Friday afternoon, golly gee……
London town is as hot as Hades compared to the peoples republic of Eccles at 8am that morning. I’m just off the 13:15 Pendolino from Manchester Piccadilly and it’s a slow, and warm, walk from Euston to the Travelodge on Kings Cross Road. I’d forgotten how busy London is, so many people on the pavements, it has been a few years since I have been this far south, you have to be agile negotiating all these bodies. So i’m pleased to get onto the quieter hotel strewn side ways of Argyle and Swinton Streets, there’s always a Salford connection wherever you go (*), and a short-cut to the cool, albeit small, hotel room. The traffic is bad, horns honking, bikes, both motor and pedal, zipping in and out and around. Booking in takes forever, the hotel is full of northern voices, it’s almost like being at home. A quick shower, a fresh T Shirt and then on the mobile to Bob “South” to find out where the Northampton contingent is at. They are at the Craft Beer House but are leaving shortly for the Jerusalem Tavern. Good, it’s hot and I need a beer.
It’s a 20 minute walk to the aforementioned establishment which takes me past the looming Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, several bistros and the slightly fading decadence of the streets of Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. It hits me i’ve walked by at least five rough sleepers in my perambulations from Euston. Lets hope Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London can begin to tackle this. I’ve noticed more and more rough sleepers in central Manchester lately as well. Mister Cameron says he’s dealing with the Housing Crisis…..but you can’t believe everything, or indeed anything he says, can you?
The Jerusalem Tavern is delightful, I am advised it is in the Good Beer Guide, and Google says it’s “a 1990s pub in a 1720 building with a facsimile 18th-century interior”, can one get by with an exquisite interior I wonder to myself (**). Bob and Jeff are suitably ensconced and a delicious pint of St Peter Ale is acquired for me. We catch up on several matters, indulge in another round of ale, and then head up to The Crown Tavern for something to eat. A nice plate of Fish and Chips (required Friday food for a Catholic chap) and another pint in the pub which appears to have a fake lawn on the door to the gents. It’s getting near 7ish and the pubs are getting busy. People aren’t inside the pubs though, they have spilled out onto the streets. A further stop off at The Gunmakers, which only has one ale on, but it’s a good one, and where Bob tells me there is a hairdressers upstairs, and it’s trendy. We chat about village drug dealing scallies, Josef K and Harmonia amongst other things.
And so over to the Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road to see Dave Graney and the mistLY for the last gig in a five week European Tour. Dave, Clare Moore, Stu Thomas and Malcolm Ross(***) are tucking into a pre-gig meal in the cosy pub. We get one last beer in, have a brief chat with Clare, and then make our way down to the basement venue. I had thought the Eagle (****) was small, but this place is far more compact. It’s full, and very warm. There are a few rock and roll types in tonight. Bob points out that Louis Vause, who played piano on the “I Was The Hunter And I Was The Prey” album, is in the room.
9:15pm and they are on.
Starting with the autobiographical “We Don’t Belong to Anybody” it’s just Dave, Clare and Stu kicking things off, Malcolm stands at the right watching on. It’s tight. it’s crisp, the sound is amazing, it’s fun, I can’t stop smiling. Dave is the consummate showman, he has a great band, and over the next two hours, with a fifteen minute break, we are treated to a marvellous journey through the “30 Year” back catalogue .
The two Moodists tunes that had been delivered in Salford three weeks ago are there. I was hoping “Chevrolet Rise” might make an appearance but the louche funk-punk of “Frankies Negative” and the acerbic post-punk of “Chad’s Car” make up for that omission. Bob and Jeff had regaled me earlier in the afternoon of that Fall gig where The Moodists were the support and where Dave had an immediate impact on the pair of them (8th December 1983 and two miles to the north west at the Electric Circus for the Fallatalists amongst you).
Coral Snakes tunes also get a good airing including “I’ve Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” , “Your Just Too Hip Baby” and the extended version of “Night of the Wolverine” (version number 4 I think with the slowed down memorable coda), plus the usual closer, the breathtaking “Rock and Roll Is Where I Hide”. Dave Graney Show, Lurid Yellow Mist and MistLY tunes all get exposure with “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, “Flash In The Pantz” and a stunning “We Need A Champion” which is introduced with some choice words about Australian politicians. The most recent “solo” album Fearful Wiggings is represented by the apposite “How Can You Get Out Of London” and some interesting comments about Grant McLennan are delivered (it was the tenth anniversary of his death on the date) before laying into Robert Forster , with tongue firmly in the cheek , via “Everything Was Legendary With Robert”. Two of the latest set of singles “I’m a Good Hater” and “The Deadest Place I Ever Died In” are delivered with the latter being transformed into a very funky little beast in a live setting. I’m sure there were other songs played but my memory is failing me. No doubt Bob will have jotted down the full set list and I can append them to this later on.
Clare is inspirational throughout the gig, she has to be one the best drummers i’ve seen,.moving from tasteful jazzy licks, via funk, into driven rock rhythms. Stu is a stunning bass player, moving through a range of styles with ease. Malcolm adds some exceptional colour to the tunes, whether it be some tasteful wah-wah, spidery lead lines, our jagged post-punk chords. Dave is slick, hip and cool, you wouldn’t want it any other way. The vocal harmonies are spot on. The band is hypnotic. The inter-song banter is irreverent, funny and draws the crowd into Graney world. Dave makes an off-colour remark and Clare gives him the hard stare. It’s just perfect.
The encore is a respectful homage to the recently deceased Prince with Stu taking the lead vocals on a bravura cover of “Sign O’ The Times”. Unexpected and quite special.
And so it’s over. I’d had to move several small mountains to get there, but it was worth it. I don’t go to London that often but sometimes you have to make the effort. I’d enjoyed the Salford gig a lot but my mind was on running the thing and other background stuff so it perhaps didn’t have the impact of this gig. London was something special.
It had been a long day, a quick goodbye to Dave, then Bob and Jeff and then back to the hotel to get ready for an early journey back in the morning. A memorable trip, I wanted to be there, and I wanted to travel.
Hopefully they’ll be back again, soon.
Get a whiff of that antipodean breeze……..
(*) Swinton is one of the districts of Salford
(**) From the lyrics of the Coral Snakes tune “Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned”
(***) Former Josef K, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice guitarist depping for Stuart Perera on this tour. Malcolm was a member of the Moodists and the Coral Snakes
(****) The venue in Salford where the band played in April – see review here