Preamble: Well, its a great shame that the Village Blues Club couldn’t hold its twice-yearly reunion in its traditional home at the Dagenham Roundhouse, due to the venue being completely closed down. I don’t know what is exactly going on with this issue, but I know a lot of people who are very unhappy about it.
Anyway, I went along with my gig-mate, the guitarist Glyn Protheroe. Being a Welshman himself, he was very keen to reacquaint himself with, as he stereotypically said ‘…my Welsh boyos!’; and I met up with him at the venue. We had a pint in the public bar where we also met Darren Wisdom (who is known for his work for Martin Turner), before entering the Music Room.
The Venue: Not to be thwarted by being ousted from their traditional home, the club’s impresario Ken Ansted and his crew were able to book the nearby Dagenham Trades Hall. I’d never been to this venue before; but I was very impressed with it. There is a public bar that has its own stage at the front of the building; but we were booked for the large Music Room at the back. This is a very well designed venue; with a small stage at one end and a bar at the other. There is a good sized dance floor, with seating all around, including a raised seated area.
The Reunions: After very much enjoying the Village Blues Club’s 6th Reunion (featuring Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, see my review #56), back in May (and still held at The Roundhouse), I was keen to go along for this Son Of Man gig. The bands chosen for the reunions are those that still exist (in some form or other) from those who played at The Roundhouse between 1969-75. For example, Wishbone Ash played there so MTWA were booked last time. Stray played there, so Del Bromham’s Stray have played at an earlier reunion. And of course, Man played, so Son Of Man were booked this time. Scheduled for the 8th jolly-up next May, is John Coughlan’s Quo. JC of course, is the original drummer of Status Quo who played the Roundhouse several times in their earlier days. Son Of Man also played at the 5th Reunion last year – a gig that I unfortunately missed; but which apparently was a great success too.
Support Act: At the last reunion, support was from singer/song-writer Steve Kelly. He was here again; but this time joined by bassist Gavin Lloyd Wilson. Steve is an erstwhile regular of The Village Blues Club, and now runs the music venue The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales; which Gavin also frequents. This apparently was only their second gig together as a duet, but they were musically tight. Gavin is an impressive bassist, and used both fretted and fretless bass guitars – both headless. Steve’s playing and vocals were very good too.
Their set was similar to Steve’s last Reunion appearance, and consisted of a few well known covers: ‘Immigrant Song’; ‘In My Chair’; and ‘Lazy Sunday’. And some of Steve’s own very interesting compositions: ‘Butter No Parsnips’ (‘No matter how you dress it up its still the same old shit!’); ‘Long Way From Home’ (Both metaphorically and realistically, for all the Village Club regulars); ‘Suburban Villa’ (A Ray Davies-esque social observation song about how things have changed since the 50s, and how we recall the good, but block out the bad things); ‘Universal Brain’ (Dedicated to Syd Barrett – a fine line between madness and sanity: ‘Just a flick of the switch and you’ll be barking at the Moon!’); ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ (About our hopelessness in the face of natural events); ‘You Can Never Shine’ (Dedicated to Kevin Ayers. You can’t appreciate the mountains till you’ve been down in the valleys); ‘Oh No No No No’ (A sardonic, sarcastic song bemoaning the lack of protest about political events); and finally, ‘Sights And Sounds’ (A Music Hall style song imagining seaside promenading 100 years ago). A fine set.
Son Of Man: As their name suggests, Son Of Man are descended from the legendary Welsh Psychedelic / Prog-Rockers, Man. Leading the band is George Jones (son of the much lamented original Man member Micky Jones) on guitar; who for a while played in Man himself with his Dad. He is joined by Bob Richards (one of Man’s many drummers); Glenn Quinn (previously of Tigertailz on guitar, vocals); and three ex-members of fellow Welsh rockers Sassafras: Richie Galloni (Vocals); Marco James (Keys; vocals); and (normally) Ray Jones (Bass; vocals). But unfortunately, Bassist Ray couldn’t make it for this gig due to having a hip op; so Peter Stradling (of George’s other band Scotch Corner) kindly stood in for him. Quite a remarkable line-up, then! The band play their own original material, as well as classics from the parent band’s repertoire, of course.
Deke Leonard: Special guest for this gig was another founding member of Man, the inimitable Deke Leonard; now aged 70, but still gigging with Son Of Man occasionally. He also founded Iceberg; and has done solo work too. His advertised presence at this gig was eagerly awaited by the Man fans who had bought up all the tickets in advance.
The Son Of Man Set: After a short interval, Master Of Ceremonies Ken Ansted introduced the headliners, Son Of Man, to great applause. George immediately armed himself with his Dad’s famous Gibson SG, and the band began with the old Man classic ‘Love Your Life’. It was a great, lively start. They followed up with the Bluesy ‘Talk About Morning’. It was clear, even from these two opening numbers that we were privileged to be witnessing this performance. The musicianship from all on the stage was second to none.
The more progressive piece ‘Back Together Again’ followed; and sounded really good. The next song was introduced by George: ‘This is a great song, written by the Dark Lord himself, Deke Leonard …’Hard Way To Die’, he said; and a fine performance it was too; with George playing bottleneck on a 54 year-old Strat (probably his Dad’s too). They gave us a newer song, ‘All Alone / C’mon’ next. This was new to me, but I liked it a lot; especially the Space-Rock vibe of ‘C’mon’. There are long instrumental passages in this, during which all of the band excelled. After receiving great wails of approval, George said: ‘You liked that then!’. Oh yes!
The newish ‘Guiding Hand’ was next. Its another great Bluesy number. The Proggy ‘Otherside’ followed. It has an interesting arpeggiated intro, and great use of heavy reverb. Glenn on lead guitar was superb on this one. ‘Quasimode’ was then dedicated to all the late members of Man. Marco on Hammond was impressive here. With so many ex-members of Sassafras in the band, it would only be right to include one of their songs – ‘Ohio’. I was very glad to hear this again. It was a fine rendition. ‘Call Down The Moon’ was introduced next, with its distinctive wah-wah riff intro and solos. Brilliant!
Deke joins the band: At this point George introduced the special guest – who else but the inimitable Deke Leonard? He climbed on stage and donned his distinctive SG with its psychedelic circles paint job, to chants of ‘Deke! Deke! Deke!’; and set off with ‘The Ride And The View’ – Deke’s mastery of the bottleneck still apparently sharp. And we fans showed our appreciation when it ended. The mental ’71 71 551′ followed; with three harmonised guitars belting it out. And finally the rousing Blues-Rocker ‘Romain’ finished the main set to raptures from the audience.
Encore! There didn’t seem much point in the band leaving the stage as we all knew they’d be required for a well deserved encore! At this point my mate Glyn produced a banana and handed it to George on the stage; who ate it in spite of it having suffered for a few hours in his pocket – well, he said it’d been in his pocket, but who knows! Obviously we all knew which song would be next – the bizarre ‘Bananas’ of course! What a fantastic rendition it was, with a great keyboard solo from Marco. George promised that that the band would be back again next year before they finished with the unique ‘Spunk Rock’.
Aftermath: What a fantastic show! What with the lights; dry ice; extended abstract solos; and copious use of the Wah-Wah pedal. It was the nearest I’ve been to a 70’s Prog-Rock gig since …well, the 70s! All that was missing was the smell of grass! Without exception, all of the band members were impressive – tight and highly competent. This could be my choice for Best Rock Gig at my end of year review …watch this space! After the show we met some of the band members; and had a nice little chat with Deke and some other people. Thanks to all the very talented musos that we saw on the night; Ken Ansted and all the staff of The Village Blues Club for their hard work and dedication; and to the staff of Trades Hall for a very memorable evening indeed. PTMQ