Sunday, May 18, 2008

We were on FIRE...

Last night, Twelfth Night (of whom I’m the junior member - ho ho) played a gig just south of London, back at a venue we’d played last year as a warm-up to the main show at The Albany Theatre (which will be out on DVD later this year - shameless plug).

Last November’s show at The Peel was booked primarily as a warm-up and shakedown for a band who hadn’t played at battle speed together in over two decades, with the addition of a keyboardist (me) who hadn’t played with any of them before. I’d invested, as a Mac user, in a Native Instruments KORE computer-based keyboard rig (see past posts) which I knew had the potential to fall over, yet I was keen to add a larger dimension to the sound and needed a pretty huge palette of options open to me. Well, it hasn’t really fallen over in a major way so far and is off to Barcelona with me next week for our headline slot at the Tiana progressive rock festival. Being honest, I was just pleased to have made it through last year’s Peel show without too many major cock-ups, so hadn’t really been able to pay much attention to actually performing in any real way.

The “main” gig, at The Albany Theatre in south London, was fabulous. Great lighting, projection of imagery that supported the themes of the songs, an amazing crew and a great theatre space made it a really good night. Except for Andy Revell, who had horrible technical troubles with his guitars that, though not really affecting the songs themselves, made for a nerve-wracking night for him.

With the end of year, and the news that the Tiana festival was a go, two additional gigs had been booked up. The first, last Friday, was organised by the Classic Rock Society and took place in Rotherham in Yorkshire. I’ll go into fuller detail of that show in a later post, as we ended up with a great guest onstage with us for a song and that deserves a better explanation than in the middle of this post. The second gig was last night’s Peel outing.

There’s a story told of Laurence Olivier in a theatre production during which the rest of the cast noticed that he’d taken flight and was suddenly on a level far, far above them. When wanting to congratulate him after the show, the rest of the cast were greeted by the closed and locked door of his dressing room, from which they could hear yelling, stamping and the sounds of furniture being thrown about. Eventually, Maggie Smith plucked up the courage to knock and was allowed in to find a scowling, enraged Olivier. Puzzled, she explained that the rest of the cast had been amazed by his performance and all wanted congratulate him. This produced more scowling. She then tentatively asked why, after having given such a fantastic performance, was he so furious?
“I know I was good! I just don’t know why!”
Last night at the Peel, this version of Twelfth Night finally played like a band. Not that we hadn’t played well enough together during rehearsals and the last three gigs, but this was where the wings finally unfurled, the afterburners kicked in, and we took off. Believe me, there were cock-ups from all corners (as there are at any gig, with the possible exception of Amy Winebar, whose entire career is a cock-up...), but no-one was thrown or wound up by them in any way. The music became more alive, ad-libs were thrown in that enhanced what we were doing (and that’s quite a toughie in a prog band) and the audience were with us all the way.

On many occasions, I could just look up to see Andy Revell actually (and I’d probably have to tell him what this actually means, as he has no idea how good he is) shredding on his guitar, with the most enormous grin on his face. Clive was positively soaking wet with sweat, Andy Sears was in fine voice and Brian, frankly, played the holy living shit out of the drums all night long. We tore through the set like a tearing thing through something that tears easily, and all came offstage elated and slightly bewildered at how bloody good it had been.

I wonder why? ;-)
PS. Thanks to my sister for the photo.


At 10:09 pm, Anonymous Widdly Walker said...

Have to agree, that was sensational fun!

Great atmosphere / venue / audience; nice touches - the "mini-me" ("maxi-me" ?!) Andy S in We Are Sane - a fab night all round.

Must also concur on the plank-spanking wonder that is the Rev! I think 'shred' is perhaps the wrong word as (in my poor deluded mind, at least) it conjures up images of soulless technicians such as Vai or Satriani, when, let's be honest, the Revmeister is far more than that.

In fact that there was an animated discussion taking place during the interval in the queue for the Gents (only at a prog gig!) about how
nobody remembered him being quite that good back in the 80s! I think in my confused adolescence I was too easily distracted by the foxy one with the quadruple neck 28 string bass...

Moreover: I love Mr Sears, I really do, but not as much as I love the solo at the end of 'Creepshow' - bliss! So what's with the scat style improv over the top of it?! Somebody tell him - Nooooooo!! - nicely of course! :-) Perhaps an accapella version of Shame for his next solo slot to appease him? ;-)

As for the flying fingers of our hero, keyboard maestro of this parish; I have to confess I did have to suppress a snigger at your shrug of the shoulder as you mouthed 'D-E-A-D' to the boys in the band, wondering if your Mac had gone AWOL on you (I write this, in no way smugly, on "a creaky old Dell heap" that has served me well for some time!) As for bottling the Afghan Red medley this time around, well, I don't blame you!

The thing that strikes me as the biggest difference between 'then' and 'now' (apart from the handsome bearing of the keyboard player) is that in the 80s there was always a whiff of almost, well, desperation to be a success. Maybe it would be better to say the band were very 'driven'. A good thing, of course, as long as it doesn't obscure the reason for making music in the first place.

And now? Testosterone has subsided, hair has receded. The band haven't got to the stage where they've forgotten why they started doing it, on the contrary, they've remembered why: it's fun!

I am not quite sure how 5 'grown ups' manage to keep their family and professional lives on track as well as rehearse & organise these gigs, but I'm hoping that the big smiles from band & audience on Saturday might mean a couple of gigs a year for the near future at least?! And maybe next time the full Collector :-)

Enjoy Spain! Looking forward to the DVD too, keep us posted.

PS. Did anyone video the 'special guest' at Rotherham? It would've made a nice extra for the DVD? I think I would have been blubbing had I been there, a DVD version would at least mean I could be a sentimental old chuff in the privacy of my own home...


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