Tag Archives: Cliffs Pavilion

108. GORDON LIGHTFOOT at CLIFFS PAVILION, Essex. Saturday, 28th May, 2016.

I first became aware of the legendary Canadian singer/song-writer Gordon Lightfoot when I was an eleven year-old back in the early ’70s – and yes, it was because of his monumental hit single ‘If You Could Read My Mind’!  As I grew into a teenager, listening to the pirate station Radio Caroline (see my  article #41), I heard more of his work; including the haunting ‘Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’, and ‘Sundown’. And although I’ve never been a massive fan, I’ve certainly been well aware of – and had a great respect for – this veteran of the sixties Folk revival since an early age.

PTMQ

Photo by PTMQ (and I must apologise for the poor quality of this shot which was taken on my mobile phone).

Nor had I seen him in concert before; so when a year ago, I heard he was booked for a short UK tour – including a gig at Cliffs Pavilion, here in Essex – I bought tickets sharpish to avoid disappointment. It had been 35 years since his last tour of the UK; and I doubt whether he’ll ever return, so it was especially important for me to see him live.

Gordon’s four-piece band came on stage first, shortly followed by the man himself to great applause. In spite of being 77 years old, looking a little frail; and, as we found out during the show, suffering from a cold; it was soon evident that these factors had taken little toll on his distinctive voice; and he delivered a very professional and impressive two-set performance; standing centre stage and dominating it throughout. Gordon’s band consist of four very fine musicians indeed: the ever reliable Bassist Rick Haynes; Gordon’s long-term drummer Barry Keane; keyboard maestro Mike Heffernan; and impressive guitarist Carter Lancaster.

I must admit that I’m not completely au fait with Gordon’s back catalogue of songs – I knew quite a few but there were some that I didn’t, so I learnt a few more that night. We heard some of his numbers that I did know well though: ‘Sea Of Tranquility’ (with wonderful green lighting courtesy of the theatre); ‘Carefree Highway’ (with Gordon on 12-string); ‘Sundown’ (with Carter making himself very useful on a vintage Gibson 335); the epic ‘Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’ (a more laid back version than the original that I’d not heard before; but equally poignant and wonderful); ‘Rainy Day People’ (featuring superb acoustic work from Carter again); then the massive 1971 hit ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ (sublime and perfect); and ‘Early Morning Rain’ (again a laid back version).

In some sense it was a very sedate concert; we, the audience, were enthralled by Gordon’s stage presence – quiet and attentive during each songs’ performance, but giving up huge applause at the end every time. There was a genuine ambience of affection and respect in the theatre that was tangible throughout the show. Some sang along quietly to every lyric; most just listened in awe. Even at half-time, the auditorium was surprisingly quiet. Yet we were roused to a standing ovation at the end that was very well-deserved indeed.

I have heard since, that Gordon’s other gigs on this brief UK tour were also very good – I have it on good authority that the shows at the Royal Albert Hall, London; and the last one in Bristol were particularly good. Gordon is now off to Ireland for a couple of shows before returning to Canada; and then embarking on a US tour. I felt it a privilege to be present at this gig. As I said, I doubt if he’ll return to the UK again… but we live in hope! PTMQ

50. TEXAS ’25th Anniversary Tour’ at THE CLIFFS PAVILION, Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex. Thursday, 7th May, 2015.

 

(Photo: PTMQ)

Sharleen Spiteri (Photo: PTMQ)

Well, this Texas gig seemed to be a bit of a game of two halves, for me – it was certainly a mixture of high points and low, that’s for sure. A couple of days before the gig, I’d received an email from the Cliffs Pavilion telling me that the show would start at 7.45 PM, so we had to rush to get there on time.  But we needn’t have rushed as it was at least 8.15 before Sharleen Spiteri strolled on stage wearing a stripey sailor’s shirt; and explained that it would be a two-part show. The first set was to be a kind of history of the band’s 25 years, with some songs ‘that we haven’t played in a million years’; and the second set to be those Texas songs that had recently been given a major Soul make-over. Fair enough. This opening monologue though, was a mere taste of what was to come – on which more later. Solo, she then sung ‘Start A Family’ strumming an acoustic. It was sung beautifully and confidently, reminding us (not that we needed reminding) that she is a most wonderful singer.

Hinted at in the opening monologue, it was now clear that Sharleen fancies herself as something of a stand-up comedienne. There was some good rapport with the audience; and a long anecdote about recording the first single; but unfortunately this was all punctuated by Ms Spiteri unnecessarily swearing like a trooper throughout! I should point out at this stage that I’m not particularly offended by bad language – I hear it every day at work, and I don’t object to the odd emphatic F-word; but personally, I don’t swear in public, and I don’t want to hear it in a show from a major artist who is long enough in the tooth to know better.  Now some people in the audience seemed to think that every time she swore, it was hilarious (why, I couldn’t say); but most didn’t. One woman near me summed it up by asking rhetorically: ‘Why does she have to keep swearing all the time?’ (Again, I couldn’t say). Incidentally, someone I know went to see Paolo Nutini recently, and apparently he couldn’t stop f***ing swearing either!

Joined by the rest of the band now, she eventually got round to the second song – the band’s first hit: ‘I Don’t Want A lover’. For some reason they had opted to do this without the iconic Bluesy bottleneck slide guitar part – merely strumming it through. Who knows why? Perhaps the guitarist had lost his bottleneck? Perhaps he’d lost his bottle! Many, including myself, were most disappointed. Ironically, I’ve heard the song covered (although not sung) better by pub bands – whose guitarists did use/have a bottleneck! But again, the vocals were excellent nonetheless; and it was lively enough.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Texas + Horns (Photo: PTMQ)

There then followed a few pretty strum-along Texas songs from the band’s back catalogue; each separated by lengthy anecdotes and joking with the fans, or just talking nonsense (plus more swearing, of course); and I began to think she likes the sound of her own voice (well so do I – when she sings!) Now, I’ve said before on this Blog that I like a little preamble before each song when I see a band live, but her chattering was almost incessant! I could sum up the first set as ‘The Sharleen Spiteri Talk Show + a few Texas songs’. I heard one bloke near me say ‘I didn’t pay good money to listen to a load of rabbiting!’. He had a point.  I reckoned that four or more extra songs could have been played in the ‘rabbiting’ time. Anyway, there then followed a short break.

Sharleen and the lads returned to the stage with the addition of a two-man horn section, for the second set; which she described as the ‘Soul Sessions’. They immediately launched into ‘Halo’ and it was clear right from the start that this second set would be a good’n. We heard a couple of the other monumental hits from the classic White On Blonde album which had received a major Soul make-over; plus some other well-known numbers in this half – all excellently performed. The band and the Horns were tight and impressive at all times; and Sharleen’s vocals faultless as we’d come to expect. Also, I’m not clear why, but halfway through the set, the keys player sang a little of Bowie’s ‘Changes’.  There was far less old chat this time too; and that improved things a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed this second half. Everyone was on their feet dancing, clapping and singing right from the start. That’s what we’d paid for and that’s what we got! The band went off to great applause – and, on merit of this second set, they deserved it.

Of course, they were soon back for encore; and played ‘Conversation’ and ‘Inner Smile’.  They went off again, but a second encore was demanded. Sharleen dedicated this final number – a cover of Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds’ – to a young lady in the audience who was celebrating her sixteenth birthday; and she led the fans in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. A nice touch.

All in all it was a show full of highs and lows. Now I won’t hear a word of criticism about Sharleen’s vocals, as she was sublime in this respect throughout. My only complaint on that subject is that we didn’t hear enough of it because of all her rabbiting – and I can’t see the point of all that f***ing swearing either! The band were OK in the first half – fantastic in the second. So would I go to see them again? If I thought they’d stick to the music, then yes; but we’ll see. PTMQ

39. THE HOLLIES at CLIFFS PAVILION, Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex. Saturday, 7th March, 2015. + a few words about their albums “50 At Fifty”; and “Then, Now, Always”.

The opening number: 'Here I Go Again'  (Photo by PTMQ)

The Hollies: ‘Here They Go Again!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

When I was a kid back in the late 60’s, me dear ol’ Mum could often be found working away in the kitchen listening to the newly created BBC Radio One; and this is where I first became interested in music – listening as I played with toy cars or soldiers at the kitchen table. This was a remarkable period in British pop history – although at the time, of course, I was totally unaware of the phenomenon. I did know however, that there were some very good bands producing some excellent songs – some of which became iconic as the years rolled by. One of the most remarkable bands from that period was THE HOLLIES – by the late 60’s, already a household name. They were one of the earliest pop groups that I remember.  Half a century later and they are still extant, and, I’m glad to say, still gigging. So when I heard they were to play THE CLIFFS PAVILION at Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex; I of course jumped at the chance to see them live.

I also bought their triple album 50 At Fifty (Parlophone, 2014). As the name suggests, this is a collection of 50 of their best known songs – all the hits and more. Listening to it, I can’t help being amazed at the sheer variety of their music. There is no pigeon-hole in which you can easily place this veteran band in regards to style or genre. From the fresh-faced Mancunian boys who knocked out Mersey-beat inspired songs in the early 60s, to the subliminal and unique heights of ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ and ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Or from the CCR-esque ‘Long Cool Woman’, to the beautifully orchestrated folk epic ‘Soldier’s Song’. The gamut of their work is extraordinarily wide. And their entire back-catalogue of hits is demonstrated in 50 At Fifty.  Its a great album. My only complaint with it is that the accompanying booklet has virtually no information about the band, their history, their chart stats, or their music in it at all – just photos really. This is a great shame.  (They should have asked me – I could have written plenty!)

(Photo by PTMQ)

Classy, slick, well-oiled and amusing! (Photo by PTMQ)

The band have apparently been gigging every year, without exception, since 1964. Incredibly enough, in all that time, I’ve never seen them play live! In spite of them often playing fairly local to me, there has always been something that stopped me going – but I’m glad to say that is a situation that has now been put right! As the ‘Trouble and Strife’ and I took our seats, a bloke near me told me that we should expect a great show – he knew because he’d seen them for the last four years at this venue. I believed him!

The Hollies have certainly had their share of personnel changes over years; but their current line-up has been stable for a decade or so.  They currently consist of: 50-year men, TONY HICKS (guitar; banjo; sitar; vocals), and BOBBY ELLIOT (drums); 20-year men, RAY STILES (bass; vocals), and  IAN PARKER (keys; accordion; vocals); and 10-year men, PETER HOWARTH (lead vocal, acoustic guitar, harmonica), and STEVE LAURI (guitar; vocals).

As I predicted, the band played a two-part show with no support. They emerged from the wings to great applause, in matching shirts and trousers – something which I’ve rarely seen in a band since I’ve been attending gigs; but entirely in keeping with a 60s group of course! Appropriately, they began with ‘Here I Go Again’; and without a word went straight into ‘I Can’t Let Go’, and the wonderful ‘Sorry Suzanne’. Frontman Peter spoke for the first time then – introducing ‘On A Carousel’. More old hits followed, interspersed with newer numbers, with instruments changed as necessary. We heard ‘Emotions’; ‘Priceless’; ‘Just One Look’ and ‘Stay’ among others; and ending with the lively rocker ‘Crazy Sam McGee’.  At all times, this first set (of 50 minutes duration) was classy; slick, well-oiled and at times amusing. The distinctive three-part vocal harmonies, for which the band are famed, were very much in evidence.

Don't 'Stop, Stop, stop!' (Photo by PTMQ)

‘Stay!’ don’t ‘Stop, Stop, stop!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

Set Two, saw the lads return to the stage in non-matching attire – more akin to a 70s group, I suppose! There were many more classics to get through. They kicked off with their cover of ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’. and continued with more of their extensive back-catalogue of hits such as: ‘Bus Stop’; ‘Carrie-Anne’; ‘Stop, Stop, Stop’; ‘I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top’; and the Springsteen penned ‘Sandy’. (No, I didn’t know ‘The Boss’ wrote it either!). A couple of good new-ish numbers were thrown in for good measure too.

So far it had been a brilliant gig; but the best was yet to come, as we still hadn’t heard the three greatest Hollies hits.  The show was nearing its end, when singer Peter introduced the song that, more than any other, epitomises The Hollies – the iconic and immortal ‘He Ain’t Heavy’. From the opening harmonica bars, I don’t mind admitting that I had a tear in my eye; for it was a sublime and faultless rendition of one of the most beautiful songs ever written – both musically and lyrically. How can you follow that? With another massive Hollies hit, of course! The equally wonderful ‘The Air That I Breathe’ came next – again executed perfectly with genuine feeling. By now everyone was on their feet. I thought the band would leave and return for encore; but there would be no wait – they stayed put as Tony played the distinctive arpeggiated intro to (yes, it had to be) the bluesy ‘Long Cool Woman’. The place was alive, but that was it, I’m afraid.

After the show, I bought a copy of the band’s album Then, Now, Always (Special souvenir edition, 2009) for a fiver at the merch desk. I played it on the way home, and I must say its a very good collection of work  – eleven excellent, well- constructed songs; full of feeling and good lyrics. I like it a lot.

Well, its been a long winding road for The Hollies, and we don’t know where it will lead; but I can’t see them ever giving it up. They love their audience, and they obviously enjoy their work. Singer peter has apparently recently been seriously ill, yet still he wanted to carry on. I think any other member of this band would be the same. Long may The Hollies carousel keep turning!

PTMQ

27. STEVE HACKETT Genesis Extended Tour (+ Bryan and Livvy from MOSTLY AUTUMN) at CLIFF’S PAVILION, Essex. Tuesday, 28th October, 2014

Originally, I  was due to go to this gig with my friend Birdseye, who is a big GENESIS fan, but the poor old sod had an ear infection, so he had to cry-off sick at the last minute! Luckily, another friend put his hand up for the ticket at short notice. This was guitarist GLYN PROTHEROE – another self-confessed Genesis nut, and ex-member of the Genesis tribute band REGENESIS (You may have seen him – he played the PETER GABRIEL part from ’94 to ’98).

Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn (Photo by PTMQ - and I apologise for the quality!)

Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn (Photo by PTMQ – and I apologise for the quality!)

We were a little late entering the auditorium, and consequently didn’t get seated until near the end of the first song by the support act. This was BRYAN JOSH and OLIVIA SPARNENN of MOSTLY AUTUMN doing a short acoustic duet. I was very much looking forward to their set, so I was disappointed to miss the first song which I think was from their Passengers album. All was not lost however, as next up was the beautiful ‘Evergreen’ from my favourite Mostly Autumn album, (their 3rd) The Last Bright Light (2001). This was a fine acoustic arrangement of one of their classic songs. Bryan’s guitar work with Livvy’s vocals and flute-playing were a joy to hear.

Their next offering ‘The House On The Hill’, was from their new concept album Dressed In Voices. Which Livvy described as ‘…quite a dark concept, but…. surprisingly uplifting’. I quite enjoyed it. This was eclipsed for me, however, by another great MA favourite of mine ‘Heroes Never Die’; from their remarkable debut album For All We Shared (1998). I love this song. Again, it was an interesting conversion for an acoustic duet; that didn’t lose any of the emotion of the original. A privilege to listen to; and I thank the couple for performing it. The final choice of this micro-set, was the title track of the new album; and a fine song it is too.

All in all, Bryan and Livvy performed an excellent little set – personally, I think I could have sat through a couple of hours of MA unplugged if this was a sample of it!  My only disappointment is that I’d have liked to have heard ‘Shrinking Violet’ too; but time was obviously limited.  Fine acoustic guitar, vocals and harmonies throughout. At the break, Glyn and I had a little chat with the couple, and I bought the new album. We had a longer conversation with them later – after the Hackett set – and we found them to be very friendly and talkative. A pleasure to meet them both.

Mr.Hackett and band (Photo by PTMQ)

Mr.Hackett and band (Photo by PTMQ)

Back in the auditorium, we eagarly awaited the entrance of the headline act. They appeared on stage after a short wait – our host centre stage; Gibson Les Paul Gold-Top in hand. The band consists of STEVE HACKETT, of course, on guitars (who rquires no introduction from me); ROGER KING, Keyboards (who’s worked with numerous musos, including the late GARY MOORE); GARY O’TOOLE, Drums and Vocals (another veteran rock/blues/pop artist); ROB TOWNSEND, Wind and Percussion (a well-known Jazz musician and score-writer); NICK BEGGS, Bass and Guitar (ex-IONA, and among others on his CV, ’80s pop group Kajagoogoo); and the remarkable NAD SYLVAN, vocals (who, having a voice that sonds like both Gabriel and Collins at once, is entirely suited to the task in hand!) All in all, a fine looking line-up.

In the brief silence before the start, one fan immediately called out for ‘Spectral Mornings’! Hackett thanked him, and smiling, explained that as this was his Genesis Extended Tour, he’d only be playing material from the parent band, and unfortunately not his solo work. That clarified, the band launched into two tracks from A Trick Of The Tail (1976); namely, ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Squonk’. It was good to hear these old classics once again after all these years; and performed so close to the originals too. And it was clear from the off that we were in for a grand show; with the band in superb form – and Sylvan obviously being the right man for the vocals. The audience gave up rapturous applause. A rousing start.

Next was a particular favourite of mine: ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’, from Selling England By The Pound (1973). Again this was very well performed by the lads, and sung by Sylvan (this time in Gabriel mode), and as near as you will get to the original Genesis front-man. From The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974), it was then time for ‘Fly On A Windshield’. Drummer Gary did a fine job on vocals for this one; and Nick was remarkable with a stick-bass too.

Nursery Cryme’s ‘Return Of The Giant Hogweed’; ‘The Fountain Of Salmacis’; and ‘Musical Box’ were then performed; with a quality to which we’d already been accustomed to at this gig. And following these live favourites, the original band’s nearest thing to a hit single, ‘I Know What I Like’ (Selling Englnd…) was then presented to us. A great solo from Rod on this one.

After a short break, we found Steve alone on stage with a nylon-strung acoustic, ready to give us his brief, but beautiful, ‘Horizons’ (from Foxtrot, ’72). It was a sublime rendition – a pleasure to see and hear. Changing back to his Gold-Top, and with the band returning to the stage, we witnessed ‘Firth Of Fifth’ (Selling England…) with its classically inspired piano intro and its odd time-signatures. Good solos from Steve and Rob; and Nick did a fine job with his twin-necked bass/12-string (every bit a Prog-Rock instrument!)

And the old classics kept coming: ‘Lilly-White Lilith’ (The Lamb…) was the next song; with Nick playing a Chapman Stick – again, good solos from Steve and Rob. Our final piece of the main set was the lengthy ‘Supper’s Ready’ (Foxtrot). This was a fantastic rendition, with excellent 12-string sound; and went down very well.

The well-deserved encore consisted of another Foxtrot track: ‘Watcher Of The Skies’; which was followed aptly by  ‘Los Endos’. Rapturous applause ensued from the auditorium, full of Genesis aficionados. All in all, a well chosen set, I thought. My only slight disappointment was the omission of ‘Ripples’; but that’s a minor complaint!

Back down in the foyer, we awaited the appearance of Mr.Hackett to meet his fans. While we waited, we chatted again with Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn. And who should I bump into but the ubiquitous Dave Kitteridge and his wife Trudie of Touchline Live Music. If this lovely couple are not hosting an excellent gig at their club, then they’re in the audience at someone else’s show – not a bad life at all! Well, we waited ages but SH didn’t show up. Glyn was still keen to see him though, so we went and found the stage door, and there he was just about to leave. We only had time for a quick hand-shake and to offer our congrats to him on a fine show before he was off.

My thanks to all the staff at the Cliffs Pavilion for their hard work; and to Glyn Protheroe for putting the info straight on a few points; and commiserations to Birdseye for missing the gig!  PTMQ.

 

6. THE AUSTRALIAN PINK FLOYD at THE CLIFFS PAVILION. Tuesday 4th March 2014

TAPF 02Due to death, and/or internecine feuding; the chances of seeing the original PINK FLOYD are absolutely nil. The nearest we can get to seeing the unique music of the band played live nowadays, is to go and see one of the many excellent tribute acts currently performing across the World – such is the lasting influence of the original Pink Floyd.

Chief among these Floyd tribute acts is THE AUSTRALIAN PINK FLOYD – a 10 piece band consisting of: vocalist; 2 guitarists; bassist; keyboard player; drummer; wind instrumentalist; and 3 girls on backing vocals. All very professional and impressive performers. I do not know of any other tribute band that can (1) command £40 a ticket (15-quid is about the most a tribute band could normally expect) ; (2) sell out a gig almost a year in advance; (3) fill up a venue the size of The Cliffs Pavilion; and (4) put on such an impressive show.

I first saw TAPF with the same dos amigos (Rambo and Bunny) two years ago at the same venue (having been too slow to obtain tickets for last year’s gig!). Being an early bird with the tickets this time, I managed to get three seats in the centre of the upper circle; and an excellent view we had too. The ticket stated that there would be a ‘Special guest’, but there was no support act. It was a two-part TAPF show + encore.

The band opened the show themselves with a near-perfect rendition of the long and bluesy prog-rock classic piece: ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’; before launching straight into ‘Welcome To The Machine’. Various Floyd favourites followed, including, (from ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’): ‘Us And Them’; ‘Time’; and ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ (featuring an excellent performance by the three ladies on backing vocals). Other tracks were: ‘Another Brick In The Wall’; ‘Talk To Me’; ‘Hey You’ (with its slightly disturbing arpeggio); and ‘Pigs’ from ‘Animals’

Floyd’s earlier work was represented by the psychedelic ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’. And ‘One Of These Days’, which began with a didgeridoo intro; prompting my friend Bunny to quip that Rolf Harris must be the ‘Special guest’! (Thankfully not!). The middle section of ‘One Of These Days’ also included the inflation of a large plastic kangaroo, centre-stage – a parody, of course, of the original Floyd’s inflatable pig of 1977.

The sing-along classic ‘Wish You Were Here’ began with an amusing parody of the original radio tuning-in at the beginning of the song. This consisted of snippets of film shown on the large circular screen over the stage, from various well-known iconic Aussie cultural motifs: Neighbours; Crocodile Dundee; Skippy; Men At Work; AC/DC (who got a very loud cheer!), Kylie Minogue, and Waltzing Matilda! The song was played superlatively and the audience were in good voice too.

The band finished, of course, with a blinding rendition of ‘Comfortably Numb’; before returning for the inevitable and well deserved encore – a cover of ‘Run Like Hell’. It went down a storm with the crowd!

Along with the music (and inflatables) was a superb light-show. Which although at times obscured the stage because of the brightness in our faces, which was a bit annoying, was nevertheless spectacular. My only other (minor) criticisms would be that barely a word was spoken directly to the audience by the members of the band; and I’d like to have heard them play ‘Money’. All in all though, it was a brilliant gig. I expected as much and wasn’t disappointed.

Wish you were there! Phil the Music Quill