Expecting a packed house, we got there early. Her Ladyship had a Facebook session and I drifted off into some pre-review musical musings. The 60s are always looked back on as being a wonderful decade for music. Yes, there was some great stuff but there was also a lot of crap, The first 3 years was dominated by Cliff, Elvis and Billy Fury. Plus lots of wannabes of those thereof, and bequiffed naff crooners. The last 3 years had Englebert Humperdink and Des O’Connor and the 4 years in between had The Bachelors! The 70s? Themed weekends are basically glam rock and disco. No recognition of the early 70s rise of rock legends or a seemingly little-known phenomenon, ‘punk’, in the late 70s. And the 80s gets even less attention. Basically summed up as big hair, shoulder pads and quasi-funk new romantic bollox. (Fans of The Smiths are quite reasonably miffed !). This is where The Long Ryders come in. 1987 was a great year. The UK saw the original Wishbone Ash lineup reform and the Waters-less Pink Floyd bring out an lp which put the accent on the music again rather than their previously self-appointed leader’s obsession with the words. And across the pond there were 2 great lps. REM’s user-friendly ‘Document’ saw Stipey stop mumbling and The Long Ryders produced their best record ‘Two Fisted Tales’ . (The former’s ‘The One I Love’ and the latter’s ‘A Stitch In Time’ seemed eerily similar. And Rickenbackers were to the fore from both outfits.) But the similarities end there. REM were soon to sign a mega deal with a major label, followed by world domination but The Long Ryders seemed to just, well, burn out. And they were maybe more well known than REM at the time.
Anyway, back to the gig. Some Green On Red over the P.A. then Hannah Rose Platt warmed us up with a brief but pleasant enough spot. Then it is 9.00pm and Sid and Co come on stage. They have had a few reunions in the new millennium but this time around is different as they have a new(ish) lp to plug. The previous post-millennial gigs from the reformed gang had given us 80 minute ‘best of’ sets but not this time. Starting out with ‘Gunslinger Man (also the opener for ‘Two Fisted Tales) and finishing with the singalong ‘Looking for Lewis and Clark’ we were treated to a master class in Americana. Lots from the recent ‘Psychedelic Contry Soul’ lp but there is no drop in the quality. And the newer stuff is sensibly spread about. Much as we are both big Steve Earle fans, you always get 6 tracks from his latest bloody lp first! I won’t give a blow-by-blow account of the setlist, as I reckon there are people out there who prefer to be surprised. Yes, a few classics had to make way for the newer stuff and maybe ‘Capturing the Flag’ was the most obvious omission but we still got ‘State of my Union’. Is it the best Chuck Berry song not written by Chuck Berry? Possibly, although Bobby Troup’s ‘Route 66’ and Bob Seger’s ‘Get out of Denver’ take some beating. A minor disappointment was drummer Greg Sowders having to sit out the UK leg to do his ‘proper job’. If not for his drumming, but not being able to watch his grinning from ear to ear for the full 80 minutes.
But what a great night. Sid, Stephen and Tom were quickly out to sign anything and everything, and chat freely. It was the first night of the tour, and there was the occasional ‘technical’ hitch. Tom had a rueful smile during one of his songs, can’t imagine Van Morrison carrying on unabashed somehow if it had been him!
£20 a ticket, crowd of maybe 300? A ticket for a Pink Floyd tribute act is twice as much and will attract a few thousand. Words do spring to mind, most of them have four letters. Seriously, bin your tickets for Limehouse Lizzy, The Smyths and The Counterfeit Stones and go and see the real thing. (No, not The Real Thing!)