Still catching up on gigs in this blog, but this one couldn’t be ignored as it has been gig of the year so far for me – The Chills’ first ever gig in the city, at the Philharmonic’s relatively new Music Room, that has replaced the old Rodewald Suite.
This was to be my second time seeing The Chills, having seen them at the old Mean Fiddler in Harlesden in North London way back in April 1990, with my old gig-going buddy Kris. The main memory I have of this gig is that it finished so late that the last tube had gone in order to get us back to Upminster, where we were both staying that night.
That meant we had to get a taxi home, which my memory tells me cost an at-the-time eye-watering £50. It also meant that we left the following night’s gig (fellow Kiwi legends The Clean at the old Subterania in Ladbroke Grove) after only four songs of the main act in order to be sure of getting home by public transport!
I had a transport mishap on the way in to this gig, as my train stopped at Sandhills and wasn’t going to go any further, leaving all the passengers stranded. I acted quickly, using my Delta Taxis app to order a cab before the rest of the people getting off the train, so I still got to the venue in good time.
I’d only been to the old Rodewald Suite twice before in fact – once for Amsterdam in February 2007, and then in July 2012 to see main man Ian Prowse in solo action.
As I headed into the brand spanking new venue, I stopped at the merch stall in the doorway to check out what they had on offer. Never have I had such an enthusiastic response to a t-shirt I’ve worn to a gig, as I was wearing a Chills one that featured the A and B side labels of their Kaleidoscope World album.
The woman behind the stall was clearly a big fan of the band but had never seen this t-shirt before, so quizzed me on its origins (I ordered it off Flying Nun’s New Zealand website a few years ago) before enthusing over all the merchandise available. I held fire on buying anything though, escaping to the bar for a pint of IPA.
I moved through to the main room of the venue, taking a seat at the back, being surrounded by a few people who it soon transpired were local support act By The Sea.
Their website describes them as “indie dream jangle pop”, which isn’t far from the truth. Deep-voiced singer and guitarist Liam Power brought Richard Hawley to mind vocally, while the bassist reminded me of Silent Sleep’s Chris McIntosh. As good local lads, the whole band were in Adidas trainees.
It had been long enough since I last saw By The Sea that I didn’t really recognise any of the songs, but I enjoyed their set and ought to lay my hands on their Endless Days Crystal Sky album from 2014 some time.
The between-band music was excellent, leading me to think that it was provided by Harvest Sun, the promoters of the gig, but apparently not. Tunes included Simon & Garfunkel’s lovely The Only Living Boy In New York, a couple of Beach Boys numbers, Nikki Sudden, Gram Parsons and The Everly Brothers’ 1968 single It’s My Time.
While sat at the back of the hall enjoying the music, who should wander up to have a chat with the soundman but Chills lead singer Martin Phillips. I toyed with going up to say hello, especially when he was accosted by some other member of the audience, but I chickened out in the end. Fortunately, I did not regret this for too long!
The rest of the band were bassist James Dickson, the excellent Oli Wilson on keyboards and drummer Todd Knudson, with multi-instrumentalist Erica Scally (aka Erica Stichbury) remaining in her sick bed back in the hotel. This apparently led to a restriction of the set list, but I don’t think it meant we missed out on much. I presume this was the cause of the ongoing confusion amongst the band as to the order of the set-list, with various arrows seemingly confusing different people in different ways!
They went straight into two utter stone cold classics in Night Of Chill Blue from 1987’s Brave Words (with Todd drumming while stood up) and Kaleidoscope World, originally from the 1982 Dunedin Double ep, a double 12” that also featured Sneaky Feelings, The Verlaines and The Stones.
They then went into a series of tracks off the most recent album, Silver Bullets from last year, which is their finest long player since 1990’s Submarine Bells to these ears – though to be fair they only put out two LPs in the interim.
They reached back to 1992’s Soft Bomb for The Male Monster From The Id, a lovely song about admitting your own failings. As it’s not on Spotify, here’s the video:
After the title track of the last album, we had an even newer number, the yet-to-be-recorded Easy Peazy, before returning to Silver Bullets again.
The set ended with a trio of golden oldies in Pink Frost, I Love My Leather Jacket (which was followed by a ‘”folk reggae” mini-version when someone called out for it to be played again!) and then Doledrums.
They returned for a two-song encore, firstly somewhat obscurely playing a David Bowie b-side from 1970 in Conversation Piece before Knudson stood up again for the sublime Heavenly Pop Hit, probably their best known song.
They announced that they’d be stopping by the merch stand after the gig to sign anything, so I decided to complete my Chills album collection by picking up The BBC Sessions, which was duly signed by Phillips and all of the rest of the band (none of whom actually featured on any of the tracks on it!).
Martin Phillips especially was a very nice man, and we had a brief chat. I asked for a selfie, only for the lady on the merch stand who I’d spoken with earlier to take charge of the phone, so the photo is considerably better than it would otherwise have been.
It was definitely worth the more than quarter century wait to see them again (although only Phillips remains from that line-up), and my gig of the year to date as it was just wonderful to hear some of their gorgeous songs again. The only disappointment was the very thin crowd in attendance.
As mentioned, I was in my Chills tee. I spotted a few others, including The Flamin’ Groovies, a nice Pink Floyd/Liverpool FC combo, Funkadelic and Dead Can Dance, with By The Sea’s drummer sporting a Bill Ryder-Jones one, while there was also a Rough Trade bag in evidence.
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Here is most of the music from the evening on Spotify, including some of the tunes played by the excellent DJ: