Hush, my little one hush.
There’s something perfect going down in Manchester.
What a night. You know when good things just creep up on you whilst you are doing other more supposedly ‘pressing’ things and then those really good things are upon you and then they pass you by because you were doing those ‘pressing’ things? Well that was the case with the build up to this gig. I am pretty sure the Soup Kitchen show was arranged at shorter notice than usual but I know it sold out in double quick time. Meanwhile, I’d find myself at work thinking, “I must get that Mick ticket when I get home”, only to get home and forget completely. I’d stare out of the window watch the world pass by, and mutter “There was something I was going to do…” and then remember “Ah! Bin day. that must have been it. Put the bins out”.
This is a convoluted way of saying that I didn’t have a ticket.
6pm on Monday night, I saw something on social media about the gig. “Today? For fuck’s sake!” I put the feelers out. In the universal language of footy and music I posted the life saving legend that is “Any spares?” I hadn’t been on Shacknet as often as I should (those ‘pressing’ things) so that was my first port of call. As soon as I saw the familiar names I felt at home again. I did the same on Twitter. I got replies from some lovely people on both, but a mysterious figure called The Chairman was first to respond, conjuring up an image of an Alan Sugar type figure slowly turning around in his leather chair nonchalantly waving the ticket in the air, and so given it started in two hours I had to get my arse into gear.
Thank you Sir Alan.
In the end I got there in good time. Park on the street; amble down, some explaining to do on the door, where’s the bar, “There’s Mike and Sheila”, There’s Graeme”, “Where’s the other Graham?”, “Is Pete here?”, “PJ?”, “Any Lambanana’s present?”, “Bloody hell, he’s on”.
Mick emerged to be met by polite applause. Then silence. The much warranted “Shut the fuck up”(or something) warning on the ticket evidently worked. Mick looked at us. We looked at him. There was a moment of uncertainty on both sides before Mick proffered a shy “Thanks for coming”, and lulled us in with Queen Mathilda. The first thing to notice was that Mick looked fantastic. He’s lost a bit of weight and seems to be in rude health. He is still the bundle of nervous energy that is a feature of the beginning of every gig. As the final note of Queen Mathilda rang around the shebeen like environs of the Soup Kitchen, polite applause rang out. Then silence. Mick looked at us as if to say “What? Was that no good?” It was lovely, but rules are rules. Applause. Silence. The dreamy psychedelic meander down Bold St. to Lucinda Byre was met in the same fashion. It was weird, but ace, and as Time Machine began to further open up the Michael Head songbook it was clear that this was going to be special. Mick’s voice was in very good fettle and his playing was fantastic. It was brilliant that you could actually hear it. No chat through the songs, just voice and guitar. He knelt down. Silence. He looked at the set list. Silence. He stood up. Silence. He held the set list close to his eyes. “Guess who needs glasses?” Laughter. That was the icebreaker. All of a sudden, the atmosphere loosened up. A magnificent Newby (I’m dead funny me aren’t I?) What’s The Difference (possibly?) had me turning behind me to see if everyone else found this a world of wonder. Gaping mouths suggested so. The semi ancient/semi new Rumer is beautifully delivered with help from the crowd on trumpets (relatively tuneful too. Respec’ Soup Kitchen dwellers). Things started to get looser still as the alcohol and atmosphere fueled bravery in a number of loving/lovely gobshites. “Go ‘ed Mick!” started it, and he did indeed ‘go ‘ed’ with a magnificent Velvets in the Dark as the set started to fly. Five songs in and it had been a seamless segue of acoustic dreams, four of the five dating from the last three years or so, illustrating that the songwriting gift is very much alive in Michael Head and here in the Soup Kitchen tonight.
Once Meant To Be got to the brass section; all bets were off, the place went loopy.
A gentle As Long As I Got You restored a semblance of common sense, whilst a lilting Glynis & Jackie added some decorum and put us back into a reverential mood.
Again Mick thanked us for coming. He then explained how the somewhat rundown (but nothing wrong with it) decor of the venue belied the palatial environs of the dressing room where he had a mountain of charlie waiting for him when he got back there. Something clicked in Mick’s head (I’m dead funny me aren’t I?). “Oh shit. I just heard Alice’s voice telling me off for saying that. Can I just say ‘it’s not true’ to the venue”.
A blistering Streets of Kenny, one of his finest, was accompanied by American Kid and just as you thought the roof might come off, the wounded beauty of Daniella calmed things down a little. Every time Daniella is played it is invested with such emotion it is always moving, and tonight it got dusty.
Mick bigged up a guy called Pete from Norwich for getting some DVDs to to him, and then joked about how he had considered getting a stool out to sit on…”But I had a bad experience once”. This had those in the know in stitches. Requests were forthcoming and one punter got his wish as Working Family was given a dusting down as an introduction to a selection of classics.
The always stunning Something Like You started us off before Zilch‘s Emergency got the biggest singalong of the night.
Someone shouted out something that sounded like “play something in 5-4 time”. Mick looked at him quizzically and it was repeated. At the third attempt we got it, it was some reference to Liverpool’s game v Norwich.
Mick replied that from experience he tries not to mention footy, and is if to prove the point the Soup Kitchen rattled to a chorus of “Liverpool”s and “Everton”s. Mick then told a story about mentioning that game to a taxi driver just after it had finished, to make conversation, only to be told “I don’t do football”. As Mick was thinking of something else to talk about the taxi driver added the dreadful words “But have you heard of David Icke?” He went on to talk about when he asked Ewan McGregor whether he was Celtic or Rangers (as you would ask a Scouser or Manc “Red or Blue?”)
“He said ‘St. Mirren’. Actually he said “St Mirren. Now fuck off”.
And then Mick paid tribute to King Arthur with a LOVEing She Comes in Colours followed by crowd favourite Undecided which was a mixture of Waterpistol and Strands versions.
He also took the opportunity to suggest an album is imminent. It might be this year or in ten years he joked “but I’m on it”. Mick also suggested a more all encompassing tour of these Isles might be forthcoming too (“I’m getting fed up of the hate mail”). The sea shanty shimmer of Captain’s Table alongside the triumphant bounce of Newby Street saw Mick getting the signal for just two more. You got the impression, after an hour and thirty minutes that he would have happily played all night. There were two set lists written out. A double sided large print (ahem) version, and one with what looked like about thirty songs on it.
We were lucky enough to get The Prize which slow builds to the magnificent staccato strum that ends it. Effusive and heartfelt thanks, and then he was gone.
And then he was back. The baying of the crowd succeeded in forcing his return and getting a magnificent X Hits The Spot as a reward.
And then he was gone.
Without a doubt this was the best I have seen him in a while (not that previous forays were not as good, it’s just that this was stunning). Matt’s polite request for quiet during the songs (I was only messing with ‘the shut up or fuck off’ suggestion before) worked wonders and the crowd played their part. Deffo. They were quiet during the songs,other than when joining in (at one point Mick asked mid song who was doing the great harmonies) and the requests and joking was all in the best possible taste (and place) as Kenny (Everett, not Dalglish) might have said. Mani from the Roses/Primal Scream certainly thought so and was bouncing around and chatting enthusiastically about what he had just witnessed.
London and Glasgow you are in for a treat.
A final thought to the Shack family, present and absent. I know I am not the most reliable of people, but my heart is in the right place and I love you all. I am always made to feel welcome and consequently always leave with a warm glow. As Long As I Got You, I’m good.