Category Archives: concert reviews

Elvis costello at Warwick Arts Centre, 9 May 2016

I was fortunate to get a late ticket to this mainly solo Elvis Costello concert, on the campus of Warwick University near Coventry.

Why Warwick? Costello remarked that he had played there before in the early 70s, at the Student Union, under the name Rusty (probably a duo with Alan Mayes).

I have seen Costello perform on a few occasions but not for several years. I was re-enthused after reading his book, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, which I loved. (If you follow the Amazon link above you will find my review, or you can read it on this blog).

What follows are a few jumbled impressions the morning after.

The venue is delightful, small enough that everyone gets a good view, though the sound was not great from where we were sitting; it was a bit echoey making the lyrics indistinct at times, though it improved as the evening went on (or I might have adjusted to it).

There was a short opening act from Larkin Poe – two sisters from Atlanta, Georgia, Rebecca and Megan Lovell, with guitars and harmonies. I enjoyed the set, though they said they found the audience a bit too British and restrained.

After a short break Costello came on. Apologies for blurry picture! He was wearing a suit with an open neck and looked his age, but in a good way: affable, not pretending it was forty years ago, slightly hunched a lot of the time, but in very good voice as he kicked off with a fast and powerful rendition of Lipstick Vogue.


He talked a lot between songs and sounds just like his book – even to the extent that I wondered if the book had been dictated. I actually enjoyed his patter as much as the songs, but then I loved the book too: stories from the road, reflections on his father and later his grandfather, sharp remarks about politics and our failure to learn the lessons of history. There are reasons for his anti-war stance.

There was a lot of talk; but a lot of songs too. I’ve copied the set list below, and there were 30 songs, with plenty of hits and plenty of less usual numbers as well. Had I been nearer the front I might have shouted for Indoor Fireworks; but I think most fans will have heard what they wanted to hear.

The set was dominated by a huge “television” on which we saw video to accompany the songs, a trick which worked pretty well. I’m pretty sure we also saw Costello’s father Ross MacManus performing, as well as some stills of his grandfather Pat MacManus.

Some of the highlights for me were Shipbuilding, performed from the piano; an energetic Watching the Detectives and an impassioned She.

After 17 songs we thought the concert was nearly over but not so. The first encore was six songs with Larkin Poe, including Pads Paws and Claws, Clown Strike, and a song called Burn the paper down to ash sung by Rebecca Lovell which I think is about the perils of tobacco.


After that we again thought it was all over, but no, Costello returned in his TV and sang Alison followed by Pump it Up.


Then it was back to the piano for Side by Side and I Can’t Stand up for Falling Down, followed by a reminiscence about his granddad, injured in the first world war by someone who did not know him, said Costello, and later reduced to busking in the economic depression of the 1930s.

By this time there really seemed to be some rapport with the crowd and I got the impression that Costello enjoyed the atmosphere.

An emotional Good year for the Roses followed by (What’s so funny ‘bout) Peace Love and Understanding, and it really was over.

I am a fan of course but this was a great concert for me. Costello is to my mind one of the great songwriters as well as being an unashamed entertainer. Last night we got a wonderfully varied performance with everything from journeys back to the punk era (Pump it Up) to the more reflective songs of a man looking back on a long career of watching the world.

Set list:

Lipstick Vogue
I Can’t Turn It Off
Mystery Dance
Accidents Will Happen
Ascension Day
Church Underground
Oliver’s Army
Shipbuilding – on piano
A Face In The Crowd – on piano
Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
Ghost Train
The Woman Makes The Man
Watching The Detectives
It’s Not My Time To Go
You’re Wondering Now

Encore 1
Pads, Paws And Claws – with Larkin Poe
Love Field – with Larkin Poe
Clown Strike – with Larkin Poe
Burn The Paper Down To Ash – with Larkin Poe, sung by Rebecca Lovell
Vitajex – with Larkin Poe, EC on ukulele
That’s Not The Part Of Him You’re Leaving – with Larkin Poe

Encore 2
Alison – inside the TV
Pump It Up – inside the TV
Side By Side – on piano
I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down – on piano
Jimmie Standing In The Rain – including Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
Good Year For The Roses
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding? – with Larkin Poe

Setlist thanks to the Elvis Costello Wiki

Ian Hunter and the Rant band at the Stables, 30 Sept 2014

The Stables is a delightful small venue near Milton Keynes, and when I saw that Ian Hunter was due to play there with his Rant Band I grabbed one of the last remaining tickets.


He came on shortly after 9pm, following an energetic set from support act Federal Charm, and told us in a croaky voice that he wasn’t feeling too good. In that case he is a true star (he is anyway) since he went on to give a great performance; his voice was a little gruff at times, but hear him belt out Sweet Jane and you discover that he has no problem delivering powerful vocals when it counts.

I am a fan: I loved Mott the Hoople from the first time I heard them (it was the cover of At the Crossroads on the famous Island compilation Nice Enough to Eat); and both with Mott and on his work since, Ian Hunter is able to achieve a musical texture that is rich and evocative, as well as being able to rock out on occasion.

Hunter is a great songwriter too, coming over as an honest and thoughtful voice in an industry full of decadence and plastic.

I enjoyed every minute of the concert, even though I felt that Hunter’s voice was mixed too quiet and that the sound overall could have been better. I have not seen him perform since Hunter/Ronson days; it has been far too long.

Highlights for me included When I’m President (a more recent song), Irene Wilde performed from the keyboard, a powerful rendition of Bastard, All American Alien Boy with its sharp reflections on life in the US of A, Once Bitten Twice Shy of course, Sweet Jane and the closing medley including All the Young Dudes, I Wish I was your Mother, and a strong performance of Boy. “Genocidal tendencies are silly to extremes” – I wasn’t expecting to hear Boy (my hunch is that the lyric refers to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs) but it was great.

Thank you Ian for keeping on keeping on; it was a wonderful evening.

Richard Thompson solo acoustic at the Warwick Folk Festival, 24 July 2014

It was a last minute decision. “Hey, Richard Thompson is on at the Warwick Folk Festival tomorrow. I wonder if there are any tickets left?” There were; and we were fortunate to end up about 6 rows from the stage in the large marquee which houses the main stage, on a balmy English summer evening – rather to RT’s surprise, it seems. “I’ve got a reputation for bringing disaster to festivals”, he told us, “in the form of rain and mud”. It was not to be; and the event yesterday was, as summer music festivals go, distinctly genteel, complete with chandelier in the wine tent.


The audience too was exceedingly well behaved; if anything a bit too subdued but nevertheless enjoying every minute of what turned out to be an outstanding concert.


A few quick reflections. RT was on excellent form; of course the guitar work is the big attraction but he also has a powerful voice which he uses to great effect in his various tales of woe.

It was great to seem him play from a relatively close position, but frankly I have no idea how he gets the sound he does, and the variety of sounds; you see him moving his fingers and it looks like nothing extraordinary but the music he produces really is.

In Vincent Black Lightning, for example, you hear a tune, a bass accompaniment, little frills and decorations and runs, and it sounds like three guitars; and even while doing that he delivers an intense vocal performance, to get just the right throaty growl and on the “he did Riiiiiide” refrain.

I was also struck by how much feeling he puts into songs that he has performed countless times. Of course that is what performers do; but we have all experienced events where old favourites are delivered in a throwaway manner; I never got that feeling yesterday.

There was plenty of between-song banter and RT took numerous requests, even complaining, “please shout your request in before I start the next song”, when someone succeeded in changing his mind about what to play.

It was great to hear some older songs, including Bright Lights and Genesis Hall. “I used to be in a band,” said RT, telling us that he left due to “musical differences,” and observing that Fairport Convention had got on fine without him.

I enjoyed every song; but one or two stood our for me. Johnny’s Far Away is a rollicking “sea shanty” in the which the crowd joins in the chorus. Its subject is infidelity and RT says “it’s about what musicians get up to on the road.” Johnny is in a band which plays on a cruise where he has a fling with a “wealthy widow” or two; at home his wife Tracey “laying in the booze” consoles herself with “another man, a smoothie”. It is all very seamy, complete with Johnny returning home with “sores and all” as Tracey’s lover sneaks out the back, but is there a trace of sympathy as Tracey declares, “I can’t express myself with my old man,” and Johnny, “I can’t express myself with my old lady?” Or were they just trying to justify themselves to their temporary partners? It seems RT is reflecting on what he has observed in a lifetime on the road, but with some ambiguity, accentuated by the contrast between the sordid subject and the good-timey singalong chorus.

Humour, reflection, sharp observation, tinged with sadness, delivered with virtuoso performance: it makes for an intense experience and the evening flew by.

Beeswing was fantastic, wistful and beautiful.

The most sombre moment came towards the end when RT performed three “songs”, if that is the right word, with words taken from First World War diaries. The opening words: “I’ve never seen a dead body before I went to war and the trenches.”

These words are chanted more than sung, with sparse accompaniment, and the performance was potent but bleak. Nothing new for RT you might think; except that these are unsugared by the humour or melody which lightens other songs.

This is preparatory work for a performance at a centenary commemoration of the 1914-18 war which is set for sometime in 2016, we were told.

The purpose of such events is that we do not forget the horrors of the past nor, we vainly hope, repeat them; and I applaud RT for including this in the concert.

After that we moved to Wall of Death, whose title made a natural link with what had gone before, but which returned us to RT’s normal territory, juxtaposing merriment (a funfair) with gloom (death); but of course it is only a fun ride isn’t it?

A short encore of Keep Your Distance and that was it. Thank you RT for another fine concert.

The set list:

Saving the good stuff for you
The Ghost of you Walks
Johhny’s Far Away
The story of Hamlet
Vincent Black Lightning
Dry My Tears
I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight
Genesis Hall
Fergus Lang
I Misunderstood
Feel so Good
Read about Love
The Trenches
Wall of Death
Keep your distance (Encore)

Kraftwerk at Tate Modern, London. Computer world. 11 February 2013

Yesterday I journeyed to London to hear Kraftwerk perform Computer World at the Tate Modern.

A cold night, and I was glad to reach the warmth of the Tate Modern. We picked up our green armbands, and 3D spectacles, were instructed that no re-admittance was possible, and move on into the concert foyer where vaguely Germanic sausages, bread, chips and mustard was on sale, along with cans of flavourless beer.

It feels like a lot of attention has been paid to the total experience. The 3D glasses are packed in an envelope specific for the evening. The programme is only a sheet of A4, but it is informative and intriguing.

“A vision of bright hopes and dark fears of the booming microchip revolution, Computer World is a serenely beautiful and almost seamless collage of sensual melodies and liquid beatscapes,” it says.


We move on into the concert space. Black pillows are handed out; essential if you plan to sit on the cold concrete floor. The hall is not huge, but it is exceptionally high. It is a relatively small crowd, and not entirely composed of middle-aged men as you might expect. The iPad-using guy next to us is 29, he says.

The concert starts at 9.00pm sharp. Everyone stands; forget the pillows then. Four men stand behind desks and barely move; the sounds of Numbers fill the hall, and 3D images pass across the screen.


The images are integral to the show. The effect is more that of an animated slideshow than a film, with many loops and repeats. The images are iconic; watching the show is like walking round an art gallery, with one carefully composed image following another.

Lead man and co-founder Ralf Hütter is on the left and does vocals; I am not sure you can call it singing. What are the others doing? Are they playing real or virtual keyboards? Running programs? Tapping out percussion? It is all part of the mystery.


Next it is Pocket Calculator. I love this song. “I am adding. And subtracting.” it says. It is about delight in technology. It is about doing things that would otherwise be impossible. It is about dehumanisation, no more pen and ink, columns of numbers, mistakes and crossings out, but just a few keys to press.


We no longer have pocket calculators so the whole thing is decidedly retro. Can you be simultaneously retro and futuristic? Apparently you can. The main car in Autobahn is a VW Beetle.

Autobahn as it happens comes rather quickly, after around 23 minutes according to my watch. That’s odd, since Computer World the album is over 34 minutes.

We did not get the whole of Computer World and I want my money back.

Well, maybe not. The concert was stunning and I would not have missed it for anything. But I was surprised.


Autobahn seemed to go on endlessly, which is as it should be of course. Then the VW took the exit slip and it was over.

Radioactivity. This song has been updated and now features Fukushima alongside other nuclear incidents like Chernobyl.


This is a disturbing song. “Radioactivity is in the air for you and me … contaminated population” The jolly melody is at odds with the subject matter, but it works; does it represent the PR machine?


Trans Europe Express. The train song is perfect for Kraftwerk. The train rushes towards us. Travel. Communication. Engineering. Cold steel. Kraftwerk.


Two songs which are particularly striking live are The Robots and the Man Machine. The Robots come first.  This is where the band performing in front of the visuals works so well. What is more true, that the robots are human-like, or that the band is robot-like?


Are we, in fact, machines ourselves, making the whole question moot?



I have skipped over a few, songs in fact which touch on the more human side of Kraftwerk’s art. After Space Lab, The Model is performed to a backdrop of black and white glamour girls, retro, unreachable.


Neon Lights is a short, refreshing interlude. The melody is stark and beautiful. If Hutter ever sings, he sings here.


A note on the sound quality. In general, good, and not ear-splittingly loud for which I am grateful. It did get louder as the concert progressed, and I felt there were times when it distorted; but improved again towards the end.

There was true chest-shaking bass at times, something you had to be there to feel.

Tour de France is rather good. We see human endeavour, more black and white footage for the retro feel, and followed by Vitamins, making a point perhaps.


Vitamins give rise to some strange 3D effects. Giant pills seem to float out over the audience, but as they fall, they fall behind the band, breaking the illusion.


The Techno Pop section is the last in the concert. There is Boom Book Tschak, and another song I think, then Musique Non Stop, just as the concert is in fact stopping. The musicians leave the stage one by one, until only Hutter is left.


He moves to the right of the stage, he bows, “See you tomorrow”. Unfortunately I will not. Then he is gone.

No encore. It is not the Kraftwerk way.

That was Kraftwerk. Repetitive, yes. Perplexing, yes. Beautiful, yes. Unique, yes.

Everything is ambiguous. Perhaps we are participating in an elaborate joke. It does not matter. Wonderful.


Pocket Calculator
Computer Love
It’s more fun to compute
Trans Europe Express
The Robots
The Model
Neon Lights
Man Machine
Tour de France
Planet of Visions
Boing Boom Tschak
Techno Pop
Musique Non Stop

Review: Nina Nesbitt and Owl City at Kings College, London

Yesterday I went along to Tutu’s, a club which is part of Kings College Student Union in London, to hear Nina Nesbitt and Owl City.

The venue was mostly great, top floor overlooking the Thames, friendly atmosphere, docked a point for terrible beer (no bitter whatsoever, let along draught). It was packed: Adam Young’s Owl City may get terrible reviews from the likes of NME, but he strikes a chord with many dedicated fans.

First up however was beautiful Scottish singer/guitarist Nina Nesbitt, who has just announced her own headlining UK tour. She has great stage presence and won over the audience with her passion, melody, strong percussive guitar and engaging personality. Highlights were the forthcoming single Boy, an earlier song called Glue, and by request an energetic cover of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. She closed with The Apple Tree from her EP of the same name. She thanked the audience for listening to her – in other words, not talking loudly and heading for the bar – saying it was a rare experience, but if she keeps up this quality she will have no problem keeping attention. One to watch.


At around 9.00pm Owl City came on to perform the last date of their 2012 summer tour. The opening was stunning: fired-up crowd, opening drums from Steve Goold, and then Young was on singing the opening number, Cave In from the album Ocean Eyes.


The sound was not great – I heard some bass distortion from where I was in the gallery – but the power and energy coming from Young, the band, and the enraptured audience was not to be denied. The music was also more muscular than I had expected, benefiting from the backing of a full band which the recordings mostly lack, and a nice counterpoint to the dreamy, introverted songs.

A key song is Umbrella Beach, which was the closing number. Something about exploring inner space. “Home is a boxcar – it’s so far out of reach,” he sings:

Home will always be here unseen, out of sight
Where I disappear and hide
I think dreamy things as I’m waving goodbye
So I’ll spread out my wings and fly


at which point Young does a marvellous Owl-like flapping motion with his arms, it sounds daft but we were transported.

I am old enough to remember being searched for cameras and recorders when going to a concert. Things are different now and everyone seemed to be making their own videos with smartphones held high. I even saw someone wielding an Apple iPad to take photographs. 


The band was:

  • Jasper Nephew on guitar
  • Steve Goold on drums
  • Daniel Jorgenson on guitar, vibraphone, “he plays everything”
  • Breanne Düren on keyboards and backing vocals


Emma Bladon Jones and Troubadour Rose at Bartons Nottingham

Last night I wandered over to Bartons in Nottingham, a newish venue in a converted bus garage – doesn’t sound promising, but it is fantastic, especially when tastefully set out with tables, candles and roses as it was last night for the second of its monthly unplugged events.


The musicians were local singer and guitarist Emma Bladon Jones along with the London folk band Troubadour Rose.


Bladon Jones was on first and treated us to an excellent set with her clear voice, sensitive songs and inventive guitar work. She played songs from her EP Life is Self Taught, a tender cover of In My Life by the Beatles, and a new song called Iris of War. It all went over well with me. She has a gadget called a loop box which lets her play a few bars and have them repeat live so she can accompany herself; seems risky but worked really well, and those moments where she experimented a bit with the sounds she could get from her guitar were highlights.

Next up was Troubadour Rose: Bryony Afferson (guitar and lead vocals), Lizzy O’Connor (banjo, mandolin and vocals) (and Gary Bridgewood (violin). Apparently the band used to be called something else, but came up with a song called Troubadour Rose (which they performed last night) and liked it well enough to rename themselves accordingly.


It is a great song, starting quietly and gathering pace, full of melody and drama, driven by Afferson’s expressive vocals, O’Connor’s sweet harmonies, and Bridgewood’s at times frenetic fiddle.

Other highlights included the two songs from the band’s single, Labour of Love and Find and Arrow, which you can hear on Spotify or iTunes.

A great evening and a shame rather few people turned out to enjoy it; but a treat for those us who discovered it.

Richard Thompson Nottingham 27 January 2011

I heard Richard Thompson and his band last night at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. A pleasant venue, not too large, good acoustics, but lacking in atmosphere. The concert was pretty much sold out and there was no doubting the warm regard of the audience towards the performers, but it was not a lively crowd; it was an enjoyable evening but one that never quite sparkled.

Money Shuffle was an energetic opener; it is one of those songs that you think you have heard before even when you have not, with a timeless Richard Thompson feel to it. Then it was on through Dream Attic – he is performing his recent CD nearly in its entirety on this tour – with a slow tempo for Among the Gorse Among the Grey, and then full speed into Haul Me Up, a rollicking number which was a lot of fun.

As we progressed though the album Thompson gave succinct intros to the songs, gently mocking his own predilection for songs of death and mayhem – I loved these little bits of chatter, and I wish they had been put into the album, which is recorded live.

When we got to Big Sun falling in the River I had a moment of reflection. The song is set in London, Thompson told us, where the river is wide and at the right moment you can get some spectacular sunsets. The lyrics tell of a relationship going bad and shattered dreams:

Big Sun Falling In The River
Big sky shining in the water
Big love dying like the dying day

He doesn’t sing it like someone particularly upset though – not like, say, Missie how you let me down, or Long Dead Love, from Daring Adventures. Still, it is one of the recurring themes in Thompson’s music, with another being death. Sidney Wells, also on Dream Attic, is a gory tale of a serial murderer. Why so gloomy?

After my second beer last night I had what seemed a brilliant insight into the matter. It starts with English folk music, which sings of death in order to help us come to terms with mortality. And it continues with Richard Thompson writing Meet on the Ledge as a teenager:

Meet on the ledge, we’re gonna meet on the ledge
When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends
Meet on the ledge, we’re gonna meet on the ledge
If you really mean it, it all comes round again

Richard Thompson’s words gained added poignancy after the tragic motor accident in 1969, when Fairport Convention’s drummer Martin Lamble and Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklyn died.

There is no answer to the reality of pain and loss; but music and humour is one route to healing and perhaps this is part of what is going on in Richard Thompson’s music and in the folk tradition.

As for the concert, we moved on through an evocative Stumble On and a lively Bad Again towards the interval, after which, Thompson had told us, he would sing his hits “it will be very short” he joked.

After settling for an ice cream thanks to the Royal Concert Hall’s lack of anything that can be described as beer, I returned after the interval expecting a succession of blasts from the past and more engagement from the audience. It turned out not quite like that. There was less chatter – though after performing The Angels Took my Racehorse Away, Thompson did remark on his pride that Henry the Human Fly, from which the song is taken, was the worst selling record ever in Warner Brothers catalogue (an exaggeration, I am sure). We got Wall of Death, though I felt it was a bit of a throwaway, perhaps he is getting tired of the song. We got an atmospheric Al Bowlly’s in Heaven with solos from band members, who were:

Pete Zorn – all sorts
Michael Jerome – drums
Taras Prodaniuk – bass
Joel Zifkin – electric violin

Al Bowlly is hardly a song for drummers, but let me mention that Jerome’s performance was excellent throughout the show, adding lots of energy to the sound, even if he did knock over several mic stands and cause a panic emergence of roadies onto the stage to fix things up during one of the songs.

Still, while Al Bowlly and Wall of Death count as hits in Richard Thompson terms, I would not say that numbers like One Door Opens and Take Care the Road you Choose are in that category, and it remained a low-key evening. We had one short encore and that was that.

I enjoyed the first half more; I think Thompson is more engaged with the new songs, and liked that he took the trouble to tell us a bit about them.

I have never been been to a poor Richard Thompson concert; I loved being there last night and he delivered in every respect. If I sound a little disappointed it is only because I have been to some that I enjoyed even more. I think Dream Attic is a good album but not a great album, and feel the same way about the concert. That said, if you ever get the opportunity to see this man perform, go without hesitation; he is one of the best.


The Money Shuffle
Among the Gorse among the Grey
Haul me Up
Demons in her Dancing Shoes
Big Sun Falling in the River
Stumble On
Sidney Wells
A Brother slips away
Bad again
If Love whispers your Name
The angels took my racehorse away
Can’t Win
One door opens
Al Bowlly’s in Heaven (band solos)
I’ll never give it up
Wall of death
Tear-stained letter
Take Care the Road you Choose
A Man in Need

Review: Quadrophenia on tour

Last night I saw the stage adaption of The Who’s Quadrophenia by Jeff Young, John O’Hara and Tom Critchley, at  the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. The venue was well filled though not quite sold out, a good effort considering that it is on for several days.

Quadrophenia is one of my favourite albums, though I don’t know how much this is because of inherent artistic quality, and how much because it resonated with me when it first appeared 36 years ago. It is not really about multiple personalities, more about the multiple roles that all of us play, such as child, worker, lover, rebel, and the conflicting feelings that can engender. It is about dysfunctional families, drugs, sex, gangs, and the stress of trying to conform to conflicting norms, such as dutiful worker vs rebellious youth culture. It is quasi-religious, with the rain and the sea representing some higher power.

The show was disappointing. Why? Well, the first problem is the stage layout. The musicians are at the back of the stage, on an extraordinary two-storey platform, and it’s pretty hard to see what they are doing since during most of the show the lights are elsewhere. During the second half of the performance, it is even harder to see the band because of a big circle thing that appears in front. I suppose this was somewhat like having the orchestra in a pit at a classical opera; but I didn’t like it. A rock concert is about the dynamics between the band and the audience, and if you put all these barriers in the way, it makes it hard for the music to live.

The main part of the stage was where the action took place. Jimmy, the lead character in Quadrophenia, is played by four actors, the idea being that each one represents a different face of his internal personas. In an early scene we see Jimmy seated on a sofa between his parents; just as he gets comfortable, an alter ego Jimmy comes and turfs him out of his place, only to be displace in turn shortly after. I thought that was effective; but in general having four actors did not work well. The first problem was that they were not sufficiently distinct; frankly, I couldn’t tell you what kinds of characteristics each of the four was meant to represent. Second, the artifice of having four Jimmys on stage together when in a sense there was only one of them was largely unsuccessful. I would rather have had them mostly on stage one at a time.

There was no speech, just the music and singing Who songs. Not all the songs were from Quadrophenia – we also got some other early Who numbers like My Generation. However, the singers also did a poor job of engaging with the audience – in fact, at some points I wasn’t sure if they were singing or miming to a recording. There was a lot of jumping around and climbing up the big circular thing, which rotated.

The show is lacking in contrasts. Quadrophenia is a album of transitions: the claustrophobia of a small terraced house where Jimmy lives with his mum and dad; the scooter as the vehicle to the freedom of the open road; the “5.15” train which takes Jimmy to Brighton, place of conflict and redemption, and to the sea. The show does a poor job of representing these contrasting places and colours; each scene feels the same as the one before it.

The singers were competent but not strong enough for what they took on. Roger Daltrey is a hard act to follow, for sure. At times during choral sections Quadrophenia reminded me of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat, a jolly musical originally intended for schools; I do not think Quadrophenia should ever sound like that.

My advice for the next tour: bring the band into view; lose half the actors; have one Jimmy at a time; sing at the audience not at one another, and sing your heart out. Quadrophenia deserves it.

PS for some alternate views see the official forum; lots of praise on there. At Nottingham the audience reaction was mixed; strong applause at the end, yet the seats in front of us were filled for the first half and empty for the second.

Richard Thompson at the Cambridge Corn Exchange

I saw Richard Thompson, accompanied by Judith Owen (vocals, piano) and Debra Dobkin (percussion, vocals), perform his 1000 Years of Popular Music set at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge (Friday January 16th).

This is a great atmospheric venue with good acoustics, but we arrived slightly after 7.30pm thanks to traffic and parking problems, to find that the show had started on the dot. We missed the first two songs and ended up in seats that weren’t the ones we’d booked, but they were good seats which is what counted.

The concept is that RT and his ensemble play songs from the ages – from Medieval to the present day. Why? A few reasons. Because he can, and few others could. Because he’s exploring his cultural history. Because he wants to introduce songs that are old but good to a new audience. Because he wants to pay tribute to the past. Because it’s a hoot. All of these.

It makes for an enjoyable evening, though it is inevitably uneven. I studied English Literature and knew some of the older songs as poems; it was good to hear them in a new context, especially with Thompson’s dry,witty introductions. I enjoyed his 19th century social comment songs, Blackleg Miner and I Live in Trafalgar Square. He caught the mood of the Kinks’ See My Friends brilliantly. His rendering of Abba’s Money Money Money is hilarious. I didn’t think he carried off the Beatles so well, though we saw some striking Beatlemania photos.

I was sorry he did not perform Oops! … I did it again (yes, the Britney Spears song) as this is one of my favourites on the CD, another ode to failed relationships.

The paradox of RT is that he is fascinated by mortality, decadence and despair, yet is among the most clean-living, disciplined and downright healthy artists out there; he is sixty this year but his voice is strong and physically he looks almost the same as he did twenty years ago, with his trademark beret.

He carries it off really well, but would I rather have heard 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Wall of Death, and The Ghost of you Walks? I suppose I would; but at the same time kudos to RT for doing something different.

This is the set list from the day before in London (I didn’t go but it was posted to the discussion list); ours was very similar but I’ll update this post when I have the exact set list from last night.

Hevene Queen
3 Ravens
So Ben
False Knight
Pipe Shepherds Pipe
When I am Laid in The Earth
Remember Thou O Man
Blackleg Miner
Trafalgar Square
Sally Gardens
When a Man Goes to Woe


Java jive
Night and Day/Something Wonderful
Wine Spo-Di-O-Di
All Right I’ll Sign the Papers
See My Friends
Friday on My Mind
Money, Money, Money
everybody’s Got to Learn sometime
Ja Nuls Hom Pris
Cry Me a River
Beatle Medley