A very unusual gig this one, in that it was rather incidental to the evening as a whole, but was also a real treat – Ian Prowse, of Amsterdam and Pele renown, who was performing at some good friends’ birthday party at the Bridewell. And being free always helps.
This was actually the nineteenth time I have seen Prowse in one or other of his guises, putting him back ahead of The Fall as the band or singer I have seen most often in my life, according to my trusty spreadsheet. For anyone who cares, third and fourth on the list are the largely unknown The Projects and the utterly unknown (as they were) Fantasy Dogs, the band formed by mates of a school-friend in deepest Essex back in the late 1980’s.
However, I’d not seen the shaggy-haired Wirralian since September 2013, at a free festival in Stanley Park where the downpour didn’t dampen the spirits – the Boy Wonder’s first ever gig.
The Bridewell is a converted Victorian police station, with cells used as booths, though we were in the upstairs room, around fifty people in all – highly appropriate for a joint fiftieth celebration. Although there is a bar upstairs, a quick trip downstairs is necessary in order to get a decent pint of ale, and many were drunk before, during and after the set.
Prowse kicked off his set with the glorious Arm In Arm, that works just as well as a solo acoustic number as it does as a big band performance. He then reached for his most recent release, Compañeros ,an album of covers of largely obscure songs, for a couple of tunes, including the best known of these, Up And Running’s Johnny & Marie, written by Phil Jones that had plenty of people singing along.
He also fitted in a couple of Bruce Springsteen tracks, as he is a huge fan, and knew that he was also a favourite of the birthday couple. The beautiful If I Should Fall Behind from the so-critically-ho-hummed Lucky Town that it is not one of the twelve Boss albums I own was a real treat, while Dancing In The Dark was better known but less special – and no Courteney Cox to join Ian ‘on stage’ either.
A gig first for me was the fact that he was referring to his phone for his set-list – no gaffer-taped A4 sheet with song titles in marker pen here! He was his usual entertaining, verbose self – handily providing a couple of bar-visiting opportunities during lengthy song intros!
The set peaked for me with two Amsterdam classics – probably his/their best known song Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?, that famously often brought John Peel to tears (though he was a notorious softie), and the wonderful Love Phenomenon, both of which were originally featured on their self-released albums (The Curse and Attitunes, respectively), before being re-recorded (and as is usually the way with these things, not quite as well) for The Journey.
Sadly, there was no time for the requested Joe’s Kiss, but next up was an old Pele b-side, The Pain Of A Drinking Song, before Lest We Forget off his solo debut album, 2014’s Who Loves Ya Baby.
A cover of The Jam’s Town Called Malice followed, one of the few songs that can be requested and played at a wedding or party disco, and is guaranteed to get me on the floor. The DJ dug out some Two Tone later to keep me dancing, another party DJ staple.
After leading the crowd in a chorus of Happy Birthday, Prowse ended the night with another Amsterdam classic in Home, cue mass singalong.
My Beloved Wife went up to Ian at the end to tell him how much we’d enjoyed the set, and get our photos taken with him, in a fanboy kinda style, but it was that kind of relaxed evening. He actually stuck around for most of the rest of the night, tucking into the scouse and other food laid in at the buffet.
In closing, a mention to the generous and kindly Bobby for arranging for Ian to play, which was one of the PledgeMusic options for his last album.
No band t-shirt tonight as this was a proper party, and none were in evidence!
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify, in one version or another: