Bush Hall, London 2018
Bush Hall, London 2018
Stewart / Gaskin live in the UK 2018
Barbara Gaskin (vocals / perc), Dave Stewart (keyboards),
Beren Matthews (guitar / vocals), Gavin Harrison (drums)
Live mix by Ted Hayton
Bush Hall, London
Friday 24th August 2018
1. Wings On Our Shoes
2. The Emperor's New Guitar
3. Heavy Heart
4. Ride the High Atlantic Wind
5. Levi Stubbs' Tears
6. The Arms of Miklosko
- intermission -
7. Let Me Sleep Tonight
8. Summer in the City
9. I'm in a Different World
10. The Cloths of Heaven
11. Afraid of Clowns
12. Walking the Dog
- encore -
13. Shakin' All Over
Bush Hall, London (photo by Andrew Ward)
Dave & Barbara play a rare one-off UK gig to celebrate the release of their new album Star Clocks, enlisting Beren Matthews on guitar and longstanding colleague Gavin Harrison on drums for a one-off show. Many audience members travelled from overseas to see the concert, some from as far as Australia and the USA. A packed hall gave the band an uproarious welcome and applauded every note to the echo, prompting Dave to say afterwards it was the best London audience he'd ever played to.
Review by David Ashcraft
It had been nine years since the last live performance (in Tokyo) from Dave and Barb, so it’s fair to say that this was an eagerly-anticipated event. The queue for Bush Hall ran around the corner and down the block, so it was clear that there were plenty of people that wanted to hear them play live again. When it started raining strangers huddled together under shared umbrellas, getting to know each other as the line snaked forward.
Once inside they found Bush Hall (located in London’s Shepherd’s Bush neighbourhood) to be an elegant and historic venue with ornate vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The stage setup had Dave’s array of four keyboards at the right side, and Gavin’s large drum kit at the left. Having a live drummer was a rare luxury for a Dave and Barbara gig, and Gavin Harrison was the perfect person for the job after drumming on every CD since 1991’s release Spin. He has been touring extensively with King Crimson, and his credits also include Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief. For this gig his drums were positioned behind a plexiglass baffle to ensure that
his powerful drumming didn’t overwhelm the rest of the band. The newest member of the ensemble was 31 year-old Beren Matthews of Cornwall who was featured on Fender Stratocaster and excellent backing vocals. Dave had heard Beren’s band Grip-Like Vice and was impressed with his abilities, so he was invited to play on the upcoming album Star Clocks and the subsequent gigs in London and Tokyo.
The hall was full with faithful fans, and everyone burst into loud and sustained applause for the band as soon as they appeared (and before they even played a note of music). Dave and Barbara appeared to be genuinely touched by this wonderful display of appreciation, and it set the tone for what was a very special night of music.
Dave started by pointing out that it had been 22 years since they had played a show in their native England, and he thanked the audience for coming to the show. The first set featured four songs from their soon-to-released new CD Star Clocks. First up was the opener ‘Wings On Our Shoes’ which Dave introduced as a sequel to ‘Henry and James’ after they go interstellar. Dave wove in melodies from the original song in his solos to tie the two together. The band sounded great thanks to long-time sound man Ted Hayton, and the audience responded extremely enthusiastically to the new material even though none were familiar with it. Next up was ‘The Emperor’s New Guitar’ that dated back to the early Broken Records singles days. It was played in a high-energy version and featured a strong guitar solo from Beren who made his presence known.
Quite often the highlights of Stewart/Gaskin concerts are the quieter songs that showcase Barbara’s silky, angelic vocals. The new song ‘Heavy Heart’ was a sensitive ballad that provided an excellent change of pace and a chance to fully appreciate Barbara’s beautiful voice supported by Dave’s lovely chord sequences. The energy level ramped up again for another of Dave’s new songs, ‘Ride the High Atlantic Wind’. It featured very effective dynamics from quiet passages to the full band in overdrive. It was also the point in the show where the sound mix went from very good to great with Barbara’s vocals soaring above the rest of the band.
Dave explained that the next song was a request from a fan, and they launched into Billy Bragg’s tune ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ complete with a Motown quote from Levi’s band, the Four Tops. The closing track from the first set was another song from the new CD - first performed live in 2009, it’s about the Czech goalkeeper from the ‘90s Ludek Miklosko. Dave described it as somewhat unique as it’s a football song written from the perspective of the ball. It was another strong performance from all, and a gratifying conclusion to an excellent first set.
At one point during the show Dave pointed out that many fans had travelled significant distances to attend the show including fans from Scandinavia, Germany and America among other destinations. He expressed the appreciation that he and Barbara have for these loyal fans that made extra special efforts to be able to make it to the concert. In return the fans showed their appreciation with rousing applause after every song.
After a break the band eased into the second set with the gorgeous ballad ‘Let Me Sleep Tonight’ from the Green and Blue CD. Barbara’s voice was in great form, and all night long she was able to recreate the vocals from the albums with uncanny accuracy and perfect pitch.
The new album had promised a cover version of an iconic '60s song, and many were quite interested to learn the identity of their latest creative cover. It turned out to be their own groove-oriented take on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 hit, ‘Summer in the City’. Naturally Dave had completely rearranged it into a more rhythmic version that had heads bopping in time to the beat. If radio stations give this one a chance it could definitely be another hit.
The next song was another request, and Dave dedicated it to Raymond and Randi Benson who had featured the tune in their wedding. It was ‘I’m in a Different World’ which dated back to their first album Up From the Dark. The few older songs presented a bit of a challenge to recreate, but it was deftly accomplished with the use of a backing tape that added a layer of Barbara’s vocals. The song also featured a rotating mirrored ball that surrounded the audience with atmospheric, other-worldly lighting effects. Dave mentioned that he had asked his friend from the Egg days, Anthony Vinall, to handle the lighting, but as it turned out his son David wound up handling the lighting duties.
Dave mentioned that a fan named Steve had asked him to sign a pristine copy of an album from one of his former bands, and it struck him that two of the members were no longer with us. He dedicated the next song to absent friends which surely would include the recently departed Phil Miller and Clive Brooks as well as other band mates such as Pip Pyle and Alan Gowen. The song was of course ‘The Cloths of Heaven’, based upon the Yeats poem and delivered with shimmering perfection by Barbara.
The final song of the set was another new tune, and Dave explained that it had a rather dark sound as it was a response to some of the politicians of the day. The song title was ‘Afraid of Clowns’ and it was a flat-out rocker with some doomy-sounding chords. It brought the show to a rousing close and the hall erupted into lengthy and sustained applause.
Without leaving the stage the band launched into their tongue in cheek version of the old R&B tune ‘Walking the Dog’ with Barbara at her most animated. Dave’s playing had been brilliant all night long, and here he gave the keyboard fans a real treat with an extended solo that carried on for multiple choruses. He really dug in on the tune and used the pitch wheel effectively to simulate a guitar solo that was quite appropriate for the song. At the conclusion of the tune Dave thanked the audience again and the band exited the stage to the sound of continuous clapping and cheering.
They were coaxed back for one last tune when the audience refused to stop applauding, and the logical closer was a rave-up version of the ‘60s classic rocker ‘Shakin’ All Over’. Beren had the signature riff down perfectly, and this time around each of the instrumentalists had a chance to solo. Gavin went first with a jaw-dropping display of technical virtuosity. Next was Beren who by now was leaping in the air with a smile on his face. He proved to be an invaluable addition to the band, and he’ll be joining Dave and Barbara in Japan for their series of gigs this fall. Dave brought it all to a conclusion with another inventive synth solo, and before we knew it the concert was over. Once again the crowd clapped and cheered for yet another encore, but the band was out of material so the lights came up and a very special night of music was over.
At one point Dave mentioned his previous bands Egg and Hatfield and the North which earned an appreciative roar from the crowd. But these fans were not only looking backward to Dave’s glorious progressive past, they were there to appreciate an artist who is still actively creating and moving forward. It was clear by hearing the six songs from the new CD that it will be another excellent addition to the Stewart/Gaskin discography. Dave and Barbara were overwhelmed with the level of support that they received from the fans, and in fact Dave forgot to introduce the band at the end of the show! With the strong showing in London and the trio shows upcoming in Japan the obvious question becomes if future gigs in other locales might be feasible. Stay tuned to find out!
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