We were in Hebden Bridge on Friday night: we'd got tickets to go and see a tribute band. Thing was, I didn't know we were going to see a tribute band. We'd bought tickets for Jah Wobble at The Trades Club months ago. Apparently he's patched up his differences with Keith Levene and selections from Metal Box were promised. So far, so good.
What I didn't know was that Wobble and (the now skeletal) Levene have got in a lame brain John Lydon lookalikey from a Sex Pistols covers band to handle the vocals. Oh dear.
This is what they looked like:
However, just because it caught me off guard doesn't mean that other people in the room weren't lapping it up. Apologies then to anyone who was offended by my heckling and sincere apologies to John Wardle if I was less than complimentary when we met after the gig.
Before any leader goes to war, they first call upon the services
of their Commander-in-Chief. And so it is when musical big hitters
such as Macca, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler or Nick Lowe embark on a
world tour - they all hit Watkins on their speed dial: Geraint
Watkins - singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and one
time Balham Alligator. Going on the road without Watkins would be like
taking a knife to a gun fight; there really isn't a better piano or
accordion player on the live circuit.
I bumped into Watkins the other day: he was trying to locate the
stage door at the Harrogate Theatre - he was playing with Nick Lowe as part of The Old Magic tour. Dressed like he'd come to read
the meter, he was running late: 'Sound check's at 5 o'clock' he said in
his dulcet welsh tones 'and I can't find the way in.' We walked around
the back of the venue and stumbled upon (aptly) the tradesman's entrance -
through which he went in search of Basher.
Three hours later, show-time, and you wouldn't have recognised him; suited and
booted and he'd put a comb through his hair. These days not
only is Watkins part of Nick Lowe's crack house band, but he also opens for
him. A thirty minute master class in everything from stride and boogie
woogie to good old fashioned rock 'n' roll: Mystery Train never sounded
so urgent - a runaway train, if you will. Other prime cuts included Soldier Of Love, Chagrin and Unto You - the latter two reflecting Watkins' French and Cajun influences.
With just enough time to down a beer and whisky chaser, he's back
on stage for the main event. Nick Lowe needs no introduction on this humble blog. Suffice it to say he rattled through songs new and old with his trademark self deprecating inter-song banter. The set is seamless; material off the new long player - Stoplight Roses, House For Sale and 'Til The Real Thing Comes Along mesh perfectly with Heart, Without Love,I Live On A Battlefield et al.
By the time of the second encore, Watkins takes centre stage again; this time with Lowe backing him. Only A Rose would be the sort of tune Sinatra would cover if he was still with us. Yes, it really is that good.
The passing of a Monkee will never grab the headlines in quite the same way as the demise of a Beatle; John and George put world news on hold when they bowed out. Macca, when his time comes, will probably dominate every front page, TV station and website for days on end. But Davy Jones, whilst not quite an 'And finally', barely came above England's woeful display against Holland in the headline stakes.
And for all the 'Prefab 4' nonsense, his appearances on Coronation Street and starring in Oliver, nobody who said he'd caught The Last Train To Clarksville mentioned the fact that he once covered a Wreckless Eric song. And a bloody good one at that: