Paula writes: This is a long review, but definitely worth it - it really sums up the madness of the banter and the beauty of the music at a Nick gig. Ooh this is one I would have loved to see! Enjoy...
Once in while plans work out brilliantly - this was one of those times. Having planned a week's break touring the gardens of Cornwall, we thought we'd take the opportunity of visiting old friends in the Bristol area en-route. Checking Nick's gig list, we couldn't believe our luck - the very night we were due to stay in Bristol he was playing the last gig of the tour in Burnham-On-Sea... Hoorah!!
It's a weird thing, driving into a small coastal town and seeing your name all over the place. We found the Ritz cinema/bingo hall, from the outside a classic rainswept British seaside affair. Posters directed us round the side of the building and the familiar sounds of Nick's soundcheck rang up the side passage. We were early for official doors open, but it was all very laid back so we were welcomed in and sold some raffle tickets. Big Chris and Dawn Huckerby were already in residence and it was great to see them again. After a few moments Nick looked up and a startled expression crossed his face.
Dave: "Oi, what're you doing here?"
Nick: "No, what are you doing here?"
The Ritz Acoustic Club is about a 100 capacity place, 1970's beige walls, patches of dark brown leatherette, a large mirror ball and green plastic seating. Either side of the stage two brass light fittings cling to the wall, bearing imitation candle lights with aging red tassled shades. Essentially an old fashioned folk club time capsule, allowed to mature without too much interference.
The promoter took the microphone and welcomed everyone along - "Take the opportunity during the evening to look at Nick's collection," (ooh err) as he pointed over to the CD desk being manned by Amanda ([Nick's partner] Jackie's sister).
Support was from Dave Chave, a local chap and regular to the folk club who, despite being understandably a little nervous at the growing crowd, put in a surprisingly spirited and accomplished performance to a very warm reception. Highlights of his set included Fragile (Sting), What You Do With What You Get (Isaac Guillory), Is It A Crime (Sade), Consider Me Gone (Sting) and Chill In My Heart (Eurythmics). All in all some nice acoustic arrangements of these familiar songs, from a very friendly and likeable man.
Just before the end of his set two more old friends of ours turned up, more Harper virgins, and the raffle was drawn during the short interval. Wine, cheese and signed Nick CD's were doled out to the winners and Nick took the stage.
A Hundred Things got off to a shaky start with tuning and vocal problems, but then he powered up and got into the swing of it with Shadowlands and She Rules My World. The Mother Nature deja vu intro followed:
N: "...changing the weather with the internal combustion engine, beer pumps (ting)... cash registers, tobacco plants and lighting rigs... oovavou!" (Vic Reeves through echo box)
Karmageddon put the folk club PA through its paces. Boing! string break just after "Apoco-lips" - Nick grabbed a spare and kept singing "We're not scared, no we're not scared," as he ripped the broken string out of the machine head, grinned and sang "I'm not scared!" to the amusement of the crowd, changed it and straight back in with the first real roar of enthusiasm from the audience (but by no means the last.)
As the applause died down we could hear the sound of a radio or TV from somewhere and followed Nick's quizzical gaze to a door at the back of the hall which popped open. A rough looking character stood framed in it. "Just lookin' pal," came the broad Scots accent, before he vanished from whence he'd come.
N: "That's my Uncle there."
A sensitive acoustic version of Smithereens followed and then both Amanda and her brother came from each side of the stage with a pint for him.
N: "Wow, stereo family! Shall we do a Gazza? There's lots of friends here tonight, we could've done it round my house."
Someone in crowd: "Next Sunday afternoon then?"
N: "Yeah, alright, I'll get a bloody big chicken."
Crowd: "A nuclear one..." "An Israeli one!"
N: "Don't get me started on that!"
Everything's Better was treated to a gorgeous extended instrumental finish and then on to Guitar Man - full-on metal pedal guitar and teeth picking the strings, Percy vocals and a Presley-esque "Thank you very much" at the end.
Big Chris, who'd been doing some sterling work on the beer front since 5pm called out for Lucky Dog.
N: "Don't you mean Flying Dog?"
Chris: "Oh yeah... I'm feeling lucky tonight!"
N: "Stick with him girls! Right, this is Flying Dog, or maybe Lucky Dog tonight."
There was a muffled cheer from the back room just as Nick went into Instrumental - they may have been watching the Eurovision Song Contest which was going on the same night.
Crowd: "What about a Eurovision song?"
Nick then played a brief snatch (if you'll pardon the expression) of Kylie's Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Sue requested some Abba, but Nick sang a bit of David Byrne and Xpress' Lazy instead. "I love that song," he said, and then went on to introduce The Verse Time Forgot for Jackie as "a song for everlasting love."
N: "While we're doing family stuff I'd like to sing this for my mother - it's called Imaginary Friend."
As it's a new one I tried to scribble down some of the lyrics:
"She is positively positivity / someone who is always helpful...
But all I do is dream / that you are here with me.
When I need my imaginary friend,
She reaches me / and touches me / to be someone I like...
I'll be your imaginary friend / and I'll sing for you,
When you need me to...
All I ever do is dream."
After he finished, three folks made a bee-line for the loos, coming from different areas of the audience. Nick watched this with interest:
N: "I've got into this Chinese game of walks..." (a young lady strolls past the stage) "Mmm, very nice, 5.9. I'm playing this game with you, like a cross between chess and Go, and you're winning at the moment. I'm getting slightly pissed now, so you'll have to expect the odd tangent."
N: "Impossible, we live in a temperate country."
He went on to introduce Building Our Own Temple: "Mars, the God of War, is rising from his slumbers again. There's nothing wrong with God, just the berk who invented him!" This was followed by an excellent new song with a political bias, possibly called The Wanderer And His Shadow. Some lyrics:
"Shopportunity at playtime...
(Chorus) I'm not on the Left, / I'm not on the Right,
I'm not in the middle, / I'm right out of sight,
I don't want to lead, / I will not follow,
I'm the Wanderer, / And his Shadow, and his Shadow, and his Shadow."
N: "They're all a bunch of twats in my book."
Family: "Don't tell the Mother-in-Law!"
N: "Like Marlon Brando in Apocolypse Now...Harpic the Horror." (has a Strepsil to soothe his throat)
Crowd: "Share 'em out."
N: "Get a better hit off Venos and Newcastle Brown, stick to Benilyn."
Crowd: "Is it a half pint then?"
N: "No, best not or there'll be pictures taken."
Chris: "Won't be the first time."
He played Aeroplane which went down really well, and then said, "I've lost control of the gig [as if - Dave] but I'll keep playing songs every once in a while and hope no-one notices. I got out of bed, went through a door into a garden in Israel, went through another door into a room and plunged a syringe into the brain of Ariel Sharon, who slept there, drew it out and what I got went into this song. I co-wrote this with a mass murderer." After this blistering version of Song Of Madness, he went into The Galaxy Song. Just as Nick sang, "...people are stupid, obnoxious and daft," our friend Sally, delivered another pint to the stage. "Not all of them!" sang Nick, happily.
N: "Special thanks to Amanda and Paul, without who I wouldn't have made it (hiccups)... it's all an act you know, this being pissed thing."
Chris: "Very convincing!"
N: "And thanks to those guys who've followed me round and come to more gigs that I've played."
Launching into Headless, Sue whispered that it looked like he was actually trying to break a string. Sure enough... twang. As he changed it he sang: "Love is music, love is music...sometimes you can break it" (chuckles from the crowd) and straight back into the song with ferocious energy accompanied by cheering and applause. Then off and on to the encore.
N: "This is a song I've just written for Lily, it's a nursery rhyme for when she grows up." (Possibly called She Makes Music)
"She makes music / Just by breathing / Just by being near."
Sue: "Crazy Boy."
N: "Not enough oxygen."
S: "Titties And Beer then."
Chris: "Before you do that, "Vampire Song" [Here Today Here Tomorrow]."
N: "Oh alright, as you've been to 48 of the 38 gigs."
"You only seem to care / For the sound of the music,
Don't you wanna know / What I feel,
I'm still here, / I'm not going away,
Here today, Here tomorrow."
N: "I'm gonna finish with the song I'm still in love with after all these years."
Titties And Beer was given the full Nick versus the Devil intra-song argument split personality routine and was a great crowd pleaser. Nick went off and the promoter came back on again - "We've had some of the best guitarists in the world here, but for me there's only one. The only gig that equal tonights was 18 months ago and that was when Nick last played here!"
Nick came back on again and Sue requested The Magnificent G7. He obliged, followed by sitting on the edge of the stage and playing Like Punk Never Happened. Then he unplugged the guitar and strolled around the audience, serenading individuals with the old standard You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me, rounding it off standing on a chair. Nick thanked us all for coming and for supporting live music and also thanked the soundman, who in turn thanked Nick for making his life easy and for "doing all the work from the stage."
As the crowd dispersed, Dawn gave Nick an early birthday present and we gave him an end-of-tour pressie. We'd labelled the box as containing 'A new set of vocal cords, manufactured under license by Warble, Holler & Screech - purveyors of fine laryngeal prostheses, being guaranteed for one tour or 35 dates, whichever is the greater.' It contained a jar of Sussex honey, a large lemon, a pack of Strepsils, Yogi Ayurvedic tea ('To provide gentle strength during times of challenge'), some Neal's Yard Seaweed and Arnica Foaming Bath Oil ('A revitalising and restorative bath to enjoy when tired or over-exerted') and a bottle of Rolling Rock onto which we'd stuck a label saying 'Premium Cooking Lager'. This was followed by lots of hugs and fond farewells and off into the night with a warm glow after 2 hours and 40 minutes of top entertainment.
Love on ya dudes!