RICHARD THOMPSON TRIO, NOTTINGHAM ROYAL CENTRE 18.10.18

October 21st, 2018

 

‘We’ll get to all those classics you’ve driven a hundred miles to hear a little later…’

There are two kinds of Richard Thompson fan: those who prefer his electric tours and those who enjoy him most playing solo acoustic. Nottingham used to get his acoustic tours, but his visits this century have been with a band. You’ve had to travel to see him solo, though it’s always worth the journey. The last one I saw was ten months ago, in Sheffield, where he was touring Acoustic Classics.

Yet, while Thompson is one of our greatest songwriters, he’s also one of our greatest, most distinctive guitarists. Band shows allow him to solo and stretch out. He must love playing them, because the prices are the same, so he makes less money. He tends to focus on new and more recent material, too, which sells less seats. Tonight, Thompson’s touring album 13 Rivers, his strongest in some time, and kicks off with Bones of Gilead and Her Love Was Meant For Me. Taras Prodaniuk on  bass and Michael Jerome on drums, both superb are joined from time to time by Bobby Eichorn, seated, on supplemental guitar.

Two songs take us back to 1968.

‘Here’s a song I wrote when I was 19, fifty years ago. Oh God, I’ve given away my age.’

Fairport Convention’s signature song, Meet On The Ledge is done beautifully. Later we’re given a single that Thompson didn’t sing back then, the gorgeous Tale in Hard Time.

Other highlights include the jokey Guitar Heroes, with impressions of Marvin, Les Paul et al, and glorious solos during Can’t Win, Never Give It Up and Put it There, Pal. Wall of Death and Tearstained Letter also return to the set (I wish the latter would stay retired, but he likes it as a show closer. If he’s going to ignore the 70s and revive the 80s, could we at least have When The Spell is Broken, a stone cold classic?)

In an ideal world, Thompson might play an acoustic set followed by a longer electric one, but you should take any chance to see a legend, especially one who remains at the top of his game. There’s only one solo acoustic number in the main set, his classic Vincent Black Lightning 1952, which was debuted during his first RCH appearance, back in in 1991. But the first encore has the one song that eclipses even that, a  solo, sublime Beeswing, then King of Bohemia. Both were first performed here on his second visit, in 1994.

The best song from the new album, Trying, is also saved for the encore. Surprisingly, he only plays five songs from 13 Rivers, perhaps something to do with the songs being taken from a bleak time in his family. Even more oddly, for a man who keeps careful list, the closing encore is the same as when he was last at the RCH, three years ago, The Sorrows’ obscure, ominous 1966 single Take A Heart. No complaints though. It’s terrific. This was Thompson’s best Nottingham show since the 90s. Don’t miss him next time.

Trying

Take A Heart (Sorrows cover)

 


  1. Bones of Gilead
  2. Her Love Was Meant for Me
  3. Take Care the Road You Choose
  4. Meet on the Ledge
  5. Can’t Win
  6. They Tore The Hippodrome Down
  7. Dry My Tears And Move On
  8. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
  9. The Rattle Within
  10. Guitar Heroes
  11. Tale in Hard Time
  12. The storm won’t come
  13. I’ll never give it up
  14. Wall of death
  15. Put it there pal
  16. Tear stained letter
  17. Beeswing
  18. King of Bohemia
  19. Trying
  20. Take a heart

Dylan Moran: Nottingham Royal Centre 7.10.18

October 10th, 2018

Extended, more considered (ie less tactful) take on the show at the Royal Centre last weekend, the original of which appeared in yesterday’s Post.

Dylan Moran has lost weight and gained a better haircut since he was last here, four years ago. He’s sharper in other regards, too, and starts with something he never does: audience participation. However, he warns

‘If you join in, I will judge you.’

It’s 22 years since the Irish comic, now 47, won a Perrier award, 14 since the glorious bookshop comedy, Black Books, opened the door for more TV and film. Yet his work in neither area has fully taken off and he remains primarily a stand-up, with a new tour every three or four years. Last time round, he gave the sense that his heart wasn’t entirely in it. Maybe Nottingham got an off night. To get us in the mood for tonight’s show, we rewatched a couple of episodes of Black Books, which remains gloriously funny.

Tonight, he kicks off in fine fettle, in a long piss take of comics’ ingratiating how nice it is to be back in your wonderful city routine, describing a visit to our non-existent standing stones. Riffs about Brexit and his family are broken up by other surreal flights of fancy, along with copious swearing. Half an hour in, we’re given a reason for his new demeanour (though he never explains the show’s title). One which also explains the large red teapot on stage. He gave up drinking wine in January. For a comic whose biggest role has been that of a wine drinking dipsomaniac, this is a big deal

‘Now every day feels like three or four years.’

He doesn’t want to talk about Trump. ‘I don’t want to go round the bin saying “that’s a smelly bin”. Everybody knows it’s a smelly bin.’ Throughout, there’s rather too much my generation’s getting old and people who don’t remember before the internet don’t know they were born. The stuff about his kids also feels lazy, and I suspect that’s not just because I don’t have kids. Most of it goes down well though. The forty minute first set flies by.

The second set, half an hour, mostly on death and marriage, doesn’t really get going. The encore, too, is brief and unmemorable. One can’t help but feel you’ve seen a 55 minute festival set fleshed out to fill the 75 minute minimum required to justify the seat price and interval. Even so, Moran remains an original, with plenty of fine one-liners. Good to see him in better form, but I might sit out his next visit.

 

PS A big thank-you to everyone who came to my book launch the night before (see below), especially Jim Burns and Gallery 47, both of whom were brilliant. It was a lovely occasion, really special, and great to get such positive reaction to the story. Thanks again to all at Candlestick Press for publishing it and Five Leaves for hosting.

From Sleaford Mods to Gallery 47. Big Gig Week & the All Night Bookshop launch

October 2nd, 2018

There always tends to be one week where the gigs pile up. Just did four in five days, Wednesday to Sunday. Would have made it five in six if I’d got to the great guitarist Michael Chapman at the Running Horse last night, but it was the first day of term and I was knackered. Suede (acoustic) were excellent at Rough Trade. On Friday, Trombonist Dennis Rollins was in terrific form with the house band at Nottingham’s newest venue, the wonderful Peggy’s Skylight, a jazz club I’m sure I’ll be writing more about. Only been open a month and we’ve been three times: an inspiring, imaginative venture which, as Rollins pointed out, has no equivalent outside London.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets were stunningly good at the Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, playing early Floyd from Piper to Meddle. My nephew, Michael, and younger brother, Paul, were equally blown away. I didn’t get the review slot on this, but Sean did a terrific job summing it all up in the Nottingham Post. I did review Sleaford Mods’ RCH debut the following night. I’ll paste in the piece from today’s paper below. Often, I extend these pieces a little on the blog, but the Post gave me 500 words instead of the usual 300, so I won’t. I still managed to go over, though it may be cut a bit for the paper.

Before that, a reminder about the blog below. I have a book launch at Five Leaves Bookshop on Saturday, national bookshop day, when I’ll be reading from my Candlestick Press pamphlet, The All Night Bookshop, from 8.30-9.45pm. The pamphlet costs a mere fiver and, as well as my story, has great poems (which I got to choose) by Jim Burns and Jackie Kay. Jim will be giving a rare reading on the night, but Jackie is a bit busy as Scotland’s Makar (poet laureate) so Sue Dymoke will read her poem, Silver Moon. This Thursday, Sue is launching her new collection in the same venue on National Poetry Day, from 7-8.30, with special guests Jonathan Taylor and Becky Cullen also reading. Should be a great night, and there are still places available for that, and for the reading the following Thursday with one of my favourite poets, Martin Stannard, Frances Presley (who I haven’t seen read since 1990) and my colleague Andrew Taylor. 7-8.30. That one’s three quid, still a bargain. You can book for all of these by emailing events@fiveleaves.co.uk or following the links in this paragraph.

Also, I’m pleased to announce that, after I used one of his songs in my last blog about the bookshop story, Candlestick got in touch with Gallery 47 and he’s offered to play a few songs on Saturday night. He’s my favourite Nottingham singer/songwriter, all of whose albums I recommend, so I’m very grateful and rather excited about the prospect of having him as part of my launch. Do come along. I’ll put an extra song by him at the bottom of this post. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Sleaford Mods, who were in great form as ever, but somewhat ill at ease with the venue. I’m a big fan and did their first live review in the Post when they supported Scritti Politti six years ago (first time I heard them), but this is the only time I’ve written about them as a headliner and took care to make this fair rather than fawning. See what you think.

Sleaford Mods are taking a risk. After headlining Rock City several times, they’re at the Royal Concert Hall. Upstairs isn’t sold out. They played Rock City for a tenner back in January (for homeless charity, Framework). Hardly surprising if a few folk sit out this £30 a ticket show.

Two months ago, on facebook, singer/lyricist Jason Williamson wrote:

‘It’s been brought to my attention by a couple of keyboard dickheads that our show at the Concert Hall this September was born out of a sense of newly gained elitism due to the continued success of our band…’ He goes on to blame the backlash on resentment about his family having moved from Sherwood to Bread and Lard island. ‘We’ve played five sold out gigs at Rock City and they were brilliant, unforgettable. But we thought we’d try somewhere else this time round. I know in lots of your eyes this is perhaps not appealing and I apologise for the disappointment…’

Tonight, then, the band have something to prove.

They make us wait. After sets by Kamur and the always invigorating Grey Hairs, the dynamic duo take the stage at half nine.

Sleaford Mods are two middle-aged blokes in T-shirts and tracky bottoms. A chilled, baseball capped Andrew Fearn boogies behind his laptop. Jason Williamson bestrides the stage like a preening neanderthal auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks. His vocals are reminiscent of John Lydon or Mark E Smith, though you’d never mistake them for anyone else’s. The same goes for the music, rhythmic, edgy, with occasional shades of krautrock  and hiphop.

It takes a while to get into. Only the right hand side of the stalls stands, creating an odd dynamic. From the rear circle, the words aren’t distinct enough to make out more than half, a pity in this venue. Even so, the opening new songs Flipside and Subtraction promise well for the future. Stick in a Five and Go is excellent, as are Moptop and Just Like We Do.

During TCR a blonde in a black bra flashes the circle, then throws herself around empty seats. Ten minutes later, as people get sick of their view being blocked, security kicks her out. Before leaving, she showers the people who complained with the rest of her beer. Nottingham, eh?

Hometown gigs are odd for any band. Nobody’s a hero in their hometown, nor should want to be. Numerous guest-listers and people who’re checking out the show because they can sit down don’t help the atmosphere, which is never electric.

In the longest show I’ve seen them play (68 minutes) they take no chances with the setlist. They conclude with a thrilling BHS, a storming, harder arrangement of Jobseeker and, of course, Tied Up in Notts. Tarantula Deadly Cargo is a cracking closer.

Jason has some last words.

‘I’m sorry if this was the wrong choice of venue for this year. Please support us. We are the Sleaford Mods.’

A little dance and he’s gone, while Andrew photographs the crowd, taking a souvenir of a visit that’ll almost certainly be a one-off.

Gallery 47 – Rising Star

Sleaford Mods – Tarantula Deadly Cargo

The All Night Bookshop

September 21st, 2018

 

The All Night Bookshop was inspired by our first visit to the USA in 1992. We spent the best part of a month driving round California, starting and finishing in San Francisco. One of our first ports of call was the legendary City Lights Bookstore, co-founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who is, amazingly, still alive). The bookstore stayed open until midnight, an unimaginable concept in the UK, and still an unusual one (unless a Harry Potter novel is being published).

I remember which notebook I jotted down the idea in. It has a black rubber cover and is somewhere in the loft. Sue bought it for me when she visited the original Getty museum in LA. You weren’t allowed to park and the place was hard to reach, so I dropped her off for a couple of hours and went walking on Malibu beach. The notebook was a thank-you. The title I wrote, reflecting the story’s US origins, was In the All Night Bookstore, and that’s how it appeared, eight years later, when Geoff Nicholson and Martin Bax accepted it for Ambit, in what turned out to be the last of my long run of stories for that magazine.

A year later, when new publisher Five Leaves was putting together a collection of my YA ghost stories, Ross Bradshaw insisted that I include ITANB, even though a) it wasn’t exactly a ghost story and b) it wasn’t a YA story. I said fine. That collection sold out over a decade ago. I did consider including the piece in my collected stories, which came out in 2016. However, it was a pre-internet story and I figured it had dated badly. Happily, I was wrong. Updating the story for the internet age was easy.

Last year, Di Slaney asked me to write a story for a Candlestick Press short story pamphlet. You’ll have come across their Ten Poems about series, marketed as instead of a card, thought up by our good friend, the press’s founder, Jenny Swann, many years ago. Candlestick’s short story (and nature writing) pamphlets are a more recent innovation. I follow in the steps of Sean O’Brien. The prose is bookended by poems. I was delighted to get to choose one by Jim Burns, a Northern poetry legend (and fellow Ambit regular, a Beat enthusiast who, in his eighties, runs this review site) for the front. And at the back I’m proud to have a poem about Silver Moon Bookshop by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s makar, who has been a friend for twenty-odd years.

The story is narrated by a young student who wanders into a strange bookshop with a mysterious owner, falls in love with the assistant and starts working there. It isn’t quite the same as the one published last century. To acknowledge this, I’ve anglicised the title. The piece has expanded a little, too, excellently edited by Katherine Towers, with an atmospheric cover by Steven Hubbard. The All Night Bookshop has a semi-mythic feel that’s unlike anything else I’ve written, so it’s appropriate that it should be published as a stand-alone story.

If you’ve read it before, you might consider buying this new, final version. It’s only a fiver and, once you’ve read it, you can always give it away instead of a card. Even better, why not come along to the launch which, appropriately enough, takes place on National Bookshop Day, on October 6th, and, even more appropriately, is at Five Leaves Bookshop (independent bookshop of the year!), at the heart of Nottingham city centre, where I always imagined the story to be set. Ross will be opening late for the occasion, at 8.30pm. Alright, not quite all night but after his usual bedtime. There’ll also be a rare opportunity to see Jim Burns read, which I’m looking forward to. But if you can’t make it, you can order the book here.

There aren’t all that many songs about bookshops, but there is a lovely one by Nottingham’s Gallery 47 (Jack Peachey) who I recommend you check out.*

Gallery 47 – Little Job in a Bookshop

* Since I posted this song yesterday, I’m delighted to say that Candlestick have been in touch with Jack and he’s agreed to play a handful of songs at the launch, which is terrific. What a star. I must remember to take my video camera. And I strongly recommend that you book soon if you want to come, either by using the facebook launch link above or emailing events@fiveleaves.co.uk

 

Trailer Park Boys, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall 17.9.18

September 20th, 2018

Slightly expanded version of my review in yesterday’s Post. Tomorrow, news of my next book.

This Canadian mockumentary has run to twelve seasons (the first eleven recently went up on Netflix), but has always felt like a secret. Indeed, the only person I know who watches it, and is going to this tour, is the internet buddy who introduced me to them ten years ago. Yet the Concert Hall is crowded with, thirty-somethings. How did they hear about it?

Some have taken the cast’s advice: come drunk and this docu-soap, about a pair of ne’er do well dope growers living in a Canadian Trailer Park and their neighbours, is best watched while well oiled. Julien (master mind/all day drinker) and the indefatigably dumb yet arrogant Ricky get into all sorts of scrapes, frequently assisted or hindered by their bespectacled, not-as-nerdy-as-he-looks friend, Bubbles, while wannabe cop Randy tries to frustrate them.

The TPB’s arch enemy, park boss Jim Lahey, was played by John Dunmore, who died a year ago, putting the series into hiatus. He’s featured heavily tonight, in the copious clips shown on a big screen, which is where Ricky and Julien first appear, in silhouette. They’re soon followed by Randy and his famous belly. Yes, TPB fans, Randy stays topless throughout.

The show is at its best when it’s just the four of them, affectionately riffing, talking filthy and teasing each other. Ricky, for instance, thinks that Cheerios are baby doughnuts. But there are two hours to fill, which means audience participation games and a couple of songs. Their version of Pointless (Sunnivale Feud) is endless but ‘Ball Off’ is funny and Randy’s Belly Baring competition is hilarious.

Before the interval, Randy sells playing cards in a raffle for Ricky’s bong. The winner is presented with it at the climax, then invited backstage.  The evening is anchored by Bubbles, who sings and plays surprisingly well. His band will appear on the Trailer Park Boys cruise, promoted on the stage backdrop before and after the show, where minor characters Corey and Trevor (& many more) will also be there for the faithful. Tonight was pretty good but I think that’s a step too far for me….

The biggest cheers of this good-natured evening come for the tribute to the late, not-so-great Jim Leahy at the end. The 18 year old I took with me loved it all and the TPBs say they’ll be back. The TV show may be over but this may turn out to be less of an ending, and more the beginning of a lucrative new chapter.

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RICHARD THOMPSON TRIO, NOTTINGHAM ROYAL CENTRE 18.10.18
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