I missed Count Indigo because I had to change gear after work, but got there in time for Lorraine, whose songs are exquisitely crafted and funny in equal measure. I particularly like the skiing song that features members of the audience holding up a revolving backdrop made of sheets that was just slightly too small for comfort, which I'm almost sure was deliberate. And we had the Apple Crumble song that so taxed Simon Cowell. Lorraine was sparkly and very much clad in polyester, and was sung along with by the audience with great gusto.
MC for the night was Lenny Beige, also sparkly and with his side-parted unfeasibly black wig.
Excitedly, he introduced us to Mike's band, and finally Mike himself, wearing a suit and tie in Cadbury's Milk Tray colours and a giant sized Playmobil wig, stiff and unwielding and a very odd shade of porridge. This was the revenge of the nerds, a world of fixed smiles to compete with those of synchronised swimmers.
The audience was cool too: lots of nattily dressed chaps in titfers and accompanying ladies in slightly rockabillyish garb. I spotted Duggie Fields in the gloaming, too, but nobody had their nose in the air- it was an exceptionally friendly crowd.
At Aalborg we'd been saying 'Who would ever dare to do a cover of Say a Little Prayer'?' Well: Mike Flowers did, and Do You Know the Way to San José, during which one of the guitar strings had to be deftly twirled into tune, in time. 'Kurt Cobain often trashed that kind of guitar,' observed Mike, drily.
I would not like to be a guitar on the wrong side of Mike Flowers.
A David Bowie medley followed: Ashes to Ashes, Rebel Rebel and even Let's Spend the Night Together all morphed into each other, with not an insincere tear shed for their source. The cover of All Tomorrow's Parties was the primmest I've ever heard, probably best appreciated on a stereogram in a semi in Neasden. And of course Light My Fire was always an easy listening song, and listened even more easily with Mike's immaculately slick arrangements and the tight and yet swingsome playing of the wonderful band. Everyone was great, and I was particularly taken by the Carmen-Roller-tunnels hairstyle of one of the women singers.
So we came to Candy Man. Aww..... By this time I was dancing like a loon. It must be five years since I've danced, and it was so great to dance with abandon, without care: arms, legs, head, bum, feet, all over the place just like everyone else. By the time we got to Candy Man, the whole experience had become oddly moving. No-one had any inhibitions left; yet this is innocent fun, despite the sophistication of the music.
'That was a feel good song', said Mike, 'And this is a feel even better song!'.
Beautiful Balloon! Arms aloft we all floated up into the sky like the Nimble balloon, into a nostalgic neverland while the Christmas decorations twinkled and the warmth of the venue charmed us into a world without cares and horror just for a tiny fragment of time.
What an amazing evening- such a nice surprise to be so charmed by cheese, and so lovely to listen to Karina play is such a gorgeously lush context.
Photos: Lorraine Bowen; Jono from work who was taking photos and who has been engineering my album; compere Lenny Beige; Mike Flowers; last but not least, the brass section.