Saturday, November 24, 2007

So, farewell then….

Wendell, The Singer in Picturehouse, has been on the phone to a friend. “So, what do you want to do next Sunday?” says his mate. “And then it hit me” he relates to us later “He’s in San Diego”. It is Wendell’s last gig with us for the foreseeable future, as commuting in from (say) California for occasional gigs in (say) Felixstowe has quite sensibly been deemed an unreasonable incurrence of expense when it comes to the travelling budget. Also leaving are our hosts for the evening, and so we’ve decided to pretty much play everything and since writing set lists is a bit of a chore we’ve decided to do them in alphabetical order. This is quite liberating as we’re opening with something that usually comes toward the end of the set and ending with an opener. 

The set list is long, and in Arial. "It's the most readable font" says Wendell knowledgably. Present and correct are special guests, children, wives, girlfriends and loyal supporters. It’s going to be fun. There is also the suggestion that as they’re leaving it would probably be best if we finished off all the booze before they went and if there were any chairs, mirrors, light fittings or tables anyone fancied then they probably wouldn’t be missed either – “Leave the darts board though” counsels The Singer sagely. “Is it going to be this loud all the way through?” asks a barman who hasn’t seen us before. “No, no” we say reassuringly. “It gets much louder later on”. Wendell is on good form, self-deprecatingly pointing out that even if we did that alphabet song “A-B-C, D-E-F, G-H-I-J-K..” he’d probably still need the lyrics written down. 

First up on the guest list is Andy Trill on bass for ‘By The Way’, which Gibbon, The Bass Player, doesn’t really like doing, but which gives him an excellent opportunity for an early cigarette break, once he’s adjusted the strap to more slap-friendly proportions. Because it’s a ‘B’ song it’s also early in the set, so Trill’s still on his first red wine of the evening when he’s called into action. Next up are one of Kilbey, The Other Guitarist’s, sons and his mate on bass and guitar for I Predict A Riot – usually a bit of a set closer. They rock out while Gibbon does his ‘other job’ on keyboards and Frisky Pat, The Drummer, resplendent in Motorhead T-Shirt and tattoos thrashes the kit to within 2.25 centimetres of it’s life. First set – just over an hour and a quarter I reckon, and the second set’s longer than this one. “Good to see you not starting the set with The Strokes for a change” says someone at half time. “Ah” says Wendell “We’re actually up to ‘L’ now….” 

Everyone’s very much aware that this is pretty much going to be our last chance to do all this malarkey in this form and so the stage tricks are very much to the fore – Pat is beautifully timing the Frankie Vaughan-esque cymbal crashes to match my high kicks, although admittedly London Calling is not really the epitome of a cabaret showmanship showcase. Still, it’s a nice warm up for later on when, liberated by the reappearance of Trill, now reinvented as guitar shredder par excellence (vis his astonishing extended My Sharona solo after which I was only too pleased to be playing the next song on bass upon my return to the stage) I am moved to explore the hidden Hair Metal front man within me. Although I am convinced that I am moving with the snake-hipped insouciance of a lithe part-Coverdale, part-Mercury combination, a mid-number glance at the mirror facing us from the back wall reveals that poor application of hair products to a newly-shorn barnet means that I look like nothing so much as an Andy Riley re-imagining of Robbie Williams as Mr Coconut Head. Still, it’s addictive stuff this foot-on-the-monitor crowd teasing. No wonder he gets het up on tour. 

Speaking of on stage legends, the tail end of the set gives us a chance to welcome back, as Wendell says, the best of all our many guest tambourine players, the legendary Neighbour Neil (there’s a video of a previous performance on our Myspace site, unbelievers) for a spirited The Only One I Know, fellow font-fan Neil combining both of his patented dance moves (a shuffling hopping bounce and an arm-waving move which looks like the sort of thing you’d execute if you were drowning in a swimming pool filled with golden syrup) into a tour-de-force example of the arcane and mysterious art of Bezzing. We’re now down to the last scheduled number. All the way through, poignant lyrics have been popping out of the songs and into the real. “All my life, watching America”, “I’m running down the road trying to loosen my load”, that sort of thing, and now Vice’s “See you later” has a whole new poignancy for me as Wendell bows out.

I reckon we’ve done somewhere near three hours tonight and in a worthily bathetic fashion someone wants to hear something we’ve already played. I steal one of Reado, The Old Drummer’s lines “If you want to hear some more, you’ll have to book us again”. We do a couple more anyway. We were bound to. Safe journey Wendell. See you later.