Si & Ted's Big Adventure
Following on from a very successful series of UK shows (well perhaps not Swansea) the Shortlist headed for Germany and Switzerland for the Rollin’ & Tumblin’ spring tour. Nick Pentelow was unavailable due to afternoon matinee commitments, so there was a new face in the band – Andy Hamilton. I have to admit I knew nothing of Andy’s pedigree so it was going to be a case of listen and learn.
I had the offer of spending a week in a camper van with Ted ‘the hat’ Schampera and as I am always looking for new ways to follow Chappo, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. For those of you may not be familiar with ‘the hat’, let me explain. This crazy guy from Kiel who eats, sleeps and dreams Chappo, undertakes most German tours in a hired camper van, parking the damn thing within staggering distance of the venue. But, his tour de force is that during moments of musical euphoria he is prone to throw his hat onto the stage, which in true Chappo style either ends up on the head or on the floor depending on the mood. Unfortunately for Ted he sometimes doesn’t get his treasured hat back, still that’s rock ‘n’ roll.
After a quick and comfortable flight with Buzz from Stanstead to Dusseldorf (Ł35 if you book on the net) and a leisurely train journey northwards (complete with a bar/pub selling draught beer and served in glasses – most civilised) I arrived in Hamburg. After checking into Ted’s rolling hotel it was a short stroll round to the gig.
Hamburg, Fabrik 24.04.01
The Fabrik is on old factory situated in the Altona district of the city. This place is a real rock ‘n’ roll venue, dark, dank and dirty, something similar to a medieval banqueting hall with limited seating and an upstairs gallery. I arrived at approx 20.30 and the place was heaving, not bad for a Tuesday night. The first thing that struck me when looking at the stage was the absence of the usual PA stacks; this gave everybody at the front the opportunity to see right across the stage from three sides. I asked Sonny (the soundman) about this peculiar arrangement, he assured me that although the PA was ‘flown’ the sound would be excellent wherever I chose to stand in the hall.
SET: Riot On The Western Front, Do I Leave A Stone Unturned?, Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Prisoner, Moth To A Flame, Oh Brother, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, ‘X’-Town
ENCORE 1: No Mules Fool, Shank/Toenail Draggin’, Shortlist
ENCORE 2: 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, Jesus And The Devil, Bye Bye Love.
The band were on-stage promptly at nine and opened with ‘Riot On The Western Front’, it was apparent from the outset that the on-stage sound was excellent, no doubt the monitor man breathed a sigh of relief, and the band were confident and assured. Musically there was an acre of space on the stage, with Steve chopping away at the chords and Twiggy with those bass lines. If, as we are led to believe, Andy Hamilton learnt the set from a tape then it is remarkable because he was confident and assured from the start, putting in phrases without a second thought. Next up was ‘Do I Leave A Stone Unturned?’ – with that keyboard wash of sound from Ian Gibbons and again without hesitation, Andy Hamilton, the band quickly got into their stride. The crowd are really enjoying this, although it would seem that most of them are unfamiliar with the new arrangements, but hey, this is Tuesday night in downtown Hamburg.
Intricate drum patterns from Geoff Dunn and the subtlest use of a cowbell (not something that could be said of the band leader) are a feature of ‘A Cat Called Kokomo’. Steve is slightly out of tune, so he plays a different riff in order to avoid the errant string. So far so good, Chappo’s vocals are measured without becoming lazy, but it is obvious that he enjoys the new format and makes full use of the musical platform provided by the band.
A change to mandolin for Steve and we are into ‘Kiss My Soul’, still that guy Hamilton can’t resist blowing some sax, any opportunity and he’s there. Ian’s excellent keyboard work, underpinned by Geoff and Gary builds the number, layer upon layer of keyboards, building, building, until Chappo who has become tired of belting seven bells out of the cowbell tosses it aside, grabs the mike, “YOU AIN’T TRIED, YOU AIN’T TRIED”, then it’s cut dead, just Ian and Gary before Andy drops a few notes in and the song ends. Best reaction of the night so far.
Chappo has never been afraid to cover somebody else’s material, it’s probably because the band seem to have the knack of taking an already excellent song, totally re-working it, and leaving it sounding nothing like the original. Anyway, Chuck Berry’s ‘Downbound Train’ is one of those numbers. My personal opinion is that this is the best number in the set. We have Gary with that driving bass line, Steve sawing off great chunks of solo on the wild blue thing and throwing them to the rhythm section to be pounded into matchwood. Roger even gets to blow some harmonica, before getting stuck into one of the most lyrically demanding songs he has done in years. Every gap Chappo leaves as he takes air into those lungs is filled by a burst of fiddle or sax, and still Geoff and Gary drive out that downbound rhythm. This number has it all – but I doubt Chuck Berry would approve.
The opening bars of ‘Prisoner’ are a signal for German fists to punch the air, the band start getting heavy, Steve is on electric guitar, Ian is on big chords whilst Geoff rolls around the kit, almost for fun. Chappo is stage front; towel over his shoulder, some unfortunate gets a soaking, call and response with the crowd.
Probably the most welcome recent addition to the set has been ‘Moth To A Flame’, again there are huge spaces in the arrangement which Roger exploits to the full, sometimes the vocal line appears to be understated when taken with Steve’s simple guitar riff, but this is only the launch pad for the next line – a full throated roar.
To quote Roger “a new song, seriously influenced by the great Huddy Leadbetter”. That’s got to be the understatement of the year, ‘Oh Brother’ may be Leadbelly’s ‘Whoa Back Buck’ with new lyrics, but it’s a winner, intricate to the point of irritation, with a riff that chugs and changes, but never settles before opening into a great acoustic solo from Steve. It’s bloody brilliant – and at least Leadbelly gets the recognition he deserves.
Ian Gibbons is undoubtedly the band member who carries ‘The Weavers Answer’, it may initially be Geoff beating out that drum pattern who dictates where the song goes but it’s Ian’s rolling keyboard playing that steadies the ship and provides Roger with the ideal platform for some of his best vocals. Tonight the verses are in the wrong order (no surprise there then), which seems to throw Andy, he decides to play, Chappo just smiles and gives him that first night shrug. Again Ian builds the keyboards, layer upon layer, Andy blowing, Geoff and Twiggy in perfect time, staccato bursts of drums and bass, Roger stage front, eyes shut waiting for Steve to ease the number to the end – perfect. Huge cheers from the crowd.
The band closed the set with ‘Habits Of A Lifetime’ and ‘X’-Town, the former featuring great vocals from Roger and an inspired slide solo from Steve in the reprise of the song. The latter initially powered by mandolin, before being closed on electric. Roger again with the towel draped over his shoulder, easing out the vocals. It’s thanks all-round for a great gig and off to the dressing room.
The band return to the stage to rapturous applause and open the encores with ‘No Mules Fool’, the look of bewilderment on the faces of several hundred Germans, turns to happiness when they recognise this previously un-played song. A quick glance at the book and the verses are in the right order. The crowd yell for ‘Shadow On The Wall’ (aka The German National Anthem) Roger gives them ‘Shank/Toenail Draggin’ they immediately recognise it and the fists are in the air again, even the guys in the cheap seats are on their feet. Roger takes the acapella vocal on ‘Toenail Draggin’, “gimmie gimmie what I choose” comes the response from the guy at the back in the dubious looking hat. Steve plays what appears to be the riff from ‘Guilded Splinters’, Geoff and Twiggy on the skank beat. Roger cuts it dead and goes into ‘Shortlist’, the crowd clapping away on no particular beat, but who cares. The whole song is acapella, the crowd totally absorbed, Gary sings (twice in one night must be a record), Chappo’s vocals fading to nothing then “SHADOW ON THE WALL”, Geoff rolls round the kit and it’s all over.
This crowd are not going to let the band leave with just one encore, and after much stamping and yelling the band return with ’18 Wheels And A Crowbar’, the beat gets heavy, Roger’s vocal is little more than an undisguised growl. This is another killer number. Everywhere you look people are moving, around three sides of the stage, up in the gallery, even Denzil sitting on his box was smiling. Again Chappo drops the tempo before coming back in with “devilsonthedashboardlookingbackatmenow!” like a machine gun on rapid fire. “BR-45, you should check em’ out, great band, serious stuff” implores Roger before Steve launches the band into ‘Jesus And The Devil’. This is the ideal closing number for a great gig, Steve fiddling away, Geoff and Gary playing simple lines and Roger delivering his sermon to the converted.
Not wishing to leave the stage and ignoring the shouts for ‘How How How’, Roger has a quick word with Steve who changes to electric guitar and picks out the opening bars of ‘Bye Bye Love’. This may seem to be a strange choice of song for a German audience, but when Steve takes the vocal on the second verse the crowd are silent, hanging on Steve’s every word. Finally, Geoff kicks the song up a gear, Steve plays some excellent slide, Roger turns in his best vocal of the night and it’s all over.
So, that was Hamburg; the crowd were wild, exuberant and very receptive to the new style of music. Chappo, no doubt pleased to get away to a flier on the first gig of the tour engaged the crowd in some good-natured banter. Ted and myself, well we had some fine beer, some sausages and Roger gave us a bottle of wine to enjoy in the camper – does it get any better? Oh, and Sonny was right, the sound was excellent wherever you stood. On to Isernhagen.
Isernhagen, Blues Garage 25.04.01
Isernhagen, situated to the north of Hannover is one of those one-horse towns that we all know and love, unfortunately at the present time they have a vacancy for a horse, this place has to be seen to be believed. The club was on the outskirts of the town, situated in an industrial estate and didn’t look promising, just a small door with ‘Blues Garage’ painted on the wall. After manoeuvring the van to within the customary four paces of the entrance, we took a quick look inside. The place was a revelation; it was quite spacious with a standing area downstairs and an upstairs gallery – complete with pool tables, pinball machines and bar. There was a small stage in the corner, complete with life-size mannequins of the Blues Brothers on the left, and a motorbike in front of the stage. The most amusing feature being a three-piece suite in the corner, complete with footstools, table lamps and a reserved notice. A guy called Hans introduced himself and asked if we were with the band, as Ted was doing the merchandising and I was giving Denzil a hand with the gear, we could honestly answer ‘yes’, he offered us a drink and brought out a plate of sandwiches, I was warming to Isernhagen. Which was more than could be said for Denzil, his response at seeing the size of the stage is not printable on a family website, but it didn’t take long to get the gear together and after a long and difficult soundcheck the band were satisfied and left Denzil to tidy up. As the band were staying in Hamburg that night (there were no hotels available in Isernhagen) they were left to sit in the dressing room or stretch out on the three piece suite for a couple hours. I had a chat with Hans and Henry (the manager of the club) and they told me that this was the biggest gig they had put on and were expecting about 450/500 people. In fact some 550 people turned up and when the band, impatient at sitting around all afternoon pushed their way through to the stage at about 8.30 the place was comfortably full.
SET: Do I Leave A Stone Unturned?, Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Prisoner, Moth To A Flame, Oh Brother, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, ‘X’-Town.
ENCORE: No Mules Fool, Shank/18.104.22.168/Toenail Draggin’, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, Jesus And The Devil.
Perhaps sitting around at the venue all afternoon with all it’s frustrations had sharpened the appetite for the gig, but after making their way through the crowd and onto the stage the band open with ‘Stone’, continuing with ‘Kokomo’ and ‘Kiss My Soul’, Roger was in excellent voice from the word go and seemed to be enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere of the ‘Blues Garage’ and it was obvious that the guys were going to play a more relaxed set. This was evident on ‘Downbound Train’, which featured excellent fiddle work from Steve, how can this guy play the same number night after night yet never repeat the solo? For tonight’s solo Steve bounced the bow on the strings and instantly drew it forward before adding lightning fast mini-solos into the gaps left by Roger. At the end of the number Roger let the band drop the tempo to almost nothing whilst following Andy Hamilton’s sax and then leaving Twiggy to close with his sound effects.
There was a good version of ‘Prisoner’ (this number does need some heavy guitar and suffers as a consequence) and a better version of ‘Moth To A Flame’. The crowd really warm to ‘Oh Brother’, maybe it’s the unusual tempo or perhaps there are a lot of Leadbelly fans in Isernhagen, anyway it gets the biggest cheer so far. Following with ‘Weavers Answer’ was a wise choice as it also got a huge cheer, and so it should. Geoff Dunn drove the band relentlessly, really thumping those drums, drawing riff/solo/riff out of Ian Gibbons whilst Andy complemented the whole number with sax fills at every opportunity. Again Roger was excellent rising to the challenge of the rhythm section, turning in a performance that was vocally and lyrically perfect. “Almost older than Leadbelly that one” remarked Roger as he wiped away the sweat as the crowd cheered wildly. They closed the set with ‘Habits’ and ‘X-Town’, both were solid versions and the band left the stage to great applause.
After a short while they reappeared for the encore and no doubt not wanting to keep pushing back and forth through the crowd they played four numbers; ‘No Mules Fool’, ‘Shank/Toenail Draggin’, ’18 Wheels And A Crowbar’ and ‘Jesus And The Devil’. During ‘Shank’ Roger attempted ‘22.214.171.124’, despite being in the wrong key and tempo. This soon fell apart and Roger fell back onto ‘Toenail Draggin’, with only handclaps for accompaniment. ’18 Wheels’ was taken at a leisurely pace and Steve turned in two solos that were a lesson in control, i.e. power without volume, whilst Roger revelled in the laid-back approach and added an extra passage of vocals at the end of the number. ‘Jesus And The Devil’ turned into one big sing-along with Roger inviting the ‘Blues Brothers’ to join in, they didn’t but the crowd did.
So that was Isernhagen, what initially looked like being a difficult gig turned out to be a real gem with a large appreciative crowd warming to the new Short(er)list. Long after the band, gear and crowd had gone Ted and myself sat on the now unreserved three-piece suite with Hans discussing the gig, he thought it was excellent and wanted the band back as soon as possible. Ted remarked that a guy had come up to him on the merchandising stall and told him that “this was the worst Chappo gig he had ever been to, but could he have two CD’s and a t-shirt please”. I’ll never understand those Germans. So it’s a big thank you for a really great night to Hans, Henry and all the staff at the Blues Garage and best wishes for the future. If any of you readers out there in webland are anywhere near Isernhagen, drop into the Blues Garage, you won’t be disappointed.
Rheinberg, Stadthalle 27.04.01
With the 26th being a day off I decided to forsake the delights of the camper van and visit some friends in Holland. So after spending an enjoyable evening in Melick with Joss and Agnes Jentjens it was time to get back on the road and over the border into Germany. Thankfully it was not a long drive to Rheinberg and upon arrival the venue was easily located. Rheinberg was a really nice town, lots of traditional German architecture, although the Stadthalle looked to be a reasonably new building. We caught the tail end of the soundcheck and after meeting up with Jorg from Whitten we headed for the nearest bar.
SET: Riot On The Western Front, Do I Leave A Stone Unturned?, Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Prisoner, Moth To A Flame, Oh Brother, Habits Of A Lifetime, Weavers Answer, ‘X’-Town.
ENCORE 1: Burlesque, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, Shortlist.
ENCORE 2: No Mules Fool, Shank/Toenail Draggin’, Jesus And The Devil.
There was a brief introduction from the promoter and then the band was on-stage and raring to go. They fairly ripped through the first three numbers without pausing for breath. “Where’s the nice little lady”? “How should I know – where’s yours?” being Chappo’s only banter with an already enthusiastic crowd. If the individual members of the band had perhaps stolen some of the limelight (musically) from Chappo on the previous gigs, they were not going to get a chance to do it tonight. The man was brimful of energy and intent on a great vocal performance on all the songs, he was taking no prisoners tonight. ‘Kiss My Soul’ was fabulous with Roger turning in a mesmerising vocal performance, using Ian’s keyboards as the perfect foil, never once letting a vocal opportunity pass him by, but more importantly putting in a killer vocal on every line.
It was to continue for ‘Downbound Train’, Steve on one shoulder, Andy on the other, solo opportunity’s tossed to both members. I swear that I saw sparks coming from Steve’s bow as Chappo let Steve extended the solo way beyond the norm. If Steve’s fiddle playing was supposed to portray the devil then Chappo was determined to drive him away as he lurched around the stage, beating the cowbell like a man possessed, shards of drumstick flying in all directions. Both men were so engrossed in drawing more and more power from the number that they struggled for an ending and it was left to the ever-dependable Geoff Dunn to bring them back to the centre. The number finally ended to wild applause.
If ‘Prisoner’ had suffered at the previous gig from the relaxed atmosphere then tonight was the complete opposite. Steve was chopping away at the riff, the crowd bellowing the response line back to Chappo, “ball and chain”, “faded grey”, “very plain”, “day by day”, “please refer”, “prisoner”, “call return”. On a night like this they just couldn’t fail. “Chappo for president” came the cry from the audience, “What me and George Bush – we’d get on like a house on fire” was the man’s response. ‘Moth To A Flame’ was dense and deadly with Andy’s sax cutting through at every opportunity. ‘Oh Brother’ was inspired but ‘Habits’ and ‘Weavers Answer’ were better. The former featuring Geoff Dunn playing two separate rhythms in the reprise, one keeping time on the bass drum, the other a subtle mixture of high-hat and cymbal. The latter dominated by Ian’s keyboards and Chappo’s vocal delivery – absolutely perfect. Then without a break to acknowledge the generous applause Geoff kicks into ‘X’-Town’ and after another great version Chappo stands stage front, bathed in sweat, towel over his shoulder, he makes a sweeping gesture to thank the Shortlist and with a brief wave and a smile it’s over.
It wasn’t long before the band were back on stage and they initially encored with ‘Burlesque’, another solid version. Then ’18 Wheels’ (a number which is perfectly suited to Chappo’s vocal attack) which segued into ‘Shortlist’ witch was smattered with ad-libbed lines and solos, then a reprise of ’18 Wheels’ – a master stroke. The good people of Rheinberg were not going to let the band get away that easily and after much yelling and foot stomping the band came out and further encored with ‘No Mules Fool’, ‘Shank’ and ‘Jesus And The Devil’. Tonight ‘Shank’ was ragged and fell apart – Chappo stopped it before it stopped itself, he just smiled, turned to Steve and said, “Get the fiddle”, and then we were into ‘J+D’, another fine version, although the ending turned into one of those farcical moments that belong to live music. Having finished the song and after a quite considerable pause Chappo bellowed “Shadow on the wall”, but Steve and Andy didn’t have instruments to hand and Geoff was having a drink. Only Gary and Ian could provide any kind of accompaniment, it sounded awful, Chappo yelled “disaster” and exited stage left.
Rheinberg was a typical German Chappo gig. Friday night in a provincial town and some 850/900 people came out to play. It was a big venue, big stage, big PA. The band gave it their all and nobody (as far as I could tell) was disappointed. I spoke with Roger the next day and remarked at how well the gig had gone. He replied that he thought he wasn’t reaching the audience. On that point Ted and myself must disagree.
Aschaffenburg, Colos-Saal 28.04.01
Now I have to admit that I have a certain fondness for the Colos-Saal and it is the first date I look for on any Chappo tour schedule. This goes back over a number of years and stems from an exceptional night when Sheffield Billy and myself, aided and abetted as always by Ray Smart and Todd decided to drink for England. My memories of that night are still quite hazy, but I seem to remember that it ended with Billy consuming a plate of raw meat sandwiches and regretting it the next morning. But, onto more serious matters. Aschaffenburg is approx 40 minutes by rail from Frankfurt, which makes it an excellent place to either start or finish a tour – if you are flying from Frankfurt that is, and if anybody is thinking of making a trip to Germany then this is the gig you should choose. The venue itself is similar to the Robin 2, and is situated in the old part of the town. The people are great, the beer is better and it’s always a 650+ sell-out.
SET: Cat Called Kokomo, Do I Leave A Stone Unturned?, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Prisoner, Moth To A Flame, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, Oh Brother, ‘X’-Town.
ENCORE 1: Burlesque, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar.
ENCORE 2: No Mules Fool.
ENCORE 3: Shank/How How How/Shortlist, Jesus And The Devil.
Due to the fact that the Colos-Saal has a disco after the live band, this gig started early at 9.15 with the band opening with ‘Cat Called Kokomo’. Roger appeared to wait in the wings for an unusually long time before coming on stage, I can only put this down to the fact that he was waiting for the band to get into a groove, when he did make his entrance the vocal was measured and powerful. This groove continued for ‘A Stone Unturned’ and ‘Kiss My Soul’. “Looking forward to getting to a city and when you get here it’s f****** closed” observed Chappo; still he did have time to do some shopping.
Geoff and Ian open ‘Downbound Train’, there is just a hint of sax from Andy Hamilton and brief bursts of notes from Steve as he warms up the wild blue thing. Geoff quickens the beat, but Roger comes in too early with the vocal, Ian senses the change and drops the volume and leaves Steve to cover with the fiddle until he can guide Roger back to the correct vocal line. Roger atones for the earlier mistake with an impassioned vocal and several ad-libbed lines. Twiggy ends the song with his sound effects.
There are several songs in Chappo’s repertoire that will forever be associated with Germany, and ‘Prisoner’ is one of those numbers. There is an extended drum and bass intro whilst Steve sorts out some technical problems. With these problems sorted out, the band turn in a fine version and then move onto ‘Moth To A Flame’, Steve plays a solo that has ’79 stamped all over it. Again it is Ian’s keyboards that dominate ‘Weavers Answer’ although it is pretty much a bog standard rendition.
It’s hard to tell whether Roger was enjoying this gig or not, his vocal, whilst being excellent throughout was not in the style to which we have become accustomed, there was feeling and passion in abundance but the whole show seemed to have a low-key air about it. He did turn in a fine version of ‘Habits’ although I think this was drawn out of him by some fine slide playing from Steve. Still 649 cheering Germans and one English guy can’t be wrong – can they?
Roger interrupts the opening passages of ‘Oh Brother’ to rebuke a talker in the crowd, “Is the excitement too much for you, are you gonna shut the f**** up? Even I can hear you”. The song itself starts well enough with an acoustic solo from Steve, but it becomes ragged and is retrieved by Geoff and Gary playing a riff that seems to be ‘Magic Bus’. Andy Hamilton plays his best snake charming music before Roger cuts back in with the vocal and the number rather than finishing seems to end by mutual consent. Untidy but totally absorbing.
This surprisingly short set ends with ‘X’-Town, driven by the relentless rhythm section Roger finally gets into gear, call and response with Steve who is trading solos with Andy Hamilton, one last roar from Chappo and sixty-six minutes after they started it’s all over.
They encored with ‘Burlesque’ and ‘Crowbar’, during which Roger manages to mix up the first line, he glares at nobody in particular and resolves to do better. Then he’s focussed and it comes good, the whole band change up a gear and drive the song to the finish line. With a “thank you very much and goodnight”, Chappo points to the dressing room. A couple of minutes later the band are back on stage and begin the riff to ‘No Mules Fool’, there’s no sign of Chappo, Steve plays some acoustic, Ian puts in some keyboards, still no sign of Chappo, the band members look at each other, then he’s back, complete with a change of shirt. The song itself is easy paced and undemanding – again it is complemented by some exceptional sax playing. “Thank you very much and goodnight”, Chappo heads off stage right, he has a brief word with Ian Gibbons who points at his watch, Chappo turns round and returns to the front of the stage and ‘Shank’ is up and running, tonight it segues into ‘How How How’, but despite Steve playing the best ‘How How’ riff ever (it’s neither rhythm nor solo) the number fizzles out after two verses and it’s left to Ian to rescue it again. ‘Shortlist’ is a real crowd sing-along and ‘J+D’ brings this strange set to a close.
What conclusions can be drawn from this hot night in Aschaffenburg, well the gig was musically excellent, although it did suffer from the unusually short running order, which led to too many unnecessary encores using numbers that should have been in the main set. Maybe Roger lost track of the time, perhaps something else had needled him, who knows, who cares – not the 650 fans who had an excellent Saturday night out that’s for sure. The only disappointment being the fact that the band spent the best part of an hour at the soundcheck running through ‘Big River’ – complete with a freshly riffburgled riff that owed more to Johnny Kidd than Johnny Cash, and ‘Chicken Fingers’ with a sparse arrangement that provided a platform for solo’s for everybody. I was really looking forward to hearing this at the gig. No doubt it was played at a future gig - such is life.
The new Short(er)list – does it have a future?
What of the musical change of direction for the new Short(er)list. Personally I welcome it, whilst I do have a fondness for the days of the twin guitar, three-hour, full European show. I accept that there must be change; it’s the whole musical philosophy behind the band. Members come and go, producers come and go, so why shouldn’t musical styles come and go? Looking at the contributions of the individual band members, the musical axis of the band has switched from verse/solo/verse/solo of the twin guitar era, to the solid and dependable keyboard work of Ian Gibbons; it is he who anchors most of the songs. This leaves Steve Simpson with the freedom to adapt age old riffs (both Chappo and others) into vibrant passages of rhythm, it is not uncommon to be three or four songs into the set and still waiting for a solo from Steve. It’s not laziness or lack of direction, it’s because a guitar solo is not needed in every song. What of the rhythm section? Geoff Dunn is a drummer par excellence, those misguided individuals who have said his playing is ‘boring’ wouldn’t know a good drummer if he came up and bit their collective arses, the guy is amazing, rolling around the kit, ending not with a straight crash on the cymbal, but a deft tap on the cowbell. Combine that with the bass playing of Gary Twigg, a guy who is all intricate lines and studied concentration and you have a rhythm section that only breathes in. Sax players come (matinee permitting) and sax players go and in Andy Hamilton we have another gem. Don’t forget this guy learnt the show from a tape, had no rehearsal and soloed like an established Shortlister within the first number on his first gig. That’s quality. Finally what of ‘His Masters Voice’, well I believe that the reduction in tempo and the light and shade on stage are what Roger has been desirous of for quite some time. You can’t be ‘king of the shouters’ for ever, there comes a time when you have to accept that you cannot compete with two guitar players, because be under no illusions that was the situation Roger found himself in. Perhaps he should take it a step further and undertake a series of really low-key gigs in the back rooms of pubs, with just himself, Steve Simpson and whoever is available and really raid that back catalogue. It certainly would not be a retrograde step, just a logical progression for the Short(er)list.
Finally thanks must go the following for a most enjoyable few days.
Roger and the band – thanks for the music and the hospitality.
Bernie (tour manager)
Ted ‘the hat’ Schampera – for the accommodation and humour. See you on the winter tour.
Denzil Daniels (hard working roadie and all-round good guy), perhaps one day you will understand this madness, although I think not!
All the out-front sound men for the great sound every night.
Simon Bell / May 2001