A wet Brighton evening brightened up by the wonderful music of Guy Chadwick and Pete Astor and their respective bands. Playing classics from the House of Love and the Weather Prophets past and more recent material. A chance to reflect and reminisce on what a long strange trip it has been.
What we are going to do right here is go back
The concert concludes at 9.50 pm, good news as the venue curfew is 10.00 pm. As one generation amiably shuffles outside in a mellow and reflective mood, another generation is getting pumped up with excitement and expectancy for the club night which is going to happen later that evening. I am happy to forego the excitement and expectancy these days, it always came with other awkward emotions attached. The House of Love encore concludes with Melody Rose and I don’t know why I love you. The latter is my all-time favourite House of Love song, I love the energy, the melodies, the frustration of ‘how can I get close to you, when you got no mercy, no you got no mercy.’
The House of Love ends their set with Clouds taken from their new album A State of Grace. Tonight’s set effectively alternates between new material and old material. Against a strong back catalogue, new material compares very well. New album highlights include, Into the laughter, Hey Babe and Sweet Water. Mixing the old with the new can sometimes be jarring given the passage of time, but this wasn’t the case last night. It is testimony to the new material that Clouds stands out as the highlight of the evening, for myself and I suspect many in the audience. Beautiful ethereal guitars build into a noisy and extended jamming session. I am just not sure about the Clouds title, perhaps Hurricane or Tornado might have been closer to the emotion evoked.
Clouds is atypical of the strong lyrical emphasis of A State of Grace. Lyrics such as ‘in the heart, you will find a key’ and ‘put those blues away, you can be tomorrow today’ offer us hope. Yesterday, we needed hope on a day when the most brutal and selfish Budget that I can remember was announced. Guy Chadwick wisely avoids this debate, but I enjoyed his oblique reference to ‘funny times we are living in.’ It is worth acknowledging that tonight was very much a band performance, with the four-piece sounding tight and together.
We are treated to old favourites Christine and Hope, with that wonderful line ‘hope is the word that you say any day. It’s a dream and it screams in your head.’ Equally, Destroy the Heart and Shine On, take me back to my more youthful self. It is Beatles and Stones which provides the theme tune for this evening with sadly topical references to war and a longing for the 1960s summer of love which we just about missed out on. It is very strange to listen to a track echoing the 1960s which I first heard in the 1990s now being played live in 2022.
The track a band chooses to preface their arrival always fascinates me. The preface for The House of Love was Man with a Harmonica. What a lovely choice with that harmonica oozing emotion, yet with the intimation that we experience a range of human emotions, love can be exhilarating, but also frustrating. This awkward interplay ripples through many of tonight’s songs.
The Pete Astor set ends amicably and quietly with no suggestion of an encore. He acknowledges the set has had to be truncated, which is a pity because I found it most enjoyable. I enjoy his audience interaction, graciously referring to our applause as ‘golf applause’. I was lucky enough to see the late Kevin Coyne perform at the original Concorde venue near the pier. Again, he had to compete with an England football match. He referred to us as a ‘small but perfectly formed audience’ which has always stuck with me.
Pete Astor performed as part of a three-piece with a drummer and bass guitarist. He has the humility to acknowledge how they can save him at times and they do appear to be a very skill-full three-piece.
I entered the Concorde2 and Oh dear was playing, so oh dear if I missed anything earlier. This track is followed by Chained to an idiot. These uplifting ballads go a long way to reassuring me that it was worth venturing out on a wet Friday evening. It is my first visit to the Concorde2 since before the pandemic. The sound quality of the venue has noticeably improved since my last visit, as I am certain my hearing hasn’t. Even standing by the stage close to the main speakers, I can hear the lyrics and tonight the lyrics are worth hearing.
In a truncated set, we enjoy Time on earth, New Religion and Why does the rain. The latter seems so appropriate on a day of torrential rain in Brighton. Pete Astor fleetingly shares being an unhappy 23-year-old. He also shares that he started to believe in god but that it never took. This gives us some context for the wonderful Almost Prayed, which was one of the anthems of my mid-eighties polytechnic student years. We are going to have to go back even further.
What we are going to do right here is go back, yes, but even further…
This late September is the eve of a new academic year and Pete Astor alludes to it being a bit strange seeing the students and I think I know exactly what he means. I was fortunate enough to see The Weather Prophets a couple of times at the Sheffield Leadmill in the mid-eighties. I look back at images of the band and their fresh-faced young lead singer. In front of him, particularly in October back then it would have been a sea of hedonism. It is odd reflecting on almost forty years ago. Miss quoting Guy Chadwick ‘put those blues away, you can be yesterday today’. This review has taken far longer to write than expected because I have been remembering yesterday today.
The flyers were only 10cm by 15cm, you’d pick them up at the Leadmill because they announced forthcoming attractions, remember there was no internet, no email. News of bands came from newspapers either the music press or the local newspaper – The Star, but the most up to date news came from the flyers. Pete Astor pays tribute to the late great Pat Fish in his song Fine and Dandy. Now I never owned any Jazz Butcher records and to be honest I could not name any of his tunes. However, he did seem to enjoy playing the Leadmill during this 1980s seam of memory that I am mining. I was lucky to see Pat Fish play on these occasions and remember them as wonderful performances and celebratory occasions. I wish I could recall more detail, unfortunately, I was drinking in those days. Also, smoking was allowed in venues in this era. I remember one musician saying to the audience from the stage that he now knew why other musicians referred to the venue as Amsterdam.
During this era, the artist behind the Leadmill artwork was Martin F Bedford. I remember going into the office one day and asking if I could buy some of these wonderful posters. I was told that this wasn’t possible, but that they would give them to me on the condition that I never sold them. At this time Sheffield was pejoratively called the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, I loved the city.
As I rummage through my archives, repeatedly side-tracked into reminiscing I stumble across a concert review. It is from the New Musical Express dated 18th October 1986. It is for one of the Weather Prophets concerts at the Leadmill that I attended. I might be projecting my stuff onto both of the performances last night, but here goes. The reviewer Claire Morgan Jones putting it succinctly didn’t enjoy the concert in October 1986. She devotes over half the review to reviewing the kissing behaviour going on all around her. Her review concludes with ‘I’d rather be snogging, to be honest.’ As I listened to some wonderful songs last night I doodled ‘songs of love and frustration’. Today, I would refine that to frustrated love songs, closer to The Smiths take on love than the Boyzone’s take on love. But such frustrated emotions require sympathetic articulation and acknowledgement. Personally, they are closer to my reality than many of the popular cultural depictions of love, lust and romance.
In 2019, I found myself returning to Sheffield Polytechnic to examine a PhD thesis and thankfully the Viva went very well. I couldn’t help myself in also spending an enjoyable day revisiting my old haunts, similar to reminiscing in this post and last night. The area around the Leadmill appeared to have been reimagined as a cultural quarter. There was a neon sign on one of the buildings. I don’t think it had been put up just for myself, but it did speak to me.
Pete Astor website provides full details of forthcoming events and good coverage of past activities.
House of Love site is very comprehensive, I could have happily lost myself in this site until I stumbled across some references to Chelsea FC.
Grails accompanied me whilst writing this post. I’m only able to mine the words in my head whilst listening to instrumental music. Their music did seem to fit my emotions whilst writing.
Martin F Bedford is the artist responsible for the wonderful Leadmill posters, such as the Jazz Butcher poster.
Stewart Lee’s mailing list contains a regular Woolworths style pick and mix of forthcoming cultural reference points. I only learnt about last night’s concert through his mailing list, so thank you Stewart.