All comments made in this (and any other) review are mine and mine alone. If you have a problem with any of the comments made about the audience (ie. feel I have done them or you an injustice), music, etc. then contact me - not John. I merely report what happened at the show so you have an idea of the sort of places musicians have to ply their trade. Doug
As usual with John Young gigs, a new town and venue meant late arrival due to driving right past the pub, without noticing it, and searching for 5 to 10 minutes in the wrong area! Ah well, it may not be the London Astoria, but it is live music and an entertaining evening out.
Having negotiated the back roads from Basingstoke to Winchester in an attempt to avoid a large backlog of traffic (which we rejoined at Winchester unfortunately) we arrived just after 9pm as John Young began his set with the usual opening number, ALL GROWN UP. The song was accompanied, unfortunately for those of us there to hear the music, by a rather loudmouthed section of the audience situated in the corner. This rather small pub is a bit of a drop back to reality after the QANGO shows at venues like the Milton Keynes Stables, John’s last gig, and a section of the audience is certainly more hostile. In the corner we have an odd mix of punks, bikers and assorted others, all equally pissed up, who're obviously not in favour of John's musical style. I expect any band would have gained the same disrespect from them – they’re just trying to look big and clever in front of their mates after all. In fact, after the show, John told me he’d been talking to one of the group before his mates joined him and he seemed to have an affinity for the type of music John plays. Strange how people alter when beer and showing off to their mates enters the equation.
John’s trusty 01/Wpro had been repaired after Keith Emerson’s hammering so there were no problems with loaned keyboards this evening. Before the next track, CLOSER, another mellow one from his ‘Life Underground’ CD, John tries to sort a problem he has with his headset microphone. “Either my heads grown or this thing’s shrunk!” It had been digging into his head and slipping down, making it hard to pick up the vocals. One of the corner-based women shouts back, “get a haircut” spookily echoing Carl Palmer’s comment at the Astoria! She didn’t, however, offer to do it for him as Carl had.
With the mic adjusted LIFE UNDERGROUND is introduced with “This is a song about Poland and Kosovo and if anybody has any spare cash they can hand it in as a donation”. Little chance of that from the corner bunch I fear – waste good beer money, I don’t think so! This delicate track is spoilt by that same crowd, this time with animal noises (barking, howling etc.) as, and after, a woman leaves the bar. In some respects I can’t help feeling she made the right decision!
Before the next track
John called on Tracy and I for assistance in figuring out what the
problem was. “I have to do some running repairs here”. As a novice
roadie I’m afraid I was of little use with the problem, merely adjusting
the band so it was a snugger fit.
The brief “This is a slightly
more upbeat number, specially for our friends in the corner” led directly
into WHEN I WAS YOUNG, a boppier number which seemed to quieten
the rowdies down slightly. I’m not sure if it was the boppiness, the
fact it was dedicated to them, or just they’d run out of witty repartee
or vocabulary but it did allow the rest of the audience to enjoy the
music. As soon as the track finished John explained, “I really
am going to have to sort this microphone out, it really is driving
“I’ve decided to
put up with some pain” commented John before introducing “A song for
anyone interested in Palmistry, especially for friends in the corner”,
PALMISTRY (strangely enough). This track is roughly between
the tempo of the previous two tracks and obviously failed to hold
the corner contingent’s attention, who hollered out more comments
throughout the track including a request for “The Ace of Spades”!
They should try that at a Del Amitri concert, they may be surprised
– I was when they played it in Aberdeen!
IVORY TOWER brings the initial set to a close with a mellow, building, track about “love and jealousy”. Subtlety is out the door with the corner crowd now as, part way through the song, one of them shouted to another at the bar, “get me a pint, the c**t’s crap”, at the top of his voice.
With only, “OK, I’ll be back with a bit more of similar things to that one a bit later on”, John completed first set and vacated the stage area to chat to some of the appreciative side of the audience . During this time a local guitarist, Graham (?), entertained us with a couple of covers
The guy’s John talked to are members of tribute band, WORKS II, who had also been to the QANGO show in Southampton. As I overheard them talking about the Keith Emerson/John Young duet at the Astoria I let them see the photo’s I’d taken at the show. One of the guys, Frank Askew, is due to have an ELP book published by Helter Skelter and seemed keen to use one of my Carl Palmer shots in the centre photo section ... and that's nice!
During the first set John had a couple of vocal problems, possibly due to the amount of smoke in the bar, or just lack of use for the last few days. There was more smoke here than at most of the QANGO shows - and they had smoke machines! Also, at least there you had the benefit of it being used for effect rather than to feed an addiction.
The next track was not
a cover, as John explained, “It’s nothing to do with anyone else’s
Childhood’s End, not Marillion’s or Arthur C Clark’s (though there
is a little of that in it)”. It’s the standout piece of the set, a
progressive track charting a child’s last night before becoming an
adult. By this point there was a much more civilised feeling about
the place, the roughies having departed, and John and the audience
could indulge in some light banter between tracks.
“Continuing on in a slightly
more Gabriel vein, this is OPEN SKIES, a new one”. With a crowd
of people who actually have an interest in progressive rock music
John can explain the type of track in this way. Believe me,
it would be wasted on most of the audiences I’ve seen him perform
in front of. Some of the Gabrielesque high notes cause a couple of
problems for the voice, the smoke still building.
“Going back in time now, this a nicked riff. Some of you might recognise it.” led us into another medley, YES flowing into I KNOW WHAT I LIKE - a shout of recognition from one of audience. Last orders is rung as we near the crescendo
“Anyone at the QANGO gig will have heard about 3 versions of this track by now, but this is another one”, LAST ONE HOME. The storm sound introduction was greeted with the loudest cheer of the night, some of the audience being familiar with it. During the introduction John made a slight keyboard cock up, "silly me!” Time was rung part way through the track and the bar staff cleared ashtrays, glasses etc as John rolled through the track - just before the smoke gets to him and coughs. It was obviously affecting his voice and he had to cut out half of the chorus. More loud cheering , and calls for an encore, prompted John to play us a section of an OBLIVIOUS track – “which we might use this for QANGO“. The taster was to “give you an idea of direction”. A minute or so of that and John began the encore proper with SOLAR, a dancy track which would have surprised the group in the corned had they still been around. Unfortunately, as John played the introduction, the bar manager, Mike, has to stop him as it’s six minutes past eleven and Oliver’s has neighbour who obviously complains if the music overruns, so there the set had to end.
A rather mixed show – a first half blighted by hecklers moving into an appreciative second set. I think the right people were impressed and that, after all, is what matters. I guess the cost of playing in free entry pubs is that you have to expect some drunken comments and interruptions from people who are just not interested in what you do. Unfortunate, but that’s the way of world I’m afraid.
Don’t let the review, which focuses on the roudies mainly, put you off coming to John’s next gig – Talking Heads is a much better venue and, as the audience have to pay a couple of pounds to enter, are likely to actually want to listen to the music! If you’ve got this far you must have an interest in John’s style of music so come along and be entertained.
Just the JY/Qango pages: The whole site: