This review will be shorter than the others as, looking after the merchandise stall, I spent parts of the set downstairs. We ran out of Qango “Live in the Hood” CD's well before the band came onstage - the Classic Rock Society having snapped up most of them the previous evening. I was led to believe that there were more on the van but, unfortunately, we later found out that was not the case. apologies to all I promise could buy one later - demand outstripped supplies I’m afraid. If you didn’t manage to buy one they are available from both John Young and John Wetton’s websites at the same cost as they were at the show.
As usual, John Young’s brief introductory Fanfare moved rapidly into a double dose of classic Asia tunes, Time Again being counted into by Carl Palmer. Wetton’s voice was far hoarser than the previous evening at Rotherham, the backing vocals of Dave Kilminster and John Young being mixed much more to the fore tonight to compensate. Wetton had no high end to his range, the chorus of Sole Survivor being a real struggle. Despite the obvious vocal problem, musically the band powered through these introductory songs, the audience showing their support of to vocalist with plenty of applause and hollers.
A change of tack for the next number, Carl Palmer telling us that, “I think you’ll know this one” and JY tinkled his way through the introductory passage of the only ELP vocal track (which I’m sure was a blessing for Wetton) of the evening, Bitches Crystal. The intricate mid keyboard section was conterpointed by some alternating heavy pounding from Palmer. Wettons voice was struggling - and fairly low in the mix (though we were standing in front of Dave Kilminster’s amp which tended to drown much of the rest of the music out at times) even this early in the set.
After a quick, “Hello Liverpool”, Carl Palmer added “I, personally, have to say it’s good to be here because a very good friend of mine informed me that I haven’t been here for 26 years” to a quick reply from the audience of “Welcome back”. After the comment being repeated Palmer joked ”That’s a good name for a song, we’ll have to use that” before continuing by introducing Dave Kilminster's Guitar solo. After the initial guitar extravaganza of the opening Asia tracks it made a pleasant change to hear Dave play some gentle acoustic guitar pieces, opening with a touch of Promenade (from Pictures at an Exhibition). I’m sure the gentle piece lasted longer than normal tonight, the usual speed increase not really arriving tonight although, during one of the fast runs, a member of the audience shouted “Oooh” to which Dave just had to smile.
Again, after Wetton returned with an acoustic guitar, there was no improvised dueting as there had been at Liscombe Park. Instead, as the previous night Dave and John launched straight into The Smile Has Left Your Eyes though, with the state of John’s voice, they may have been better playing an instrumental version. The minimalistic version of this Asia track unfortunately showed John’s lack of range tonight, Wetton knowing it judging by the look on his face during the vocals. Carl made a joke of it as he returned to the stage, “John Wetton, John Wetton. The Strepsils (throat pastels) are on the way!” He continued “Here’s another one I’m sure you’ll all know. This one needs no introduction,” which was just as well, as he never did tell the audience that it was All Along the Watchtower. Vocally this number didn’t sound too bad, it having a mostly restrained vocal, with just a couple of the louder “Watchtower’s” showing the strain..
As John Young
held the last chord which led into the first of Battle Lines
the crowd gave a loud round of applause in support of the struggling
Wetton. They obviously realised the situation was out of everyone's
control and were out to enjoy the show as much as they could. This
was in marked contrast to a certain element of the Rotherham crowd
the previous evening. The voice held up OK during this number, though
Kilminster and Young were again high in the mix during the harmony
for John Wetton, the other John having Carl introduce his solo, Paddydog,
with “All the way f a countdown from Carl Palmer which launched the
set proper with "from Liverpool, your friend and mine, John Young
on keys.” Carl went on to ask the soundman to “turn him up, they can’t
hear him” in reference (I assume) to JY’s vocal mic not being audible.
He also added that they would do “Ace of Spades (a Motorhead song)
later!” JY’s mic was now audible and he added that it was almost as
long ago that he’d played Liverpool, before adding that if he’d been
in ELP they “would have had to call the band YELP!” to laughs from
the audience. Hilarity over he announced that “it was good to see
so many familiar faces” and that he was going to do a little
tune which “is just some bits and pieces thrown together” adding about
the audience participation section, prompting that “the Japanese are
very good at it so I hope you will be too” before dedicating the solo
to “brother Tom ... and all the old crowd” as well as “anyone who
remembers Englands National Sport (one of John’s early bands” and
Export for those who remember Lou, “and Philip Duffy ... who taught
me everything”. I’m sure the solo was extended tonight, both as it
was John’s ‘home town’ gig and to aid Wetton’s voice. Certainly the
reaction from the audience was positive, quiet during the early section,
clapping appreciatively as the ‘Jaws’ section picked up the pace and
settling down again for the ‘Beethoven’ section.
Young returned to Asia for the next track, Only Time Will Tell. Unfortunately, an early attempt at the normal Wetton rang failed and he reverted to a lower register, which again showed the strain on the vocal chords. This was once again eased towards the end with more harmony vocals.
John Young introduced the following instrumental with “You might know this one”. At least the raucous version of Hoedown gave the other John’s voice a well deserved break for five minutes or so, the jousting solos of Young and Kilminster holding the audience spellbound. At the juddering end of the track the applause erupted from the audience, in awe of the musicianship on show.
A shout of appreciation from the crowd confused Wetton as he was about to introduce the next song, “This is an old one and a new one, It’s called
Last One Home.“ A simple guitar introduction, backed by a few drum rolls soon built into a moody track. As the vocals began I had the biggest surprise of the tour - and at the right gig, it being John’s home town - John young took over lead vocals for this number! I’m sure, along with myself, the Wooff party, John’s brother Tom, and others were especially pleased to witness this show for this track in particular. I was chuffed to bits for John as I watched from the balcony. Wetton avoided the vocals completely during this track, Dave alone joining in on the harmonies. (John admitted later that he was nervous about singing this version, sections of the vocals differing from his solo version as featured on Life Underground.) Apart from the vocal surprise, musically this was possibly the highlight of the set, the track building slowly from a quiet, contemplative start, to a searing rocking mid section tat featured some superb guitar playing from Dave. Again, the applause rose as the last wave soaked into the sand of the audience.
“And now for something completely different. Yes, a man with three buttocks” was the rather odd way in which John Wetton introduced Fanfare for the Common Man. Unsurprisingly, Carl battered out the introduction to before Young’s keyboards made it obvious to the audience that those three buttocks must have been called, Emerson, Lake and Palmer! After the expected guitar/keyboard duel Carl Palmer had his chance to impress the Liverpool audience for the first time in this half of his life with his famous drum solo! A shout went up from the audience during the solo: “you’re still the man, Carl” to which solo Carl blew the audience a kiss. Carl must have been in a good mood as, for the first time this tour, the tambourine made a return to the solo, the crowd lapping the spectacle up, cheering along to the beat. Just time for the other three to make a brief reappearance for a quick reprise of Fanfare ... before bowing and leaving the stage as the audience bayed for more.
More they got too, as Carl and John Young returned first to the stage and Carl jokes, “I’ll do a song for you”. However, as the other pair appeared he quickly added, “You’ve been spared”. As the others readied themselves for the encore Carl had a quick slurp from his water bottle, a fact not unnoticed by Mr. Kilminster, who made a loud slurping noise to accompany the act, much to Carl’s surprise! Just as he composed himself Dave powered into Heat of the Moment. Wetton really went for this final track, the voice actually sounding OK for most of it. During the mid section of the track, Carl stopped drumming, stood up, and began bashing his sticks together, as the track moved almost towards a reggae version. A very interesting end to a rather different Qango show!
And that was it. No chance of a second encore tonight with Wetton’s voice in that state so it was no surprise when the lights began to brighten soon after the guys left the stage, Wetton having parted with, “Thank you very much, be good to each other, goodbye”
Musically, the show had been a success, that audience obviously understanding that a cold is a cold and if you are the vocalist you are well and truly stuffed in such a situation. They stayed attentive throughout the show, giving appreciative applause between the early tracks, increasing the intensity as the show progressed. I’m sure that some would have left a bit disappointed, but most folk will have hopefully taken the show for what it was, a band firing of 4 of it’s five cylinders. They had certainly witnessed the most interesting show of the tour, if not the most vocally perfect.