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AlanD View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Stackridge - New Milton 4/4/09
    Posted: April 06 2009 at 06:01

 

STACKRIDGE – Live at the Rydal Arms, New Milton, 4th April 2009

 

Just occasionally in life, one of those rare, completely magical evenings comes along and the Stackridge performance at New Milton last Saturday belonged to that handful of very special gigs. This was a relatively local jaunt for us, so after a drive through the New Forest and a Toby carvery in the locality of the gig, we made our way to the Rydal Arms, an intimate venue with a limited ticket capacity of just 100 souls, it was the ideal place for a close-up inspection of the band’s progress since they reformed almost two and a half years ago.

 

Because there was a support band, the Stackridge set was slightly foreshortened, as young local hopefuls Jouis played first. With enthusiasm in abundance, they demonstrated a high degree of musicianship, albeit at a volume that was somewhat detrimental to the optimum presentation of any lyrical subtleties that may have been present (the vocals were generally inaudible). However, I was impressed by their sense of adventure and flexibility as they frequently swapped around instrumentation, with two guitars, sax, keyboards, bass, drums and various percussive bits and bobs. They played a set of originals, the best of which was a song called The Swinging Sixties and encored with a version of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, coping admirably with the guitar/bass/sax unison riffs in this tribute to the jazz great, Duke Ellington.

 

After a short break, our heroes took the stage and following a brief tuning check, launched into that most perfect of all ‘pocket symphonies’ and traditional Stackridge concert opener, the magnificent Lummy Days. The atmosphere was electric as the band swung through their paces with grace, precision and good humour. Mutter Slater pumped a plimsolled foot and led proceedings with his flute; violinists, Rachel Hall and Sarah Mitchell played like angels; James Warren looked quizzical and plucked precise guitar notes; Andy Davis dominated stage right (from the audience perspective) with his taciturn presence and rhythmic Les Paul; Glenn Tommey, sporting a garishly flowery jacket punctuated perfectly on keyboards and it was great to see the rhythm section of Crun Walter on bass and Eddie John on drums really cement together now, Crun’s moonlighting with Eddie’s ‘other’ band, the Harrisons, seemingly paying off in spades.

 

Having dispatched the opening track to their classic Friendliness album, they followed it with the closing track from the same album, a subtly delicious reading of Teatime, the song that opened the very first Glastonbury Festival in 1970 (and also closed it, as Stackridge played twice!). Despite James’ jumbling up the lyrics slightly it didn’t detract from a sublime musical performance with the usual pure and beautiful flute from Mutter and a cooking violin solo from Rachel on the coda. Eddie again impressed with his tasteful percussive contributions and he really was excellent all evening, finally laying the ghost of Codge Marsden’s departure from the drum stool last year. Mutter took the spotlight for his first vocal selection, Dancing On Air, which as ever brought back images of those old Fred & Ginger movies and evoked the spirit of the thirties as we all sang along.

 

As promised, the first selection from the forthcoming album, A Victory For Common Sense was Red Squirrel, a riff-driven Andy Davis tune sporting a lyrical allegory alluding to the plight of the beleaguered red squirrel, but with a deeper resonance that those of us who find ourselves in a minority where our existence or way of life is under threat can relate to. Many of the band’s newer songs appeared to take this theme, in many ways waving the flag for the preservation of a fast-receding ‘Englishness’ in the face of cultural erosion. The next number, a meandering paean called Long Dark River and penned by Crun also explored this avenue, both these new tunes showing a slightly heavier side of Stackridge, hitherto unseen, with riffs and arpeggios in abundance, the coda of this tune being particularly riff-based.

 

Of the older albums, the band were favouring Friendliness this evening, as they returned to the spirit of 1972 again for the epic tale of Syracuse The Elephant  in all its prog rock glory, as Rachel performed her violin solo to perfection, despite Mutter and Eddie larking about as the latter played his triangle. Cue generous applause for Miss Hall before the ‘Eastern’ section crashed in and the atmosphere of the steamy jungle consumed us. “Here’s one you’ll know!” quipped Mutter, as James performed his most famous tune, Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime, replete with added Andy Davis guitar solo on the outro.

 

Time for another slice of the new album, in the shape of Mutter’s absolutely wonderful tribute to Albion, Back In The Old Country, as he bestrode lyrical territory once the province of Raymond Douglas Davies and combined it with a tune that many a lesser band would kill for. How Stackridge continue to turn out such classic melodies remains a constant source of wonderment. I was grinning from ear to ear during this number, a superb song with an equally engaging arrangement, the third example from the new album to tie in with the ‘English’ theme – I have to say this album promises to be a real cracker. Then it was back to 1973 for the anthemic Andy Davis tune, The Road To Venezuela and the assembled Rhubarb Thrashers sung along with gusto before we were treated to James’ first offering from the new album, a song called Lost & Found featuring delicate arpeggio guitar and some interesting chord changes and harmonizing ‘twixt James and Sarah.

 

Then it was back to Andy’s living room forty years ago as the ghost of 1969 took to the skies in the shape of the cosmic epic Purple Spaceships Over Yatton. Mutter admitted that he had forgotten the opening flute phrase for the first time ever at last night’s gig in Cheltenham, blaming it on senility, to which James quipped, “You mean dementia”. No such memory loss this evening as Mutter’s flute soared and the band built prog rock dynamics of astral proportions that transported us all into orbit and safely back to earth again. Mutter announced that the band would start playing their ‘Christmas single’ now, giving us all time to pester the radio programmers before the festive season and they launched into North Street Grande, Mutter’s second contribution to the new album on display this evening, very moving and a Christmas perennial if ever there was one. I really like Mutter's contribution to this new waxing, he's composing some wonderfully memorable tunes at the moment, enhanced by the band's peerless arranging skills.

 

The set built to a frenzied climax with a fully audience-participated Galloping Gaucho, the final “Whoo-o-o-o-a-a-a-a” section being hilariously extended, much to our collective delight as we sang along with this tale of Argentine derring-do. James threatened to do a ‘Pete Townshend’ on his guitar for Boots ‘n’ Shoes, to which Mutter replied, “More like Sue Townshend!” in deference to the Adrian Mole author. Boots ‘n’ Shoes really rocked as Andy cut loose on the coda with some great guitar fireworks, driving the song to a climax, before the inevitable sing-a-long to the mighty Slark. I get emotional just hearing that timeless flute riff start up and we all sang to the heavens on each “la-la-la-la” chorus, conducted by Mutter using his flute as a baton. The applause erupted but the place was too small and tightly packed for the band to leave the stage, so they put their hands over their faces and hid behind them for a while, before providing two frantic encores in the shape of DoraThe Female Explorer and Do The Stanley, bringing a superb gig to the perfect climax.
AlanD
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2009 at 04:58
Thank you for this absolutely brilliant review Alan.  
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2009 at 06:22
Cheers, Jim
 
Great to meet you at last on Saturday - what a gig that was,eh?
 
Ain't we the lucky ones to still have a fully creative, forward moving Stackridge to savour in our autumn years, can't wait for the new album.....40 years on and still the greatest band in the known universe!!!
 
Thrash on, Brother of the Rhubarb Stalk.....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2009 at 10:40
Fantastic review Alan. Always happy to know that Stackridge are still thrilling people with their amazing blend of wit and talent. Smile
I must remind the right honourable gentleman that a monologue is not a decision.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 14 2009 at 05:52
Jolly well said Alan
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2009 at 06:22
Thanks, Mick
 
Always good to hear from the 'Silver Haired Surfer from Chadwell Heath'!
 
See you at the next Stacko London gig??
 
Do The Stanley....you know it makes sense....
AlanD
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