They are coming thick and fast. The resurgance of Michael Head has been a thing of beauty over the last couple of years and here was a chance to see Mick in an intimate setting down by the docks and on a day when the Mersey was a shining shaft of sparkle.
I set out from Manchester a little early in the hope of visiting Walton Park Cemetry in order to view the grave of Robert Tressell, the author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. However, by the time i got there at 4.30 it was shut. I contemplated bunking in, despite not being sure whether I had the physical capability to perform such a feat of athletic bravado any more, but then contemplating the options of seeing Michael Head in great form or an evening in the adjacent Walton nick, I chose the former. So I made my way into town, past Goodison Park, past Newby Street and past Prince Rupert’s on the way into the psychedlia of Liverpool in the sun.
Readers of the Kazimier review will know that a visit to Yums on Bold Street for her indoors was a neccessity (command/order, in fact), and aside from wondering at the splendour that is Liverpool on a summer’s day, I was slightly peturbed by the proliferation of Joey Essex shorts on show. What has happened Liverpool? You used to be unique, you used to lead fashion, not follow. Sort it out. On reaching the beautifully humble Scandanavian Church, and whilst having a smoke, I spotted Graeme from Shacknet and judging by his immaculate blazer, I nominate him for the role of Fashion Co-ordinator for the Republic of Liverpool forthwith.
With the venue opening an hour or so before Mick was on stage I had a chance to check out the church which is a lovely building set not too far behind the Baltic Fleet. It seemed unlikely that 120 people could actually fit in there, such was it’s size, but the sounds coming from the speakers suggested this venue was an acoustic gem. And so it proved.
Familiar faces began to appear at the back of the church, intermingled with newbies (Newbys?), and this unusual church flock moved down the aisle and took up their pews. There was a real cross section of ages and sexes, as many young people as old, which illustrates the fact that Michael Head is still a big draw. When his genius is let out of the bottle, people want to be there. Family members were present as were Shack/REB bassmeister Pete Wilkinson and lead guitarist of the REB, Steve Powell. Skinny was his usual industrious self ensuring that all was in order before Mick arrived, which he soon did in his inimitable nervy, energy brimming style. Mick introduced cellist Rod, the latest edition to the Red Elastic Band before leading into a slowed down Walter’s Song.
Cobwebs blown away, the trippy…errr trip down Bold Street that is Lucinda Byre was up next, conjuring up visions of the changing face of the street over the last couple of decades, before a beautiful version of Velvets in the Dark (dedicated to Mike and Sheila) wafted up to the heavens. The accompanying cello made it the best version I have heard so far, it was quite simply immaculate. No Michael Head gig is complete without him making the odd mistake, the questionable thing about it though, is why he feels the need to apologise for it! He is always amongst friends, although on realising where he was after one slip, he felt duty bound to apologise profusely to the big man above for the accompanying industrial language.
Mood of the Morning was dedicated to the sad loss of Alan Wills at the tender age of 52, who has left a big hole in the Liverpool music scene that hopefully will soon be filled. Another liverpool music luminary, Bernie Connor, then got his namecheck in the always delightful As Long As I Got You which segued into the yet to be released Joesphine, dedicated to Skinny. Before the gig, and aticipating an acoustic masterclass, I was hoping for London Town, and Mick did not let me down as he flowed into a sumptuous version detailing amongst other things a vivid memory in Merseyside sporting history, the day when “Michael Thomas wore the crown.” Mick’s voice was in fine fettle and on occassions I found myself focusing on his finger picking right hand (I can barely play chords), wondering just how he managed to squeeze out the angelic sounds filling the church from simple wood and strings. His acoustic work is something to behold and we got more of it on Cadiz which has now deservedly become a Mick staple. Having already been treated to three Waterpistol classics, the back catalogue was further raided with a majestic Emergency by which time Mick was in full flow. I rarely listen to HMS Fable these days but slipped it in on the way to Liverpool to remind myself of the wonder of Captain’s Table. I needn’t have bothered, as Mick played it, and played it beautifully tonight.
The untouchable Something Like You, perhaps Mick’s greatest song, was gorgeous in it’s summer bliss, but then hang on…Undecided, perhaps Mick’s greatest song, followed it immediately. It was that kind of night…the classics just rolled on and on and before we knew it, Mick was saying that he had run out of songs to play. He left to calls for more and he duly obliged by rounding the night off with another take on Walter’s Song.
Once more, Matt from Shacknet had found a beautiful venue well suited to the Michael head vibe, and once more, Mick had fulfilled the expectations and more of those present. Despite the fact that this was the hottest ticket in town, and that some punters turned up twice on the night in the hope of returned tickets, some of those present still found themselves unable to stop talking for the length of the show, or felt the need to throw Mick off his task by trying to engage him in conversation. It’s not much to ask surely, that people just shut up and listen for an hour or so is it?
With the promise of more of this type of show to come, the future for Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band, and also for those unfortunate enough to miss this event.. and it was an event, looks happily secured for the time being.