Shere The Prince of Wales (near Guildford)
4 November 1999
1st Set:
2nd Set:
BEETHOVEN (a classical medley)
COME SAIL AWAY (a Styx track)

John singing at this show

Having never driven around this area to the South of Guildford before we, needless to say, drove around for ages lost before eventually finding the pub. It’s not that the town was Shere was hard to find – just that Tracy thought better of telling me that I’d driven past the correct road until after I’d driven round in a circle. 

We finally arrived at pub at 9:15 as John was part way through the usual set (and Demo album - available at gigs and from the website), ALL GROWN UP. Those of you who have Max Bacon's solo album, "The Higher You Climb" will certainly recognise both this attention-grabbing opener and the following track (if I'm correct in assuming it to be called "Hold Him Closer" on that album). I don't as I've never heard the CD - and it's deleted now according to the record company site.  You'll just have to buy the original versions from John! 

There’s live Rugby on the pub telly in the background and before the next track John offers to back the Rugby match – with some Sports music he’s currently composing for TV. There is an agreeable reaction from the audience, though most of them are more interested in the match than the music. Instead, however, John launches into CLOSER, another Max used on his CD. 

LIFE UNDERGROUND is introduced by John as he’s “not sure if this track is the one that’s going on the Kosovo album – it might be another one.” Unfortunately, I forgot to ask him afterwards which other track was in the running for the album. During the track John made a few minor mistakes for which he apologises after the song. His mind is obviously elsewhere at times. 

WHEN I WAS YOUNG is played to "Just to lighten the load a little" after the last track. This is a third track from the aforementioned Max Bacon CD I believe. 
In a post announcement John explains that two bad things happened to him in the previous few day; the rather dodgy show he did whilst suffering from food poisoning; and that he’s missing his faithful hound, Paddy, who was killed the previous Sunday. 

After this sad announcement began a song about something in which you either believe or disbelieve: PALMISTRY. This sad loss explains the mistakes earlier in the set and John seems slightly distracted during this number also - thinking of Paddy as he sang. 

IVORY TOWER begins with the tinkly 'musical box' intro, which always annoys me at these live shows.  It seems just a little too shrill for my ears.  On the CD it's fine and down in the mix compared to the vocals.  Live, however, it's in your face (or ears) and louder than the vocals - a little on the distracting side for these cloth ears. This is compensated for by the fact that it's a lovely song and probably the longest of the first set.  NOTHING AT ALL brings the first set to a close 

Between sets Tracy and I had a chat to John about the terrible weekends we'd both had - both of which involved dogs in car accidents.  A scary coincidence. 

A little about John's show before going any further is called for, I think.  John, as he says during most shows, would love to tour as a band - but can't afford to.  As you may have realised from some of the comments above he does play along to a backing track - direct from the CD I think. Over the top of this he plays lead keyboards and sings in a very pleasing tone. The backing used to come from his trusty Mac - until it gave up the ghost sometime between the Whitchurch festival and the Toad and Stumps show. Since then he's started using a portable minidisc (MD) player for the backing track so the sampling rate may be the reason for the 'musical box' sound mentioned above. 

Before the second set John initially chooses the wrong track on his MD player. After this little slip he takes no chances with a more major problem by tying his shoelace “before I fall over”. Had that happened I'm sure he would have had the full attention of the Rugby crowd. He then launch into what has become the normal second set opener of BEETHOVEN, the CLASSICAL MEDLEY in which the audience is asked to spot the references.  I won't spoil the surprise for those of you who have yet to see John in action, but the last of four tracks is very brief! 
The first cover of the evening is next, ON THE LOOSE. It's a SAGA track - one of John's favourites as a youth. Last week we went to see SAGA live in London and this was the only track of theirs which I really knew (through John's version I should add). Though I enjoyed their show I was disappointed that their version of this number seemed weaker than that which John performs. This song certainly keeps the pace and volume up after the medley. 

Time for the epic of the set next, CHILDHOOD’S END.  This track was the standout of the show the first time I saw John perform (at the Whitchurch Festival) and I'm not sure why it's not on the Demo CD.  It is certainly much more proggy that the other material on that disc and one heck of a good track.
The next medley of tunes is introduced as a bit of plagiarism and that we should “Sing alonga Johnie” as we may know it!     The initial prog inspired instrumental is called YES (and is based around keyboard runs by that band) and the sing-along track that followed is from another 70's band, Genesis:  I KNOW WHAT I LIKE. The voice is still a little fragile during the latter track so the following instrumental, a new track, OPEN SKIES, is well placed to rest the vocal chords.

Introduced as “This is especially for my dead dog” John begins LOVE IS BLIND and the last orders bell is rung. A final toll of for Paddy perhaps?  John’s voice is not quite it’s normal self yet – and he has a touch of a croak during this number, though I’m sure that part of it was plain sorrow at the loss of Paddy.  There is a definite croak in the voice at the end of the track.
“I know people don’t associate people like me with Dance music” is how John introduces this upbeat, Hammond swirling, number, SOLAR. Every time I hear this track I seem to be reminded of the latter versions of the Doctor Who theme, something to do with the timestream WOO OOOO OOH section towards the end I guess.

It’s now “that time of the evening!”  Last track time and this time it’s an old STYX track, COME SAIL AWAY, to round out the set.  The voice is a little hoarse by this time – but still stands up well.  And so ended another gig. Not, perhaps, one of his best but then circumstances were not really conducive I guess.

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