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  • Philip Bryer

One Hand Clapping

Recently our village was visited by The Producers. A blues band of renown, on their 25th anniversary tour. My first question, when I saw the flyers which had been staple-gunned to local telegraph poles, and did a bit of research on the group was, “Why are they playing in our village hall?”

Because local events like this can be sparsely attended. A few years ago, we went to see a very good jazz quartet in the hall, and the village turnout only just about outnumbered the attendant musicians.

I don’t care for them and never did, but a Queen tribute night was very well attended. Strangely, even though Freddie, the curly-haired one with that awful squawking guitar sound, and the other two never appealed, I quite enjoyed the ersatz version, and the crowd went as wild as is possible for overexcited sardines. Quite a good Saturday night, so we booked up for the next one, six months later. One of the Beatles tribute acts (or should that be one of the The Beatles tribute acts?)

Anyroad (as John, and no doubt, pretend John, would say) things didn’t go so smoothly. Due to selling about 6 tickets – and I bought four of them – the event was cancelled. It was explained to me thus,

“Two things. People in the village won’t pay more than a tenner, and they’ll only go to one thing a year.”

“So as they went to A Kind of Magic (oh yes) 6 months ago, that’s it for the year?”

Indeed it was.

Sadly, there weren’t many in to see The Producers, who were so brilliant that I felt it my duty to go up to them afterwards and apologise. I do hope they forgive us and come back. Even though that will mean I’ll have to keep my promise to ‘get the word out’ and rustle up a couple of hundred close friends.

The Producers

I’ve seen Curved Air in a club so thinly populated that you could be forgiven for thinking that it was closed and only the staff were in. I didn’t go to see post-Wings Denny Laine at a local leisure centre which was not known for putting on concerts. It soon became apparent that I wasn’t the only who didn’t go, and the full horror only seeped out afterwards, the story of the 5 people who made up the ticket-buying audience.

Several years ago, I was in a hospital bed recovering from a little bit of routine surgery and the GLW came a-visiting.

“What are you going to do with your Nick Lowe tickets?” she asked.

Because I had 2 for Saturday night at the Leicester Square Theatre in the heart of London’s Glittering West End, 4 days and 150 miles away.

“Go to see Nick Lowe,” I said, “On my own, if necessary.”

My plus-1 had let me down, you see, and being incommunicado, unconscious, and full-to-the-brim with morphine, I hadn’t been able to ship in a replacement.

Mrs Bryer took a breath.

“I’ll come with you,” she offered.

“Really? That would be lovely,” I replied.

I knew that she wasn’t Basher’s #1 fan, although she loves Rose of England, but it’s a long way, and a hotel, and clearly she wanted to keep an eye on the patient.

Nick Lowe Rose of England

Off we went, and it was a splendid night. Sat in the second row next to Scouse funnyman John Bishop, who was quite obviously having the time of his life and immediately went up in my estimation.

Some months later, the line-up for the London Blues Festival is announced, and, strange fit though it seemed, Nick Lowe and his Band were appearing at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I mentioned this to Mrs B.

"I’m not going again,” she said. Perhaps she was still stinging because they hadn’t played Rose of England?

Prepared for this response (although perhaps not it’s Exocet-like delivery) I activated my old plus-1, and suddenly there we were, Scott and I, enjoying a Guinness in the wide-open expanses of that lovely old theatre. We are early, we told ourselves. I expect it’ll start filling up soon. Mmm. Could have stayed in the pub for another hour, after all there weren't any queues to beat. Haha. Nervous laughter at this point, because the young acoustic troubadour had done his half-an-hour of support, and the expected rush hadn’t materialised.

There were a few more in, but, shall we say, we all had plenty of breathing space, an ample comfort zone, and little queuing time to endure at the bar.

Despite the sparse numbers, the band were as good as they had been a few months previously, a class act. Nick Lowe treated the whole thing with his customary wry good humour, and gave his management a cheerful shoeing for booking him into a blues festival, and offered the audience a word of caution:

“I hate to disappoint those of you who were expecting a slamming blues jam, but I have to warn you that we’re more Freddie and the Dreamers than Son House.”

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