in the tank.

Another four songs when they return with Block Out the Sun with Lunatic (have listen to the official video on YouTube) to end another thoroughly satisfying night out with The Slow Readers Club.

Better photos in my Slow Readers Club live in Southsea – I just had my phone out tonight.

The Killers, Marr and more – live in Nashville, Tennessee

The Killers live at The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville 17.9.2022 with Johnny Marr supporting and hundreds of bands down the street

As soon as we booked this trip to the US I had a look at who was playing… and as luck had it The Killers were in Nashville with Johnny Marr on a date that worked. It was in an arena but an indoor one at least… about O2 Arena London size, just under at 19,891 capacity. The seats left were the cheapest ones, up in the gods but it was about being there.

The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville is surprisingly handy for the main entertainment district of Downtown Nashville – around The Broadway (The Honky Tonk Highway). This monster of a venue is a stone’s throw from Legends Corner bar at the top end of the Broadway strip of amazing music bars.

Bridgestone Arena Nashville

We went to the Arena earlier in the day and had a wander in the Sports Hall of Fame (The Arena is also is home to Nashville’s ice hockey team, The Predators) and the Music City Visitor Center. Tour trucks were in by mid-morning but no sign of the bands.

The Killers are in town

This was the sixth time I’ve seen The Killers – all huge venues London O2, Wembley Stadium, Hyde Park, Glastonbury, St Mary’s Southampton (my blog link to another messy one). Most, including this one, have involved a few beers – well that is one massive understatement. I just don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the frustration of being so far from the band and the easy distraction of an accessible bar. Well I blew it this time. An afternoon in Nashville; jet lag and travel fatigue; a few pints of unknown strength craft porter; searing heat and sunshine and an attraction to the Voodoo Ranger IPA on sale at the venue (which it transpires was 9%)… and now I realise why I was asleep in my seat for half of The Killers set. What a disaster. It could have been worse apparently as I was grabbed before a potentially neck breaking topple forward, after gasps from people behind us. (Note to self: check strength of all beers before getting involved.)

Any attempt to recollect The Killers’ set would be found wanting. My wife says it was the best we have seen them (we have had a few bad experiences – they are her favourite band) and I will have to go with that.

Doors open in the Arena

We were miles up mind, as you can see, such that Brandon Flowers was something of a blurry dot on my phone pics. As for my usual trusty pocket zoom, well I seemed to have messed up the settings after my initial flurry of snaps of Johnny Marr, who I was delighted and excited to see again: by then I was sporting my newly acquired t-shirt from the merch stand.

A distant Johnny Marr
A zoomed Johnny Marr

Marr did about 45 minutes with Smiths classics – There is a Light that Never Goes Out and How Soon is Now the best – and his own material – similar to the set I enjoyed in Glasgow at Easter when he supported Blondie. I really must try and get to one of his own gigs in a sensibly sized venue soon. I’m just finishing his autobiography, Set the Boy Free, which is an interesting and thorough account of The Smiths journey and a wonderful insight into his love of and involvement in music as he grew up to now.

Me and a Voodoo Ranger on the road to ruin

After Marr’s set I was on the road to ruin to be honest and I even missed his emergence to play with The Killers in their set. You don’t see reviews like this in The Guardian or NME eh, although I sometimes wonder, reading some articles over the years, if journalists have occasionally suffered a similar fate and just made stuff up.

There was so much other music in Nashville to see though. The sounds of The Broadway bars and the streets off it are one of the most amazing experiences of my gig-going life. I’d heard about it and read about it but nothing can prepare you for that first sight of what it’s all about.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, having driven from Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains, and took a walk from our hotel, down Printers Alley through a few blocks to the main crossroads in The Broadway. We stood on the corner waiting for the white man to allow us to cross and I looked over to Honky Tonk Central – a three storey corner building with all its big windows open and a band playing on every floor. I looked up the street: bands playing in the buildings both sides as far as I could see. And down the Lower Broadway more bands, more bars, more music. What a fabulous racket. I felt pretty emotional. Here I was: I’d made it to Nashville, Tennesee, Music City….. ‘Nashvegas’.

Honky Tonk Central
Looking over The Broadway to The Lucky Bastard Saloon

Over the next four days we explored – so many bands in different venues, for which there was never an entry charge, with bands paid by the ever present and sometimes paraded tips bucket. There’s a lot of country music and a rock/country split is common with bands gauging their audiences by requests and the shouts of ‘if you like country, gimme a yee haw – if you like rock, gimme a hell yeah’. The enthusiasm for and popularity of country music legends that I had never heard of was everywhere.

This is brief but helpful outline to the Nashville music scene but these below are my picks from the trip….with some snaps.

Legends Corner

Let’s start with Legends Corner up the Arena end of The Broadway. A mural on the outside of country and western legends, with a couple I recognise. Inside a traditional old bar and walls plastered with photos, records, guitars and more. A relatively calm Monday lunchtime session here with a great seat to watch all the comings and goings and faces peering in from The Broadway.

Legends
Legends memorabilia

A band assembled for that day play the prize song for tips quite early on, which I catch on my mobile: The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

Further down on that side of the street is The Stage on Broadway. Three storeys of bands and we settled on the rooftop bar with an outside terrace and inside stage. Good selection of craft ales.

The Stage on Broadway – Rooftop bar

Over on the South side of this main street is Nudie’s Honky Tonk. Another good option of a rooftop bar but with three floors. Bands on one and three when we visited and saw a solo singer-guitarist on three. Great views over The Broadway. Nudie’s own IPA is a winner.

Nudie’s rooftop bar
View from Nudie’s roof

Back across the street and down near the main crossroads is wonderfully named Lucky Bastard Saloon. I think I’ve been drinking in there for a while! This was more rocky and more edgy. Some heavier drinking going on.

The band we caught in there were full on. They did an Eminem song and the lead singer carried on as he jumped out of the window into the street. Great show. Some superb drumming.

The Tin Roof is over the lights on the same side, Lower Broadway. Good food and beer. The band in here was very rocky and included an American Idol nearly man.

The Tin Roof


Jason Aldean on the south side of The Broadway is a smarter restaurant venue. We had a good night on the upper floor being ushered to a front row table after a wait at the well stocked craft ale bar.

Upstairs at Jason Aldean’s


The Whiskey River Saloon is allied to the Lucky Bastard Saloon. A large modern bar with large stage downstairs. Rooftop sports bar up top was where we ended up for some food with American football fans chewing over the Sunday games. Should have stayed with the bands downstairs.

The Johnny Cash Bar and BBQ can’t be missed, surely. We went in a few times for a dose of Cash. Great mural and spacious. Bang ordinary food but the beer and the music’s good… Cashcentric obviously. The Johnny Cash Museum is next door.

Johnny Cash Bar and BBQ


Printers Alley leads up from The Broadway – some great places to explore. It can look a bit rough and dirty and at night even a bit creepy when it’s not busy, but some great places.

Printers Alley


Skull’s Rainbow Room is the best, behind an unassuming front door. A more sophisticated feel and a sense of history. The flamboyant cocktail barman told us of how big names like Brian May came in when in town and how Paul McCartney had written Sally G about a bar girl there… we had tastes of smoky tequila and my wife Sally had some monstrous cocktail containing absinthe that came back to bite later. Lively crowd and a cabaret feel with a sort of Dean Martin type crooning.

Cocktail demon – Skull’s



The Taps is another rocking joint with good beers – quite a big place behind the single doorway. Inside 80s looking brick and ironwork.

Lastly and I would also say unmissable is the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. A taste of New Orleans with signage and iron balcony to aid the ambience. In there we sat peering over the stage in awe of a big old white man singing with an amazing bluesy voice and a superb guitarist with him. It was like stepping back in time. Every song introduced with a story or some reflection. This old guy’s face pained with a thousand blues song; eyes shut as he sang and the tip bucket filled.

Mystery blues man – Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar


When he finished he said they had to move on as the main band were coming on. They were just the warm up. We saw him walking down the street a few blocks away with his guitar later. Where was he going… what’s he doing now? Next time I’m in town I’ll be down Printers Alley looking for him.

I hope there is a next time. Nashville is one hell of a town and it absolutely rocks.

The Broadway

The Shins – live in Chicago

The Shins at Chicago Theater, Illinois, USA on 8.9.2022 with Joseph supporting

On holiday in the USA and all eyes for a band to see while in Chicago. The Shins were there, on a plate, walking distance from our hotel and tickets left. No, I hadn’t heard of them despite their 25-year history but a few plays of the album they were touring and we thought let’s do this (on the trip with wife Sally).

Chicago Theater

The Chicago Theater

The venue is a gem. We popped down earlier to the box office to avoid app faffing or misunderstandings. It’s just south of the Chicago River and a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, very near The Loop, that quirky raised metro system. A noisy iron mess, but quirky. A pre-gig pint (or 16oz) sat outside the Elephant and Castle looking up at it.

The Loop

A 3,600 capacity all seated theatre with a large upstairs balcony (which I think was closed for tonight); plush seats; beautiful ceilings and lighting; built in 1921 and restored in 1986.

Ornate ceilings and plush surroundings
Entrance lobby

The bars are virtually queue-less with rapid can sales of a range of craft ales and the staff were all enthusiastic and friendly – so welcoming. A well behaved crowd in tonight.

Being a US city there are metal detectors on the way in and a clear bag policy and maximum bag size to minimise searching – I left my pocket camera behind just in case. No masks needed and any Covid signage seemed historic and few wore masks. The no cameras, no phones or videos warning seemed half-hearted and the crowd was littered with people grabbing memories with their phones – I stood by a pillar and joined in once I realised I wouldn’t be tasered or ejected.

Tonight’s Support: Joseph

Joseph? An odd name for two twins and their sister playing folk-pop. They are from a town called Joseph in the State of Oregon, and the name is also in respect to their Grandad Jo. Oh. Bad name. Thought they might play some Carpenters.

The main singer-songwriter of the three is Natalie Closner Schepman who plays guitar on-stage and the Closner twins add vocal harmony and on-stage distraction. All very light with a few covers thrown in – a pleasant intro to the evening.

The Shins

Also now based in Oregon, The Shins were originally formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996. James Mercer is the main man and the only consistent member in the band. They get an indie rock label but it seems they have had a history of adapting sound and playing different styles over the years. The term ‘pop project’ has been applied and I get that seeing them here tonight.

You can hear Beatles-like pop simplicity and then a few songs later be lost in a haze of dry ice and white lights in some sort of Genesis-like prog rock experience. The lighting was really effective – simple but atmospheric.

The Shins from the rear of The Chicago Theatre

When the band came on I was quite surprised, given the laid back reception for the support band, as the whole seated floor of the auditorium got to their feet. I was pretty knackered from pacing the streets of Chicago so I have to admit I was mildly irritated – it was all good though.

With the tour being a ’21st Birthday Tour’ for the Oh, Inverted World album it gave a chance for rapid pre-gig familiarisation. Spotify to the rescue with the added help of their top five most listened to. A more familiar tune that appeared, surprisingly, was Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy… bit of a head scratch there.

The support trio Joseph popped out to join in on five or so songs – they must be friends eh.

I managed to grab a video of one of the later songs not from the featured album: Mine’s Not a High Horse’ (link to my YouTube channel). That was followed by Simple Song which is one of their instantly enjoyable numbers.

The last song, Sleeping Lessons, had a familiar inclusion if a bit of Tom Petty.

The Shins and Joseph say goodnight Chicago

A worthwhile evening out on the town and all hassle free. Maybe I felt a bit of an imposter, seeing the crowd lap up this performance largely consisting of songs over 20 years old, which I’ve only heard in the last 48 hours.

The travelling imposters: tonight, Shins fans

The Taylor Hawkins tribute concert: Wembley

The Foo Fighters with an extensive array of rock legends, and friends of Taylor Hawkins 3.9.2022 Wembley Stadium

NME provided a comprehensive and well informed summary of the day: NME on The Taylor Hawkins tribute. I could never do this day justice. I went up on the train still looking up the names of many guests – some were family, some were relatives, some from bands I knew but not individual band members. I got to hear them all in what transpired to be a six hour emotional rock’n’roll feast in honour of Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins (1972-2022).

At the 4.30pm start, which me and gig buddy Dave were in promptly for the start of, I started putting a few notes into my phone but it soon became apparent that such was the fast changing array of talent any hopes of keeping up would be fruitless and overly distracting from soaking up this extraordinary event. My pics were all a bit distant – we were a fair way back, high up in a Wembley Stadium holding a capacity 90,000 crowd – but to jog the memory better it was streamed Worldwide and proper recordings will be available. I will watch it all again when I’m ready. There is also the second US version in a few days of me writing this (in LA on Tuesday 27 September).

Perhaps I will feel differently when I re-watch it but I left that stadium thinking that was the best gig I had ever been at – what a collective performance and what a remarkable multi-instrument display, with so many artists, by Dave Grohl, with all the emotion of the whole event as well. It was incredible.

Taylor Hawkins RIP – the ultimate farewell concert

In my photo above, on the bottom left, the film camera bank can be seen and with mobile ones and aerial shots, I can only imagine that the aired version would have totally overcome any sound any vision detractions I had – fair bit of echo back there which noticed when artists spoke to the crowd.

Liam Gallagher to start – Dave Grohl on drums


Liam Gallagher kicks it all off in a respectful and calm mood with two very apt Oasis songs with Dave Grohl on the drums: Rock’n’Roll Star and Live Forever. From that point on I recall my high points, with memory jogging help from the 50 song setlist published in NME.

Hearing Nile Rodgers perform Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Modern Love, in Wembley Stadium seemed so fitting to the surroundings – I could visualise a white suited Bowie on that stage. It was the artists I had never seen and am unlikely to see live now that grabbed my interest more though. The first of those was Wolfgang Van Halen playing a couple of Van Halen songs: Bonfire and Hot for Teacher, with Justin Hawkins on vocals.

Justin Hawkins – The Darkness – no relation


Another surreal high spot was the Supergrass section. They were invited as Taylor Hawkins liked them and they toured with Foo Fighters a few years back. Supergrass can’t have played to a crowd like this – I have seen them a few times and hearing their three songs Going Out, Caught by the Fuzz and especially Alright blasted out in such surroundings was fab: it felt so upbeat and happy in the circumstances…with Dave Grohl on drums …of course.

The distinctive sound of Chrissie Hyde was another moment – another three track package ending with Brass in Pocket.

Violet Grohl, Dave’s daughter, with Mark Ronson and Mr Grohl on drums hit an emotional spot with Valerie, as the Amy Winehouse adopted Zutons belter.

One guy I was really looking forward to see, OK hear anyway, was AC/DC’s Brian Johnson – there’s a great tv series where he drives around to meet up with and talk to artists and Dave Grohl featured on one. I doubt I will ever see AC/DC but I got to hear Brian Johnson do Back in Black and Let There be Rock, backed by the Foo Fighters, with Justin ‘Darkness’ Hawkins helping out again.

Brian Johnson of AC/DC

When Stuart Copeland took to the stage that was another big moment – I bought those Police early singles before they went huge – a distinct drumming sound. Everything She Does is Magic with Gaz Coombes of Supergrass on vocals. Another unique experience in music.

One band that I somehow got into later in life, as what started as a guilty pleasure, was Rush. They have said they will never tour outside North America again… but two of them were here, including Geddy Lee, the voice. They played 2112 Part 1: Overture and Working Man. Wow. Just wow.

My last mention before the Foo Fighters’ main set is the Queen section. Highlights: Brian May playing Love of My Life; Justin Hawkins singing Under Pressure and Eurovision man Sam Ryder singing Somebody to Love – Roger Taylor singing, son Rufus of The Darkness drummer. So much going on at this full-on rock celebrity jam session.


Then the Foo Fighters main set itself – Grohl holding it all together, though ripped with emotion. A set that started with Times Like These, All My Life and the blast that is The Pretender and finished with My Hero (Taylor Hawkins’ son Shane drumming so hard in his dad’s place) and lastly Everlong.

Master of ceremonies – Dave Grohl
Wembley Stadium in its hugeness

In the middle of the Foos’ set… an unannounced appearance of Paul McCartney. I was there at Glastonbury when Dave Grohl guested in his set with Springsteen so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

McCartney and Hynde
OK hard to see … but proof I was there

McCartney called on Chrissie Hynde to duet with Oh Darling and then into Helter Skelter. My favourite Beatles song: I always say Siouxie and the Banshees really knew how to play it best but hearing McCartney do it at this event was a special moment.

Goodnight all



Six hours. 50 songs. An epic performance and a beautiful event to pay tribute to the life of Taylor Hawkins. An extraordinary day which I look forward to reliving on film sometime.

Victorious Festival: Sunday

Victorious Festival 26 27 28 August 2022 at Southsea Common, Portsmouth UK: Day 3

Last day at Victorious (Friday and Saturday links to my previous blogs). My last of three festivals this Summer. I took it steady today. I watched five bands and spent a long time just sitting, chatting, listening at a distance and having a few beers.

I watched a couple of acts, The Libertines and Sam Ryder (pure curiousity) from the platform in the premium area mainly and could see them from the comfort of a settee with my dodgy leg elevated. I think that counts as ‘seeing’ them…. as opposed to just listening which I did for Metronomy and Amy MacDonald, who sounded pretty good. I didn’t count those ones in my 17 acts ‘seen’ this weekend. You’ve got to have some ground rules for your gig-going eh.

Sunday lunch with The Libertines
The Libertines – Common Stage

I thought The Libertines were surprisingly downbeat, having seen them on tour in the last year and enjoyed the guitary chaos of that. I suppose even the ‘afternoon special guest’ tag can’t overcome a Sunday lunchtime set.

The Reytons are the band I hadn’t seen that I wanted to see most this festival, having bought their first album, Kids Off the Estate, after initial recommendation from an old colleague from Coventry (Tony the Toucan).

I was up and down near the front for this lot, over on the fence near the mixing desk again. I had a wander front left later.

Reytons – Common Stage
Jonny Yerrell – The Reytons

They’re from Rotherham: name coming from the Yorkshire phrase ‘right ones’. Indie rock – real life observational lyrics. They’ve been going since 2017, so they’ve had time to develop a brash stage confidence with a having good time feel. They’re enjoying themselves in the sunshine in their all-white gear.

‘The kids off the estate’

Pick of the around ten song set: album title track Kids Off The Estate; Slice of Lime and Low Life, caputured here on my YouTube channel. ‘Reet good that eh’.

After that excitement I retreated for a beer and a crรชpe, in the tent in the oasis of calm that was the premium area.

EuroSam Ryder fever

When Eurovision sensation Sam Ryder appeared, I popped my head out on to the platform. It was absolutely heaving out there. A whole new crowd appeared to see the Euroman. There were about 100 people on the stage with the Portsmouth drumming group boosting the numbers and the sound. Six songs then Spaceman – well that was worth a listen I suppose. He does have a great voice but I watched the arm waving throng with suspiscion and stayed out of the way.

Sam Ryder – Spaceman

After distant listens, I reappeared to watch Editors. I’ve liked their sound and vocals over the years when I’ve bumped into them, although I’ve not really ever gone looking for them. Yeah, they were worth the watch again.

Editors

I was waiting for Suede. Right up there in my list of favourite bands. I saw them on their first big tour at Birmingham Hummingbird, bought the records, read the books but have seen them at surprisingly large intervals considering.

Suede – Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson was right at it like it’s his first gig. Some wonderful mic swinging that Roger Daltrey would have been proud of. What an trim athlete he is, leaping off things as he attacks the songs. His mic cable stopped a full-on stage leap but he clambered down, at one point swearing and gesturing at a photographer who had outstayed his time limit.

Brett Anderson – Suede on main stage

It is a stunning set: Trash, Animal Nitrate, Pantomime Horse, We Are The Pigs….ending with The Beautiful Ones.

I decided to leave on a high and went to find some chips and curry sauce to round off my 2022 Victorious Festival. I have seen Sam Fender twice and I listened as I exited down the seafront with my chips.

Got the t-shirt

17 bands in all – a mere fraction if what was on offer but my individual musical path. Maybe I should amend my t-shirt.

My Victorious