Random Play by Graham Reid

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You say Goodbye, and I say Hello

It wasn’t the most unusual week I have had going to gigs -- that probably belongs to the time I came back from being in China with guitarist Grey Bartlett one morning, was at a skinhead punk band that night, a sitar concert the next and a classical concert on the following. But last week sure was strange.

On Wednesday I went to hear Tony Joe White (I say hear because there is never much to see with a man who sits down and plays guitar). Being the rock’n’roll kid that I am and used to the hour that bands go on at in this town, I had a leisurely dinner at home, a glass of wine, fed the website and so on, and then headed off to the Powerstation at 9.30.

I arrived at 9.40 to hear, “Thank you, good night”.

Looking at the capacity crowd -- a lot of well dressed middle-aged people -- I knew I had misjudged badly. Of course Tony Joe would go on early, and the Powerstation is now in the middle of apartments and townhouses so there was probably an early closing restriction.

Fortunately he did a looooong encore. TJW can’t sing these days -- off-key, suggestions of melodies at best in some places -- but the crowd was right behind him and clearly I had missed a great show. Obviously better than the last time I saw him when he bored me witless.

But even the encore -- meandering versions of Polk Salad Annie and Lake Placid Blues in which he clearly lost direction -- were incendiary. Promoter John Baker who had generously given me a ticket said that he liked to get his bands on early these days so he could go home or go out afterwards.

Thank you John, would more musicians consider that their audience might want to see them but also do the same.

Being a freelancer these days means my income fluctuates between barely passable and bugger all, so that counted out Magic Numbers the following night which I sorely regret. I loved them at the Big Day Out in ’05, and think their Difficult Second Album -- Those The Brokes -- is excellent, given a little time.

Instead we went to Winehot, our little local winebar just beyond Kingsland, and had a couple of fortifying glasses of red and the tasting platter for two which had the best lamb I have eaten in this city, Antoine’s not excepted. NIce chanson and low-level trip-hop being played also.

By trading some CDs for cash I had enough for us to go to Lloyd Cole at the Transmission Room on Friday, and now wary of what time he might start (Lloyd’s audience is 20 years on from his hit-making days so almost middle-aged) we had a quick bite at a godawful Japanese place in the MidCity Centre -- an arcade which looks like it is about to be gutted: upstairs there was rubbish everywhere, empty shops, and the escalator wasn’t working. What’s up with that place?

Anyway we got to Lloyd just in time to hear, “Good evening”.

I wasn’t an original Cole fan -- my wife remembers him more than I do -- but some years after the Rattlesnakes album I “discovered” him and have tuned in ever since. I really enjoyed his most recent album Anti-Depressant (a typically ironic Cole title) and so last week reposted that at Music FRom Elsewhere, and also the Deluxe Edition of Rattlesnakes which has an extra disc of absolutely terrific live tracks, demos and outtakes.

So there we were on time as Lloyd did his solo thing before a reverent and packed room, many people settled in with bottles of wine at the tables down the front. (Our timing was so perfect we were standing at the very back by the door.)

Two songs in -- as he was singing The Young Idealists, see I know my Cole -- I leaned over the Megan and whispered, “He’s David Brent”. She burst out laughing knowing exactly what I meant.

If you saw the (British) tele-series The Office you’ll doubtless remember bossman Brent getting out his guitar and doing Free Love on the Freelove Freeway, that thing about Lady Di and so on.

I’m sorry, but with all due respect to Lloyd and his fans, that is what he sounded like: I had no idea how precious and forced many of his lyrics are. They sound so much better wrapped in a band.

And there is not a lot of difference between Brent’s “racing down the freeway” and Lloyd’s “racing down the boulevard” imagery, just one more layer of pretension. Anyway that kind of spoiled the evening, we heard Brent everywhere in his songs.

And there was something wrong and unflattering about the way trousers bunched, right?

We lasted almost to the end -- the best stuff came after smoko and Lloyd was very witty noting that in some couples one of them would be there under duress -- but went home in fits of giggles and pulled out The Office (first series, episode four if I remember correctly). Another strange musical night.

Saturday was Bonnie Raitt. We‘d seen her last time so timed our arrival to miss the opening act (her excellent keyboard player is the built-in support and much as I admired him last time I didn‘t exactly enjoy it).

Anyway Bonnie -- as we fans know her -- was wonderful as usual: warm, passionate, very funny, an even more stunning singer than she was in her younger days, and sublime on guitar. It was a great night.

But two songs in a peculiar thought hit me: I have seen more Rutles than I have Beatles.

A few years ago I saw singer-songwriter and parody performer Neil Innes (the Lennon-Rutle Ron Nasty) at the Kings Arms, and Raitt’s drummer was Ricky Fataar, a former Beach Boy and Harrison-Rutle Stig O’Hara.

In fact I have seen these two Rutles twice and my only Beatle was Sir Paul McCartney once. Very odd, and the thought stuck with me even as Bonnie was being thrilling and moving.

But more odd was what happened when we were standing in the lobby afterwards chatting to some people. A middle-aged woman with a dark brown voice whom I had never seen before cruised up to me and without so much as a hello said in seductive manner, “I could make you VERY happy”.

By the time I had turned around, laughed self-consciously and said, “Really?” she had moved on leaving me bewildered, bemused and very embarrassed in front of my beautiful wife.

She sort of said “good evening” and “good night” in the same breath. This time I was there for both however.

Yes, it really was a strange week in music. Can’t wait to see what this one holds: certainly Richard Buckner at the Schooner on Tuesday in Auckland (Wednesday in Wellington I think), and Gomez at the Powerstation on Friday (I presume they playing elsewhere). Both are shows not to be missed in my book.

In that regard music from them and many, many others including lots of new releases, a contemporary classical composer and Daffy Duck is posted under Music From Elsewhere

Enjoy, we are only a few away from another milestone figure in the subscription base which means a swag of CDs for some lucky person who signs on (it's free).

And I always say to subscribers to say hello if they see me out and about -- and many do -- but please don’t say you could make me VERY happy.

At least not in front of my wife.

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