A bit of a different gig this time than my usual blog entries, for several reasons, including the presence of an orchestra, and actually not going on my own!
Tonight was billed as “the music of Ian Broudie” performed by The Lightning Seeds & Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Philharmonic Hall. This sounded like a match made in heaven – the Phil is a great, grand venue for a certain kind of concert. It wouldn’t suit certain types of gig, really, but then they don’t tend to put on those types of gigs. In fact, I’m sure they put on concerts rather than gigs, but no doubt the powers that be have a view on that (hello, Simon!).
One thing about a place like the Phil is that the gig (sorry, concert) usually starts pretty much bang on time – I don’t think I’ve been caught out there, but I certainly have at the Royal Festival Hall in that there London before now, when staying in the pub for an extra pint (or just managing to get to the venue on time) has meant missing a song or two. As I said, for this gig I wasn’t Billy No-Mates, being joined for this by the wife and a couple of our friends. The missus and I do go to the occasional gig together (in fact, there is likely to be another blog in a week or so about another one!), but I managed to scare her off accompanying me to many of my own choices, I think largely due to exposure to The Fall and Vic Godard & Subway Sect, both of whom offended her ears. Each to their own, of course…
We managed to park up and get a quick pint in down the road at Casa (after the brief drama of finding our intended car park closed for demolition) before heading into the Phil in plenty of time to be seated in advance of the planned 7.30pm kick off. A series of announcements (literally every two minutes or so it seemed) telling us we could not record, film or photograph the concert was rather OTT, but no doubt widely ignored! The RLPO came out first, unsurprising due to there obviously being loads of them. Broudie appeared with his band, and he was looking rather smart in a natty jacket.
The band included The Coral’s Bill Ryder-Jones on bass and Ian Broudie’s son Riley on guitar, for whom “The Life Of Riley” was written, fact fans. There was another guitarist on stage too, who was equally young, but his identity is unknown to me! Apart from the band, it was good to watch some of the orchestra as they took part in proceedings, like the woman constantly banging on a tambourine throughout a whole song, or the guy enjoying crashing his cymbals.
Things kicked off with the great “Marvellous”, one of The Lightning Seeds’ highlights. However, the mix between band and orchestra wasn’t quite right for this, or for the first few songs, but things really clicked with “What If…”. An early set highlight for me was “Flaming Sword”, recorded by his mid-1980’s band Care, which I had long forgotten about. Unsurprisingly, but sadly, we had nothing from his stint with Big In Japan back in the punk days.
The first ‘special guest’ was Miles Kane, formerly of The Rascals (the scouse indie band not the 60’s blue-eyed soul group) and The Last Shadow Puppets, who came on to sing The Byrds’ “You Showed Me” that The Lightning Seeds had also recorded. The wife commented on his strange hip movements, which to be fair were pseudo-slinkily peculiar.
Much better was the arrival of Mac the Mouth, or Ian McCulloch to give him his proper title. He was in his customary shades, and provided entertainment with his between-song banter and by blowing the cobwebs off with stunning versions of “The Back Of Love” and “The Cutter”. “Follow that”, he said with a sly grin as he left the stage – not that straightforward a task, but Broudie had a go with “Sugar Coated Iceberg” and “The Life Of Riley” before the interval.
As we had bought tickets at the end of a row near the front of the stalls, we were able to beat a very hasty exit to get to the bar before the crush. No beer on tap, but a decent bottle of Liverpool Organic, so another thumbs up for the Phil. As was entirely to be expected, the Executive Director of the Philharmonic Hall & Events was at the bar before me, but then his box was a shorter walk!
Post-interval, we had an early appearance from The Coral’s James Skelly, singing “Pass It On” off their rather good second album “Magic And Medicine”. I was going to say that I never saw The Coral live, so it was good to hear him sing, but on checking my trusty spreadsheet I note that I saw them at the Electric Ballroom in Camden back in 2003, with my mate Kris and very occasional gig companion Sen. Not sure what failing to remember having seen them says about how good they were…
The most exciting sight for me was to see Terry Hall come out on stage to join Ian Broudie. I was hoping that he might sing one of his own great catalogue of songs from his time with The Specials, The Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield or even his later excursions under a variety of guises, that in fact I probably would not have recognised. I thought his rather glorious voice was somewhat wasted on “Lucky You” and “Sense”, but it was still good to see him. I’d only read an interview with Hall in Mojo a few days earlier, where he spoke about his ongoing mental problems over the decades. Fortunately, he looked in good nick.
The show ended (of course?) with “Three Lions” – with the “will they, won’t they” encore farce that usually happens at the end of a gig was somewhat undermined by the presence of an orchestra on stage, as they didn’t bother to go off when the band (and conductor) did, so we all assumed correctly that there would be more!
So the show ended with a somewhat ramshackle version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” with Ian McCulloch and Terry Hall returning to the stage, with Mac once again trying to steal the limelight.
I think that the show had been an interesting experiment, but was obviously only as good as the songs themselves, and The Lightning Seeds have some quite decent songs, but none that I’d say I truly love. The highlight for me of the night was Ian McCulloch singing a couple of Bunnymen classics, followed by seeing Terry Hall on the stage, and “Flaming Sword”.
The night ended with a quick trip across the road to try and new, noisy bar called Frederiks.
This was certainly a gig of very few band t-shirts, predictably. My choice was governed by wanting to vaguely match my shoes! So I went for a brown Pixies “Monkey Gone To Heaven” one.