Scroll down or click to go directly to:
– Tour Summary/Band Lineup/Setlist
– March 26th, Corn Exchange, Kings Lynn
– March 25th, The Old Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
– March 24th, Band On The Wall, Manchester
– March 23rd, Venue Cymru, Llandudno
– March 22nd, Robin 2, Bilston
– March 19th, Princess Pavilion, Falmouth
– March 18th, Colston Hall, Bristol
– March 17th, Picturedrome, Holmfirth
– March 16th, Stables, Wavendon
– March 15th, Stables, Wavendon
– March 10th, Ronnie Scott’s, London
– March 9th, Ronnie Scott’s, London
– March 8th, Ronnie Scott’s, London
– March 7th, Ronnie Scott’s, London
– March 5th, The Arches, Glasgow
An amazing musical experience with a seminal musical legend and a band of amazing musicians. The music was constantly evolving, particularly driven by Jack’s catalytic energy, with new ideas developing every night. Both the on and off-stage vibes were great with between Jack and the band and lots of laughs and good spirit abounded, marred only by some laughable organisational mishaps!
Jack Bruce (bass/piano/vocals)
Tony Remy (guitar)
Frank Tontoh (drums)
Nick Cohen (bass, opening set and ‘The Food’)
Winston Rollins (trombone/horn arrangements)
Derek Nash (sax)
Paul Newton (trumpet)
and myself on (piano/organ)
plus depping on Llandudno, Manchester and Kendal shows:
Paul Fisher (trombone)
Adrian Revell (sax)
and on Falmouth show:
Martin Dale (sax)
and on the Glasgow show:
Paul Towndrow (sax)
– Opening set from ‘The Blues Experience’
Everyday I Have The Blues (myself singing)
Junko Partner or Iko Iko or Cold Shot (myself singing)
Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (myself singing)
Doobre (Tony Remy leading his tune)
– Jack Bruce onstage
The Food or Theme From An Imaginary Western
Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune
First Time I Met The Blues
This Anger’s A Liar
Born Under A Bad Sign
We’re Going Wrong
Sunshine Of Your Love
The last gig of the tour! I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly. Well, I guess they always do. The drive from Kendal to Kings Lynn went quicker than expected and we arrived at the Corn Exchange, a great looking theatre in a converted building on a nice old traditional market square. There had been some confusion as the venue were expecting us to bring half of the PA system…err…no…and they had not got any of the rider requirements or able to feed us or give us a buyout for dinner in a local restaurant. Which, all was in the contract…
*WARNING: little rant coming up, the only one in this generally very positive blog!*
I am still at a loss as to the lack of hospitality in so many venues in the UK. It is sadly lacking compared to European venues or pretty much anywhere else in the world I’ve been fortunate enough to play. If you go to even a small venue in Europe, there will always be someone to meet you, and they will always offer you refreshment and food when you arrive – much like you are a guest in a home – something easy and cheap to do that instantly makes you feel welcome and appreciated, especially after a long journey. On so many of the gigs on this and other tours, even the bigger venues, there has rarely been anyone there to meet us, and we end up wandering around wondering where we’re supposed to unload or where we can go to find a glass of water. Come on UK venues, I love playing the gigs and you’ve got some great sound systems, awesome atmospheres but a bit of effort in other areas would be massively appreciated and make everyone much more relaxed, ready, willing and able to do a good show!
But, it was still a good show and Laurie did a great job of front of house engineering on a small digital desk that needed 8 buttons to be pushed to do the the same thing as one button on a good old analog desk. Tony Remy played some beautiful stuff as always, although I think for the first time on tour he broke a string during ‘We’re Going Wrong’. Derek Nash and Winston Rollins were back in the horn section after a few gigs abroad, and the original section sounded great together, with Derek tearing up some great solos.
For a last night, it was slightly anti-climactic, as there was no last-night party organised, so we said our goodbyes to Jack and got in the splitter for the journey back to London. But, I can’t wait to get back on stage with Jack and the guys for some more dates in the summer…
Another beautiful part of the world, tainted only by my painful hangover. We arrived to a nice hotel backing on to the fields just outside Kendal on the edge of the Lake District, with views across the hills. Spring was in the air, and I could see cute fluffy days-old lambs running about on unsure legs – a nice sight from the pub as I tucked into my juicy lamb steaks. Actually, it was gammon steak, something I’d been craving all morning. Nick Cohen had parodied Al Murray’s comedy skit about ‘bacon receptors’ in the brain, and the fact that I felt instantly better on smelling the gammon as soon as it started frying was proof that we do indeed possess them. After lunch, Nick, Tony and myself decided to wander the mile and a half down to the venue. The sun was out and the air fresh.
So, to the gig – the Arts Centre was built in a converted Brewery and had a nice vibe. The low ceiling made it cosy, and would be especially so as the gig had sold out. Jack’s personal road manager, Laurie always amazes me at sound check – he is a consummate sound engineer and his attention to detail when soundchecking Jack’s mic is remarkable e.g. ‘heeellllo, yep…heeeeelo…so, could you take the 12K down by 1db…hellllllo…yep, add in the high cut….yeppp…1-2-3-4…drop the 400 by 3db…now add in the mids again…feedback at 1200 etc.’ Knowing the feedback frequencies purely by listening takes some experience and Laurie knows his stuff. Whatever he does works, cos the vocals always sound GREAT. As Jack sometime uses my piano, Laurie always checks my mic, and it is definitely the best vocal sound on stage I’ve had, consistently. It really helps when singing, and you can hear tuning and detail much more clearly.
This was another venue with a great restaurant. Again, smiles all round. The gig was hot! And when I mean hot, I mean bloody roasting – the packed room and lights made it a sweaty affair, and Jack quipped on the mic during the gig, ‘Can somebody fetch me some air?! Or maybe you can’t because you export it…pure bottled Lake District air’. They opened the doors after that and the room cooled a little. Again, a good gig with a good sound on stage. Frank made us chuckle at the end of his drum solo by quoting a little figure that Jack always plays at the end of ‘The Food’…I guess it’s a musical in-joke, but it sums up the good fun vibe in the band, Jack included. This was the last of the gigs that Paul and Adrian were depping on, and they did another great job…well done boys!
Afterwards, we had a pint in the venue bar, and it would have been rude to have anything but the ‘Paddy’s Tout’, a nice dark stout – ‘it’s just the ticket!’
After throwing a few stones into the sea, something that reminded me of my youth growing up in Dorset, we drove to Manchester for our gig at Band On The Wall. What a great venue! A good sound system and intimate standing room-only venue promised to be a great gig. Not just a clever name, ‘Band On The Wall’ used to put it’s musicians on a tiny stage on the wall above people’s heads, and there was a piano and stool attached to the wall itself! Fortunately, they’ve modernised since the photo below, and the risk of dear Frank falling off the stage again not so bad…! I was amused to see, if you click on the photo, ‘Jim Hart’ on drums – he’s a drummer/vibes playing pal of ours (a massive talent, check him out), although judging by the age of the photo, perhaps not the same chap…although, maybe he’s got an anti-ageing secret…? Looking good for 103, Jim!
Before sound check, I had a little wander round the northern quarter, a hip area with retro shops, venues, and vibe.
Frank Tontoh at soundcheck
The gig was awesome, with some great moments on stage – killing solos from everyone and a nice plunge-mute bone solo on ‘This Anger’. Jack was stretching it out again at the ends of songs and, again, it was refreshing to find ourselves teetering on the edge of the musical cliff before clawing ourselves back to the safety of the song. We all knew a few people up in Manchester, and after the gig checked out a quartet playing at ‘Matt & Freds’, another wicked venue, round the corner. A nice little party vibe with the band, including a little 80’s dancefloor action. Yep, I’m afraid I live up to what they say about musicians, they might be able to play music, but they certainly can’t dance to it! I guess we’ve spent most of our time on the stage, not the dance floor. Let’s just say, all in all, a hangover in waiting.
The first time in this town for me, and what a lovely, chilled place to come – a really nice surprise. I must admit, my memories of north Wales seaside towns weren’t so flattering but we arrived to find beautiful Georgian terraces overlooking a well kept beach with a traditional pier and long pebbly beach. It was a beautiful sunny day and the journey was quick from Bilston. We had a couple of hours before soundcheck so I had a wander down the seafront, took my customary fish & chips by the sea and sauntered along the pier listening to Mozart’s Paris symphony (a nice complement to the noisy rock n roll that would be dealt out later). Without many people around, it was relaxed and the air was very still with a slight, cooling sea breeze. The calm before the storm?
The venue was nice and modern although the room we played in felt a bit like an AGM in a hotel function room, with a carpet floor and rows of seats laid out. Jack arrived to chair the meeting and the agenda soon got under way with the soundcheck, a little procrastinated but sounded good with the deps Paul Fisher on trombone and Adrian Revel on sax. We rehearsed my arrangement of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and I’ve never seen a trombone player’s arm move so quick – the main hook is a tricky one on bone and certainly gave him a good workout! Sounded great. The musicians on this trip are all superb and Paul and Adrian slotted in easily.
The venue’s restaurant was definitely served best food we’d had so far, wahey! Nothing like a good dinner to put a musician in a good mood. Although, my greediness almost got the better of me as I insisted on having a dessert and then had to sprint back to the hotel then to the venue in time for the gig. Still, a bit of exercise not usually forthcoming on tour.
The gig went fine although the room was a little sterile and the crowd accordingly passive, although enjoying it. There was healthy applause after each song but also a deathly silence before the next tune began. During one of these silences, Jack turned round to the band and said. loudly enough to be picked up on the mics, ‘tough crowd huh?!’. Even if they heard, the crowd must have taken it in good humour because they still shouted and stamped for an encore, and we duly concluded the agenda with a good version of ‘Spoonful’.
After the gig, we had a couple of drinks with Jack backstage, polished off the remainder of his rider which he’d left, then headed back to the cute little hotel we were staying in – Can-Y-Bae, ‘Song of The Bay’. Can-Y-Bae is the hotel used by touring bands, theatre shows and entertainers and the whole place was adorned with signed photos of everyone who’d stayed there. We tried a Welsh whiskey, a first for me but pretty good I must say.
Well, the big turnaround on this leg of the tour was an upgraded splitter bus. I was pleased to see a bigger, nicer bus pull up outside my house, with enough room for everyone and comfy seats. There is a fair bit of driving to do over the next few days and the new bus is welcome! I took a few DVDs including a Derek Trucks live concert – one of the most exciting guitar players and bands around at the moment, at least in my book – check him out if you’re not familiar – plays unreal slide guitar in a totally unique, tasteful, accomplished and most importantly, musical way.
Back up the good old M1, the journey was quick and we arrived and sound checked at the venue. We were expecting Marcus Bonfanti to support but when we got there it was another friend and fellow London based musician Sam Hare who was doing the opening slot.
The Robin 2 is a well set up venue with some decent rooms attached to a good sized standing room-only live room. The stage was a little tight for our setup, so I found myself inches away from both Jack’s and Nick’s bass stacks. Won’t be needing any bass in my monitor tonight!
The gig itself was great, with a packed house and good vibe. The crowd were up for it, especially one chap who kept yelling ‘Apostrophe’ after every single song, calling for the jam tune and title track that Jack had recorded with Frank Zappa in 1974. One strong memory from the night was the first note of our encore, ‘Spoonful’, which Jack had cheekily turned up his amp for. The note just exploded out of his amp stack and smacked me between the eyes and rocked my bowels! That tune gets better and better with some real energy building throughout the song.
Im actually writing this after the Bilston gig in the splitter van on the way to Llandudno, my concentration and iPhone typing accuracy battling with the road movement and the John Travolta shoot-em-up movie blasting out.
So, as far as my medium term memory serves me, it was a beautiful drive from Bristol down through Dartmoor and Bodmin with the sun shining. Dartmoor reminded me of family holidays and also my Dad’s fabled and witty ‘Dog Impressions’ routine which we witnessed many years ago at a Festival there, the culmination being ‘Randy Rover: The Dog Who Would Roam No More’ – in which he falls off the 5 foot stage onto the floor in a painfully crumpled heap. Ah, suffering for your art!
Falmouth is a sweet Cornish seaside town replete with endless rows of guesthouses, Fish & Chip shops and a port/Marina full of yaughts. We stationed ourselves in one of the guesthouses next to the venue and soundchecked. As my bag had been left in Holmfirth, I set my keys up differently, in ‘Rick Wakeman style’ with the piano and organ at rocktastic right angles. The dep sax player, Martin, brought the pedals I needed, legend!
After soundcheck we headed down to the Marina to try the much lauded ‘Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips’. We were unanimously disappointed. They were simply an ok example of the genre, no doubt freshly caught and prepared, but not worth the extra cost levied by his celebrity status. For the best fish & chips ever, try the Marlborough in Weymouth…and sit and eat them out of the paper on the harbour side with the smell of the fresh catch and marine diesel. That’s the stuff!
Photo by Sue Thompson
The gig was really great, with one if the best crowd reactions so far and good interaction on stage. Frank managed to crush his foot just before the gig so he had his bass drum playing foot on ice. He’s not had the best of luck, what with falling off the stage on the first gig! The opening set went great and the tunes really sounding comfortable
At one point, Jack cleared his mouth and didn’t realise he’d spat it into the front row…I saw the whole thing and the unassuming recipients of his phlegmatic gift took it in good humour, wiping their faces down with a grin…
Frank’s drum solo on ‘White Room’ was awesome but a little shorter than usual, so we found ourselves sprinting back to the stage to get there in time for the snare hit before we storm into Tony’s guitar solo. After the show there were some great comments from the audience.
All in all, a great trip to Falmouth.
The Colston Hall! It’s been a while since I played here. The last time was about 10 years ago with my old Bristol based pal Eddie Martin. Eddie represented a whole new era for me – a period during which I spread my wings in my late teens and started doing gigs in Bristol, a metropolis after my Dorset roots. I used to travel up to Bristol with my Mum (before I could drive) and play at The Old Duke on sunday nights, a legendary music venue at which Eddie had a residency. Dorset had always had a really healthy live music scene but it felt like a new ball game playing up in Bristol. Suffice to say, I got to know every bend and pothole on the A37 between Dorchester and Bristol over a few years.
Anyway, good to be back in Bristol for the show with Jack. However, as we were driving down, the tour manager had a phone call to say that my bag of leads & pedals did not make it onto the bus. There are some quite specific ones, so we spent quite a few phone calls trying to track down somebody to borrow them from, to no avail. In the end, we bit the bullet and bought some from a music shop, although they were really cool and said we could bring them back the next day and get a refund. First crisis averted. Next, the horns had driven back to London the night before for some work during the day and called to say the traffic was so bad getting out of London that it taken 2 hours to get to the M25. So, it was looking like they wouldn’t make it for the gig…so, the gig was pushed back half an hour and you could hear the grumbles in the foyer! It was nice to see a few familiar faces and especially nice to see my Dad who’d travelled up from Dorchester. Poor old sod, he’d done his shoulder ligaments in playing football last week, and his arm was in a sling.
The gig itself was interesting – some good moments but the sound, shall we say, is more suited to acoustic based music – orchestral/classical, or less amplified groups. Although, Jack’s opening solo number, one of my Dad’s favorite songs, ‘Theme From An Imaginary Western’, sounded great with the Steinway grand and his vocal. I’m glad he did that one tonight.
The monitoring sound wasn’t great, most of all because of the general acoustic so it was a little more difficult to hear everything going on and have quite as much interaction. But, still a fun gig.
Hanging backstage before the encore…
My dear wife, Marie, arrived during the gig so it was a nice post-gig welcome!
A mildly painful hangover after Tony’s rum didn’t help the journey up to Holmfirth. The tour organisers hadn’t managed to upgrade the van and about two hours after setting off from Tony’s, we found ourselves driving directly passed The Stables on the M1 where we’d played the night before. Silly! For the cost of the taxis, public transport and petrol, we could have all stayed overnight and had a leisurely drive the next day. Oh well, not moaning…much…
Still, the aim of our journey was the pretty town of Holmfirth, most known as the setting of the long loved British comedy, ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’. The town is pretty much exclusively built from the local stone and is populated by bakeries, cafes and gift shops – all bearing names from the TV show such as ‘Compo’s Cafe’, ‘Last Of The Summer Wine & Spirits’, ‘Batty’s Bakery’.
The drive over the Yorkshire dales is quite beautiful. I’ve always loved the hills and wildness ever since my parents took us on mountain holidays around the UK/Ireland from an early age. So, it was nice to be somewhere more open and exposed to the elements, albeit experienced from the inside of a van.
I watched England pull it out the bag against The West Indies in the Cricket World Cup, just in time to go to soundcheck. The venue itself had a really great feel – The Picturedrome. An old converted theatre/cinema with no seats and a big balcony area overlooking the stage. And, it definitely wins on backstage area of the tour so far – a full size snooker table. Nick Cohen and I had a game, and remarkably we finished it! I always forget how big those tables are, especially after playing pool. Jack kept on giving us sly comments in his unmistakeable Scottish drawl – ‘Ah, so you’ve potted one now eh? That must make two for the hour!’
We were staying in the Old Bridge Hotel, right next to venue – a nice place that did the biggest meals I’ve possibly ever seen. Nick’s fish was as big as Jack plays loud…i.e. the loudest fish I’ve ever played…no that’s not right…the fishest amp I’ve ever eaten…no, nor’s that…ah, I mean it was the biggest fish I’ve ever seen! It was St. Patrick’s day so we had a Guinness.
Good old pal Marcus Bonfanti was the support on this show and always good hang out. It was St. Patrick’s day so we had a token Guinness before the gig and caught up. Marcus’s set was storming and the crowd loved him, as usual! Our show itself felt great, maybe the best yet, despite a faltering start on the opening tune. 1…2…1-2-3-4…err…what’s going on chaps…ok…we’re a bit slow…let’s gradually speed up over the course of the song and people might not notice…
The fact everyone was standing helped to create a good vibe, especially as the show was totally packed. Poor old Paul had bust his lip installing a baby seat so he was taking it easy on the trumpet parts, but other than that everyone was going for it. Derek Nash and Jack had some great interplay tonight, and I believe Derek would bust into a duck walk during one of his solos if he had a bit more space. At one point one the crowd jumped on stage and tried to shake Jack’s hand. Um, security? Jack ran away from him towards me (I imagine he’s had some experience of stage crashers before, and probably some not so nice ones) but the guy seemed to get the message and ran back off…
We had a good chat with Jack after the gig and ended up back at the Old Bridge for a nightcap.
The second night at Wavendon was a stormer! Jack was on fire and sang the best I’d heard him. We did a great opening set (kept it to our alloted time!), and we played my arrangement of ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’ for the first time with this band. Tony’s tune, ‘Doubree’ is getting better every night, and the name has stuck…
I can’t recall much else of note about the gig. There was a Japanese lady who’d travelled all the way from Tokyo for the gig…I guess there’s got to be good reason to go to Milton Keynes on any day*, so she must have been a No.1 fan. *Apologies to any Milton Keynes dwellers or lovers – in actual fact, I’ve never been into the town of Milton Keynes itself, so cannot possibly comment except in jest, and was only playing on the old stereotype…although, I must admit, the massive factory warehouses on the edge of town are quite impressive ; )
After the gig we headed back to London, had a quick(?) overproof rum at Remy mansions before slogging it home for a few hours sleep before heading back to the Remy Ranch for the van pickup at 10am the next morning.
It would have only taken me 1hr to drive from my home in North London to The Stables but I had to take the tour transport since my car was crashed into outside my house (parked and empty!) a little while back. So, a trip over to Remy Ranch on glorious London Transport then the van journey via Tontoh Towers then the M1 took a good 4 hours in total. Oh well, at least we had a crap van with barely enough space to physically cram us and our gear in, and that’s even without a couple of the horn players! My oh my, some terrible tour organisation from the promoters going on here – I can just imagine the conversation when the van was booked: “Hi, is that xxxxxx tour hire? We’d like the cheapest van please…no, we don’t care if the band are crammed in like sardines or they have to take their gear in the seats with them because there’s not enough room in the back. 20p a day? Wonderful, we’ll take it!”
Still, at least there was good company on the road. Fortunately, after the organisational debacle of Glasgow, we now have a couple of splendid new guys to drive and tour manage, Bully and Alex. We arrived at the Stables and setup, and I was happy to find a nice Steinway grand piano that I could use. Certainly a polite seated theatre venue, I wasn’t sure it was so suited to Jack’s vibey set but the gig went great. Although, we got into a bit of trouble with Jack for playing our opening set for too long. We were contracted to do two sets instead of the long one-set-show that Jack prefers, so we threw in an extra one of Tony’s tunes to make the first set without Jack a little longer. However, we must have all got into the playing on stage because the time flew and before long we’d done almost 40mins instead of the 25-30mins that was expected. But, I really enjoyed singing tonight, and we did Everyday I have The Blues, Iko Iko and Cold Shot. Still, after a little shakey moment with Jack about the set length we all made friends and went out to give a good show. Jack was much more animated on stage, and made use of the room to move around, eyeballing people in the crowd and giving some good attitude. He seemed much more comfortable in his voice and really nailed some of the high notes in ‘We’re Going Wrong’ and other songs. The throat infection he’d had must be clearing up, and the few days off after the Ronnie’s gigs must have helped.
Of course, the junction we needed to get back on the M1 was shut and the diversion signs were useless, so we ended up driving twice(!) in a 5 mile loop before conceding defeat and driving a few miles north to turn round. At this point I could see the chances of catching the last tube home dwindling aware before my eyes. But, we got to Kilburn tube in time for me to get home.
Forgive me, I’m writing this a few days after the gig and I can’t remember a great deal of detail about it – especially as it blurs into the run of nights we did at Ronnie Scott’s. I seem to remember it being a good one though, although I don’t think Jack was quite so happy as he was with the wednesday night show. But, still good to see the band stretching out and Jack enjoying the support we give him. He did do a beautiful solo at the end of Sunshine Of Your Love – a morning Raga – which he has done a couple of time now. A few over-zealous fans steamed straight into Jack’s dressing room without asking, immediately after he’d come off stage, which is never a cool thing to do. But Jack signed a few bits and bobs and politely expelled them without any bloodshed or broken hearts.
In which Jack’s amp dies again…
Another great show in a sold-out Ronnie Scott’s, culminating in Jack blowing his amp again. Every night so far, I believe! Some good versions of songs tonight, particularly ‘Spoonful’ – we seem to be knowing the arrangement and getting to know each other’s parts a lot better. Jack is constantly creative, with new approaches to the songs and his solos every night. Another refreshingly unpredictable gig!
March 8th, BBC Maida Vale Studios then Ronnie Scott’s, London
In which we do a great old school one-take-per-song-warts-n-all recording session for BBC Radio 2, and Jack blow his amp up again. Look out for the tracks and interview on the Paul Jones Rhythm & Blues Show, 88-91fm on MARCH 21st or the BBC website/iplayer.
It’s always amazing to record in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios. It’s a place steeped in music and radio history. EVERYONE has recorded there and I like the feeling of being part of that living history and continuing the tradition of my heroes and mentors. We recorded in Maida Vale 3, the same studio in which we filmed the Cadbury’s Flake advert with Joss Stone a couple of years ago. It’s a big room, beautifully sounding and stacked full of instruments, amazing old microphones and other priceless gear. I had my dream setup of Steinway grand piano and Hammond C-3/Leslie speaker (for those not familiar with gear, these are the speakers that physically spin around to create their unique and unsynthesisable sound).
Getting a sound didn’t take very long at all and we were quickly ready to record. Jack called the first number, ‘Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune’, and we played it through expecting to think of it as a warm up before laying own the recording. But, Jack just said, ‘Did you get that?’, which the engineer replied, ‘yeah, all recorded and rockin”, so one down! We listened in the control room and the vibe was awesome and the recording sounded great and natural. Both the producer Paul Long and Paul Jones himself seemed really happy with it too so we went back out to record the Chick Willis classic ‘Neighbour, Neighbour’ as well as some of Jack’s songs and co-written songs – ‘This Anger’s A Liar’, ‘We’re Going Wrong’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’. All first takes, good vibes, good solos from Derek Nash on tenor and Tony Remy on guitar.
It was a refreshing session with vibe being the most important thing. We were done by 2pm and with afternoon’s doors now open, I left the studios into bright sunshine.
The gig was sold out again and we did the same set except for adding a little New Orleans flavour of Iko Iko into the opening Blues Experience set. Although, a lot of the songs end up sounding very different with Jack pushing the boundaries and taking us with him. White Room rocked tonight and the band was on fire and really stretching. The best gig so far overall.
Had a brief chat with Jack about Pete Brown, with whom Jack obviously wrote a large amount of his output with, and with whom I wrote 5 songs on my ‘Walking On Eggshells’ album. Pete’s lyrics are certainly unique and full of powerful imagery, fragmented but held together by thin strands of logic and aesthetic. ‘Songs For A Tailor’ was actually a big influence on some of the songs on ‘Walking On Eggshell’s’, particularly ‘Dreamtime’, ‘Falling For The Moon’ and ‘Walking on Eggshells’. I love the exploratory nature of Jack’s album – always pushing harmony and rhythm in the songwriting but balanced with great melodies, hooks and playing. ‘Songs For A Tailor’ is one of my father’s favorite albums and I think probably represents quite a lot to him, having grown up in 50’s/60’s London. Being on stage with Jack feels like a link to my father’s past and gives me visions, however false or fantastical, of another era of London life. Oh, how I wish was on the scene in the 60’s!
Oh yeah, and Jack blows his amp again.
March 7th, Ronnie Scott’s, London
First of 4 nights at the club…In which Jack blows his amp up again
I’m afraid nothing too much to report out of the ordinary here – no drummers falling off stages, helicopter rides or champagne bearing oompa loompas walking round backstage. Just a good ol’ gig! Soundcheck was quick and easy and great to find that an old friend will be helping Jack with his gear for the rest of the tour.
Dinner: chicken liver pate then classic sausage and mash
The gig was sold out with a good vibe. I love playing at Ronnie’s although it can feel a little out of place rockin’ out on some of the big noisy end-of-song musical free-ups then hearing the clink of glasses and cutlery as folks sip their fine wine and eat a nice cut of steak.
We opened with the same songs in Glasgow and pretty much played the same set with Jack apart from ‘Windowless Rooms’, which we didn’t end up doing. It was a much tighter gig than Glasgow but perhaps lacked as much vibe. With every gig with a band you learn something more about the nature and parameters of the musical world in which you’re co-existing and I definitely formed a few more strands of understanding on this gig. Jack definitely likes to take things out, and really drives the energy on stage, which makes for a really fun and unpredictable gig to play. White Room almost there! Again, Jack managed to blow his amp up towards the end of the set…well, when I say ‘blow up’, there were no explosions or naked flames, rather it just stopped making any noise.
A nice chat after the show with Jack then headed home with the Radio 2 session at Maida Vale the next morning.
March 5th, The Arches, Glasgow
The first gig of the tour…In which the drummer falls of the stage, Jack’s gear breaks down during a psychedelic bass solo on Sunshine Of Your Love, my keyboard stand collapses during the first song.
It was an eventful first gig! The train journey from London-Glasgow takes in some pretty beautiful countryside, from the open fields north of London to the mountains at the edge of the lake district. Armed with my Keith Richards autobiography, (hence the blog headings ‘in which…’) the journey passed by quickly in a vision of 60’s rock n roll. Fairly apt, I guess, since I was on the way to do a gig with one of the 60’s biggest icons.
On arrival at The Arches, I was pleased to see my gear had made it in the van without injury. We set up and I found myself 3 ft away from Jack’s amp stack which he likes to turn up to ’11’. But, being the gentleman he is, he angled it round so I wouldn’t get my head blown off during a heavy freak-out moment.
Dinner: Chicken burger and chips – pretty good, Glenfiddich – very good.
The gig was pretty rammed, maybe not quite a sell out but a good vibe in Jack’s home town. We kicked off with 4 numbers without Jack, and I sang Everyday I Have The Blues, Cold Shot and Junko Partner. Nice to have the horns on those tunes and the killing rhythm section of Frank Tontoh and Nick Cohen. We did a wicked number of Tony Remy’s in which my damn keyboard stand collapsed and I had to hold the keyboard up with one hand while playing it with the other! We got it sorted before Jack hit the stage to wild applause, although he played his first song ‘The Food’ at the piano and I was shitting myself that it would happen again…
We did a mixture of tunes in Jack’s set – some classics including ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ (in which Jack’s bass cut out just as he started getting going in the final jam at the end of the song), ‘White Room’ (which for some reason went wrong tonight, must make sure it’s nailed tonight at Ronnie’s), ‘We’re Going Wrong’ (which went right tonight), ‘Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Tune’ (damn right, my Mum was always proud of her voice and rightly so, following in the footsteps of my Grandmother who was an excellent Irish folk singer).
Jack has such a unique way of playing the bass. He’s a real catalyst of ideas and energy on stage, constantly throwing things all over the place. It makes for a interesting gig to play, trying to respond to what he’s doing. He’s also a great listener, picking up on ideas around him and often standing right by the kick drum to really feel the groove. There were times when the music become almost totally free, with grooves and harmonies dissolving and transforming. Being the first gig, we were still testing the water, but I reckon there’s going to be some pretty spontaneous moments during the next few weeks!
Talking of spontaneous moments, poor old Frank – walking back on stage to do the encore, he slipped on a bit of loose carpet or something and disappeared off the back of the stage! There was no safety rail. He was really fortunate that it wasn’t worse, and managed to come back on to play ‘Spoonful’, albeit looking in severe pain. I think the upshot was bruised ribs and legs. He’s a strong lad though.
After the gig, there were a few drinks, laughs and a general moan about the terrible organisation of the tour so far (won’t even begin to describe it suffice to say, amongst many other things, there weren’t enough beds booked at the otherwise fully booked hotel).
But, I have to say the Glaswegians were absolute diamonds on this trip – helpful, kind and generous. It’s easy to get used to London’s passive society and forget how open and friendly us humans are capable of being! There we go, a positive note to finish. Aye!