I’m a grumpy old cynic these days. It takes a lot to get me excited music wise. Put it down to listening to music submissions all day. But it has been a good week for excitement, both music and in a sporting context with three days at Lancashire watching my local club play my town of birth club (county = Northamptonshire) in fine sunshine, capped off by an evening of wonderful music from Robert Forster and band on Thursday May 16th. When Robert played Deaf Institute last time around I missed the gig through some sort of ailment, this time he is at the Band on the Wall, which feels like a more intimate and appropriate venue for his timeless songs.
Bob Auster South is up from the aforementioned Northamptonshire for two days of the cricket and the gig. Thursday proves a slow but entertaining days play at Old Trafford with Lancs moving towards victory. Missing the last session of play we hop on the tram at 5pm to ensure some food can be consumed before the gig, and, after a quick pizza in Croma, we enjoy pre-gig libation at the Lower Turks Head and then the Smithfield (which is much improved and has an impressive array of beers on offer).
The Band on the Wall is filling up nicely by the time we get there and we park ourselves next to a suitable leaning spot in front of the stage. Robert is onstage at 8:05pm and a foot numbing 1 hour 45 minutes later he and his fine band have delivered 22 songs including two encores of three songs each. Bob had seen Robert and band at the Union Chapel in London on the Monday and advises this is the same set.
The material is split between Robert’s solo work, the bulk of which is from the new album Inferno, and a fantastic array of classic Go-Betweens tunes, all the way from “Don’t Let Him Come Back” to tracks from Oceans Apart. Liberty Belle is the most mined album with glorious versions of “Spring Rain”, “Twin Layers of Lightning”, and “In The Core of the Flame”. A highlight of the evening is a stunning version of “The Clarke Sisters” from Tallulah, with Karin Bäumler’s violin creating a wonderful atmosphere. Guitarist Scott Bromiley has amp and pedal issues at one point during the show but this does not detract from what is a remarkable performance from a well drilled band who clearly enjoy their craft. The material from the new album sounds excellent live and a great version of “Born To A Family” from Oceans Apart is dedicated to Robert’s brother who is in the audience.
The Go-Betweens have been a big part of my life for many years, unfortunately I never got to see them. Robert both reminds me of what I missed but reconfirms my belief than both that band and his solo work is some of the best music ever created.
“Surfin’ Magazines” closes the a fantastic set with a bit of a sing-along and we shuffle out into the night for a quick pint in The Castle before getting the tram home. After that I’m a lot less cynical and grumpy. I could with more days like this. Probably the best gig i’ve ever seen at the Band on the Wall (with the possible exception of May 3rd 1982).
(photo by Vicki Egan)