Ah the joy of it all! Manchester in the sunshine. Our little party arrived in leafy Chorlton from Wigan about three hours before the show began. It was Dave Owen’s 60th birthday party and quite a few folk were already in situ. We were welcomed warmly and we all said later that we felt right at home immediately.
On Thursday Dave had hired The Muffin men for a night out in the city and they had been partying ever since including a jam session on the Friday night with assembled guests who play guitar. Many of Dave and Nicola’s mates are avid Zappa fans and have met at various Zappa music events. My favourite countries were represented by the nationalities of some of these guests. German, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch and I‘ve probably missed a couple.
A gazebo was set up at the far end of the garden with a little rostrum for me and a platform for the amp. Chairs were set out in the extra-tented part and it was very cosy. I had plenty of time to set up and get a sound with the help of John who looks after me when I’m touring.
here me now - i shout it out
just before the show - with Dave Owen
The next hour or so was taken up with drinks in the garden and meeting the folk who were still arriving. Every one was in good humour and the international nature of the guests added a special flavour to the conversation as it always does. This is indeed a small world and one of the Norwegian guests was friends with some one who was at the gig I played in Norway a couple of weeks back.
Time passed pleasantly and soon it was time to start the show. I had spent a few minutes deep breathing and settling myself. I was gone off some place warm while Dave settled his invited audience and introduced me.
I often have an aluminium drinking bottle with the Liverpool FC badge on and my name. Dave couldn't resist taping a Man U badge over the LFC badge so I drank from a Man U bottle through out the set. All good fun.
I began with Arabesque leading to Speak Down the wires with a little indulgent chanting in the middle somewhere. I always get quite high when chanting and it requires very large intakes of breath. I was glad I had done the breathing warm up at the beginning. I didn’t say any thing at all for a few songs and I was in my element. It seemed as though I had time to think before each chord change and new lyric line. Some times I seem rushed and this is nothing to do with the tempo of the song but more about how centred I am, I suppose.
The little amp provided for me was superb and handled my guitar and voice perfectly. I love the simplicity of what I am doing from a technical perspective. Life is easy with out all the randomness that goes with a band set up.
I moved through the set and my audience was so very good to me. I felt them and this fed the music. I paused after about forty minutes to allow people to get a drink and so on. After ten minutes we were all back together. I know it was an intense performance and people told me so after it.
I jammed around with the new songs Be Still, Please Don’t Take Too Long and threw in a few new parts to There’s a hole in it. It was fun. I just felt completely relaxed and joined with the guests. Their response was extremely generous and this inspired me to play around with the material in a very free style.
Towards the end of my set I played a few oldies such as green Lights and Hotel Room and ended with Evening Over Rooftops. Poppy was the encore and it was job done.
Unfortunately Nicola, Dave’s partner, was busy preparing food for all so she missed the last part of my set. However the meat pie and red cabbage she made was fantastic. Honest, good home cooked food is always a highlight and this was special.
The after show conversations are always a treat for me. It is always a mixture of feedback for the show and tales of the lives folk are living. More and more I find so much in common with the good people who book me for these shows and with their friends and family.
I think my set in Chorlton was the best musical performance of all my shows in the past two years. I know the audience was a major contributory factor and having played regularly lately but then there are the elusive ingredients. They are hard to identify and part of what some call the muse. Any way for what ever reason I stand by my claim ha ha! So onwards and upwards. All of this is food for thought and food for the new show for 2013. The songs keep on coming and they seem to work nicely. I am having a ball. I was shattered after the gig and when we all got back to Wigan I soon hit the bed and was immediately fast asleep. This is a rare thing and I still felt weak after a good sleep and breakfast. A can of Red Bull helped but I realised I had put my heart and soul into the previous nights performance. It’s Monday evening and I am still a bit tired.
It was a truly memorable night for me and one that ranks with the best. Every single one of these gigs has been a delight in it’s own individual way.
Next I'm off to Wales for some serious fishing for a couple of weeks. The FDPFAFDW gig in Chorlton for Dave and Nicola will keep me smiling when the fish don’t bite and keep me interested in the next instalment life has in store and then I am back for the CRY benefit in Burton on Trent on the 29th September ( see gigs page on my website for details). Be there if you can. Its all in a very good cause and one very dear to the promoter and friends.