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Boo Hewerdine & Clive Gregson - Pavilion, Bromley, Kent - 4 June 2000
The Boo Hewerdine & Clive Gregson show at the Pavilion in Bromley, Kent, on 4 June was presented by the Bromley Acoustic Music Club, which is run by Ron Sexsmith fan Simon Hopper, a lovely man with taste, a musician himself, who turned out to be a fellow sufferer of a certain syndrome I know well: he kept taking to the stage to make announcements but always forgot what they were. Bless. It must be our age.
The Pavilion brings to mind a grand structure, perhaps because I was thinking of the later Brighton date, but this was in fact a leisure centre, so we queued behind people buying tickets for the swimming pool in order to get ours for the elusive gig. The woman behind the counter was terribly helpful but couldn’t quite locate the performance, sending us to various parts of the centre (squash courts, steam room) until we heard music and managed to find an unlocked door that let us enter the auditorium, a small but comfortable place that reminded me of high school, with decent acoustics, great views from all seats (I confess I didn’t try them all) and no smoking (hurrah!). I’d say about 70 people were present, including a kind friend who came from Madrid just to chauffeur me from a nearby town (muchos gracias). The show worked wonders to cheer me up after a spell of bad luck that included having to miss the Ronnie Scott show, for which I had two tickets. (The scary bouncers there would have forced me to check my shoes and dentures so I really didn’t miss that, plus Ronnie's is notable for its lack of Jacuzzis.)
After success in our hunt within the building for the actual concert, we arrived in the small auditorium to find that Boo collaborator Rob Peters had already begun his solo set. Thanks to the tremendous kindness of someone on the Boo Hewerdine discussion list, I now have Rob’s CD and am looking forward to playing it, since all but two of the songs he performed were from that album, and they were great. This was the first time I got to see Rob play his material live, and I was impressed by his voice, which is stronger than it comes across on the first album. The poor thing had to perform four times that day, as the threesome had played a gig in Basingstoke at lunchtime. Fortunately, Rob has enough zinc to keep up his energy levels, it seems.
Just after 9pm, the ‘Don Ho Trio’ took the stage—Clive Gregson wearing an orange flowery Hawaiian tourist shirt, Boo wearing a similar one in black (not flowers but cryptic shapes, how fitting) and Rob looking solid in blue. Boo had had his hair cut and at first, perhaps because he’d been sleeping back stage to recover from the Basingstoke gig, he looked as if he’d made devil horns in his hair whilst shampooing and liked the look so much he left it there, but the impish horns didn’t last long and he returned to a less devilish, non-Rick Wakeman look.
Boo started by reading the amusing flyer for their Basingstoke gig, the skewed layout of which seemed to describe Clive as a folk legend and Boo as ‘delicious hot soup.’ So Boo referred to his many flavours by introducing the first song, Soul, with ‘and here’s one of them now.’ The chaps seem to be performing fewer new songs now, which might be less disorienting, based on comments made on the list. This one is truly lovely and sounds warm and familiar already and opened the show beautifully (isn’t Boo brave to always start with something new). ‘She gave me laughter; I paid with tears. Her soul moved through me; I disappeared.’ His vocals are more magnificent with each performance and are complemented wonderfully by those of Clive (on this number, just contributing impressive guitar) and Rob. I certainly hope we get to hear this track on a future album (soon, please).
Next was Clive’s upbeat Buddy Holly-style (or do we think that just because of the ‘Peggy?’) Pretty Peggy, a terrific tune to get feet tapping. I personally didn’t think the format of Boo and Clive taking turns playing a song each detracted from the show, though I know others have made that comment. I knew I was going to see a Boo and Clive gig (with Rob), whereas perhaps since we’re Boolisters some were keener to see a Boo solo gig with Clive just assisting in the background. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety and had forgotten how much I admired the fluidity of Clive’s smooth, deep voice.
Boo prefaced the next song with some of the much-loved jokes about the incorrect billings and announcements he’s tolerated in the past, with some additions... 8:00 Hewardine, Olive Gregson, B.O. Hewerdine and Clive Gregsar (which Boo thought sounded like a Pokemon, and bellowed by way of illustration: ‘Gregsar, I choose you!’). B.O. began singing a song I instantly loved. The lyrics were familiar but I was certain it was new to me. I then realised it was Butterfly, which someone (another thoughtful Boo fan) kindly supplied to me as performed by fluffy girl band Hepburn not long ago, and I simply didn’t realise what a fabulous song it was, given that treatment. This song is spectacular and was wasted on a teeny-girl group when it can be delivered in this fashion. Another one for the next Boo album, I certainly hope. In the meantime, every one of you should get to a gig, if only to hear this. (Oh dear, I’m being gushy again, aren’t I?)
Next came the fantastically cheerful Antidote from Clive (‘I hope they never find an antidote for love’), which always goes down well, understandably. I hope when he finally releases that commercially, he includes Boo’s backing vocals, which with Rob’s added a lot to an already instantly likeable tune. That man Clive plays great guitar, doesn’t he?
Boo then launched into an initially somewhat sleepy yet warm rendition of Patience of Angels. I noted during this song, in particular, how much atmosphere was added to each song with just two guitars and a minimal drum set (with a maximist percussionist).
Clive then sang the lively song Frances O’Connor, a name that he said he had ‘spannered into’ an existing song after reading it in a book, only to find later that there is an actress of that name. After recently seeing her on the poster for the film Mansfield Park, he decided that the song was definitely about her. I know the poster he means; it must be the pornographic version of the Jane Austen novel. I think the line in Clive’s song ‘Frances O’Connor, will you slip out tonight?’ must refer to the low-cut dress she is bursting out of in the poster. (I can hear Steve F rushing out now to see the film..)
Next came the k.d.Lang story and Last Cigarette, with Boo Freudian slipping by calling k.d. a ‘he,’ which didn’t affect the typical smooth delivery of a fine song that I only truly started to love once I heard the songwriter perform it, and Rob backing vocalled bertifully. During this number, the sound engineer suddenly fled the auditorium for some reason, which distracted many of the fire-safety conscious of us in the audience, lest he know something we did not, but fortunately the sound remained stable and the place was not on fire. Perhaps the tennis court he’d reserved had become available.
The engineer returned in time for Clive’s soothing, gorgeous ‘We’re Not Even Close’ (I assume), during which Rob actually used a drumstick rather than just a brush or an egg timer--exciting stuff! I am not used to Clive’s voice sailing high as well as delving deeply, and it was just beautiful. I hope he plays this at every gig.
Then they performed the always welcome Greedy, with Boo in eye-on-fret mode, hanging his head à la Tom Dooley, Clive creating amazing sounds on guitar, and Rob delivering an occasional thunderous beat with what looked like a mere muffled xylophone mallet (once again I amaze you all with my knowledge of percussion nomenclature!). No wonder Boo expressed concern beforehand over the lack of crash barriers to keep us from rushing the stage (before helpfully pointing out the side staircase to save us having to climb onto it). Hard to resist, of course.
A treat followed in that Boo played harmonica, once he had found after searching through Rob’s bag, after the two of them had a bit of a playful whinge at each other (no doubt Status Quo do the same), with Clive telling of the phenomena of capo frenzy, or in this case, harmonica frenzy, in order to keep us entertained while Boo spent 10 minutes wandering around the stage in search of it. I had no idea Boo had mastered the mouth organ; better than Van, he was, and far less grumpy. It added a lot to Clive’s enjoyable song, Fingerless Gloves, about a busker, which started a bit like Footsteps Fall.
A comedy stint followed as they took a while to tune (‘because we care’), during which Rob was threatened with pyrotechnics and had his green drum insulted by being linked to the Sooty show, and Clive threatened to tell a filthy joke but Boo prevented him from doing so (yet Clive let Boo sing that ‘famously offensive’—in my prudish tongue-in-cheek opinion--line from 16 Miles later, which didn’t seem fair). Then Boo launched into the almost classic Please Don’t Ask Me To Dance, ‘a song Eddi does—I do it with a beard, though, which makes all the difference, I think.’ Indeed. Thank goodness it’s not a Prefab Sprout / Z Z Top beard though. Good to hear Rob’ s finger bells again.
During Clive’s wonderful waltzy Fred Astaire, Rob looked like he was doodling on his drum with a brush to kill time, when in fact he was playing it, and Boo looked like he was staring at his watch and picking his fingers, when in fact he was. He also added some lip synching occasionally, without quite the enthusiasm of Stars in Your Eyes, which I’m sure he would have won. I often find finger-picking to be the finest way to enjoy a splendid song, myself.
Boo then shared his worry that he and Clive looked like the Two Ronnies (uh, ‘cause of his diminutive height?), particularly when they recently played Ronnie Scott’s (‘the three Ronnies’) and referred to the infamous heckler there who insisted that they looked like Rick Wakeman and Phil Silvers, so Boo advised that he had immediately taken action by cutting his hair. Clive woefully stated that, unfortunately, he was unable to do anything about it…so he still looked like Rick Wakeman, he joked.
Boo demonstrated what a song that was number 200 in the charts sounded like by performing the excellent Joke (why do I always pair this off in my mind with another favourite, Wonderful Lie?), during which he started pounding his heel against the floor, just missing his beer bottle each time, which added a bit of suspense and drama to the proceedings that I’m sure he can appreciate (an allusion to his deep concern for an audience member who later broke a wine glass but fortunately didn’t gash an artery).
Naturally, it was then time for a Christmas song, Clive’s soothing (comforting?) Comfort and Joy, complete with Rob on egg shaker (he must have left the sleigh bells at home, or in Boo’s bag). To continue with the shaking theme, the three Ronnies launched into a feisty, powerful I Shake, with the ghostly written wheelbarrow line. Clive growled out the lead vocals and Rob added a hand jive beat. A fabulous tune, although Clive’s 70s style electric guitar solo (not quite Spinal Tap stuff though) at the end was not my scene, but then I’m a prude when it comes to electric guitar solos.
When they performed 16 Miles next, I was so enthralled with it, particularly with the tremendous ‘hahn-na-na-ney-ha’ that they always add to the live version that I forgot to be shocked by the offensive line. This was a marvellous rendition, with Rob using a complete drum set (well, as complete as his gets), with drumsticks and everything-wow.
Next a gentler Bromley-style heckler shouted for Crystal Palace, following the logic that Boo should sing songs about places within a three mile radius of the venue, but Boo passed on the suggestion since he hadn’t played it ‘for 47 years.’ He looks good for his age, doesn’t he? So does Rick Wakeman. Instead, Boo charmingly said, ‘To send you on your way, here’s a song about death,’ which must be the Cambridge equivalent of the Belfast traditional good-bye of ‘Safe home.’ With Rob once again giving full-on percussion and he and Clive blasting out some exquisite backing vocals and Clive donating a Hank Williams-type guitar solo of which even I approved, 59 Yards was full of amazing energy and proved to be a grand finale.
Or not so finale, as Clive returned to the stage on his own for an encore and asked what the audience would like to hear, only to have them shout out all sorts of early songs, even his 80s band Any Trouble’s Girls Are Always Right (hear, hear, though I would have requested Second Choice if I hadn’t lost my voice and was the shouting sort). He agreed to play the solemn and pleasant Telephone Lines, which he said was loosely based on Boo since he was so in demand and people were always ringing for him. I loved the trickling acoustic guitar on this one, and the refrain ‘Why don’t you call?’
Boo and Rob joined him afterwards, and Boo announced that since he could not remember The Bible’s Crystal Palace (and he was no doubt concerned about those proximity regulations), he would play their bigger hit Honey Be Good, which Boo worried that Clive might not know. Clive insisted that he did, but made jovial faces at Rob every time he added backing vocals (which Rob also supplied) in the manner of ‘I have no idea if this works but what the hell.’ It did. The unbelievable performance was enormously well-received.
Finally, after Boo explained that they were off to Paris next (‘two nights in Paris...oh bugger. It’s hard, isn’t it?’). He then launched into a wonderful Footsteps Fall with Clive taking the second verse, which was amazing, then all three of them forming a frenzied jam at the end. A fine way to leave us.
I know that several of us Boo fans had grand visions of making it over to Paris to support them (and to suffer the food and sights whilst there). At Bromley, a few of us came up with a cunning plan to fund a trip to Paris by stealing the massive takings from the night’s CD sales by having one of us distract Rob whilst another stole the money from him, but the dastardly Rob foiled us by overhearing our discussion of this grand plan (as we were only inches from him at the time...perhaps that’s where we went wrong). He promised to put up a fight and so plan B was to hit him over the head with something big, but the only big thing to hand was Boo, and suddenly the plan just didn’t seem that cunning. So we missed out on Paris. Thank goodness for you all--just imagine having to read two reviews of this length, and in French!
Copyright © 2003 by TC.
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