Weeks don't normally start this well. When I got to The Lexington, Paul Handyside (ex-Hurrah) was soundchecking and Taff's son Rupert was hanging out with his girlfriend unpacking the CDs and albums at the merch stall. When I'd done my soundcheck, Little Bruv showed up in his hat-of-all-hats, and there was Geoff Travis, who I hadn't seen for a long, long time. It was very nice to chat to him before the early-doors start, and also to Delia for a while too.
Midway through my set someone's phone rang and the audience halved (joke). It actually wasn't a bad crowd at all for a Monday night post-pandemic. There were assorted Geordies in the audience: nice to see Simon McKay out and about, still missing Fenella Fielding but getting into the music.
Paul Handyside was on fine form, channelling Johnny Cash (and even Frank Sinatra in his more showtunes numbers). He was aided by Rob Tickell on slide guitar, who provided deep and atmospheric flavours to the songs. It was a very powerful set.
By the time TGWTRH took to the stage the room was full. With Lindy Morrison on drums and Mick Porter on bass, they animated the room with their melodic and sometimes quite spooky songs. The vocal arrangements are exquisite, possibly because Taff and Sylvia often perform as a duo, and have worked on using their voices to the maximum effect. They have a unique almost film soundtrack sound, which is at the same time really accessible. Sylvia has a strong voice with a sixties vibe, more Sandie Shaw than Dusty Springfield, and Taff wrings some mean licks out of that Fender Jaguar. It's a stroke of genius to immortalise the Bigg Market in Newcastle: that song triggered not only thoughts of Viz Comic but also a memory of me and my friend Kathleen being chased down the street by a bunch of guys straddling a long pulled-apart cardboard tube like a huge wobbly willy. Oh Newcastle, you disgraceful and wonderful city!
I remember the catchiness of their songs from all those years ago, my first ever out of London gig. They had driven down to Shipley from the north east and I'd driven up after work from Docklands with the instructions about how to get there written on sheet of A4 paper in orange felt pen. Of course, under sodium street-lighting the writing became totally invisible, but somehow I managed to get there just in time, and I drove back after the gig to be tucked up in bed by 2 a.m.
Oh, I enjoyed their set so much! They have a completely other-worldly sound. I recorded a video of one of their songs, but an enthusiastic chap kept moving his head directly into my line of view. I'll take a look and maybe post it later in the week. Towards the end of the set, we spied Stewart Lee down the front. The man has good taste.
As a finale we all joined each other on stage, including Rupert who'd guested on one of the TGWTRH songs, and played Apology Accepted, the Go Betweens favourite. Aww, it was fun!
Paul and Rob turned in another fine set. It was good to see them play again because the songs have become familiar by now. There is one in particular that is so strong that I need to find a recording of it- it's the sort of song that I could never write in a million years; it was fascinating to listen to.
The hippy was becoming ever more drunken and assertive and he was over-delighted by the singalong song that Paul ends his set with. More of the assertive hippy in a few lines time...
TGWTRH were on form again, and this time I could hear them better (I'd been very close to the bass stack at The Lexington and was losing some of the nuances in the singing). The dynamics of the songs came across really beautifully and Lindy's drumming was spot on. About four songs in, the hippy was stamping very hard on the floor with great enthusiasm and ignorance. Lindy stopped. 'Excuse me! these songs have been worked out really carefully, and you're stomping all over them!'. 'I didn't realise anyone could hear me!', protested the hippy unconvincingly. In the end he stomped off into the sunset and left the band to finish their set. We joined together for Apology Accepted at the end like on the night before, and by the end of the song we'd pretty much bonded for life.
We all stayed in the same hotel, and there was something heartwarming about that Geordie and Australian breakfast together. Their tour manager Tony Raven Porter (the man in the hat) was part of the gang too and got them all back to Newcastle in time for the van curfew. I travelled back to London on the train with Lindy and hope to see her again before she jets off to New York. I've got the CDs to listen to so I can relive the gigs at my leisure.
Best week-beginning I've had for years, actually: I wish they were all like this.