Nick at Reading Plug 'n' Play,
Saturday 2 November 2002 -
by Marko Bishop and "Big" Chris Moxon

Marko's review:

Although I've gotta confess that I know the promoter of this gig, and so this little review cannot be utterly objective, I've gotta say that I really enjoyed the night. Sadly I arrived too late to see Ben [Jones], and I am not sure if there weren't problems between Nick & Russell (the promoter), certainly there were times when it seems Nick seemed more than a tad pissed off about something. Nonetheless, from a punter's point of view, I thought it the best Nick gig I have been to in years - perhaps one of his best ever?

As far as I could see, the audience were very respectful - in that you could hear a pin drop during the songs - yet very appreciative. And there was the usual light hearted banter, particularly with the guy by the stage who went to the bar a couple of times, but on the whole I thought Nick seemed to take all in his stride with a few of his choice witticisms.

The material - I am afraid I didn't note a set list - I thought predominantly showcased the gentler side of his repertoire, with only one or two forays into the wild side, but all the songs seemed performed with such utter mastery it was difficult for me to see how anyone could not be astounded and bowled over by this gig.

Yet sadly that wasn't completely the case... I had gone to the gig with a group of friends including two women who were both Harper virgins. To my absolute amazement (and deep deep sorrow), they *really* didn't enjoy themselves or the music. To say I was shocked was the understatement of the [new] millennia... Happily the other two friends thought it good, nonetheless this was certainly the first time I have taken *anyone* to a Nick gig which they have not liked; made stranger still to me by the sheer excellence (in my opinion at least) of this gig. Thanks to Nick!

"Big" Chris's review:

It's a bit late, but I thought I'd send in a quick (?) review of last week's Nick gig in Reading. This time, I did write down a set list on the night... but immediately lost it until yesterday when I found it in my washing machine. The fact that the piece of paper was now soaking wet (and mostly illegible) seems quite appropriate for the night - I was in the same state by the time I got home after the gig! [NB: We *were* wet but not naked... but there are a couple of references to the word in the following]

I got to a very wet Reading Station at 5:00pm hoping to meet up with [my friends] Jeff and Dianne... which didn't happen! I then found myself in a bit of a predicament - I had brought along the receipt for tonight's ticket that the venue had sent me and assumed that the receipt would at least have the venue's phone number on it or even an address. Alas it didn't. So I thought I'd have to get a taxi... if only! The problem was that no one around Reading station had ever heard of the venue, the taxi drivers had no idea, the station's pub bar staff/bouncers had no idea, the police had no idea... and neither did BT's directory enquiries! So there I was frantically phoning anyone I knew who might be at their computer so that they could look on t'internet for the venue's details. Eventually Paula came up trumps - thanks! [only too happy to help a friend in need! - P.]

In hindsight all that panicking was a waste of time, because as I walked back towards the station to look at the map, I bumped into (opening act) Ben Jones, who kindly offered to take me to the venue... well, it was actually Nick who was driving! Fairly handy, I'd imagine.

The venue - what a strange place in a strange location! I was glad of the lift, not only because it was raining, but because I don't think I would have found the place otherwise. It was somewhere deep inside an industrial park, with only a little light outside over a little sign. There's no way that you would just "bump" into the venue as it was down a dead-end road. Nick did comment on numerous times that the venue was "funky" and I soon saw what he meant.

It was a smallish white-washed (inside and out) building/room with a small stage, a small bar, one ashtray (which I grabbed), a projector displaying hippy shapes and images on the back wall above the stage, lots of funky coloured plastic stools (that could be used as tables too), a knackered old settee and a couple of very comfy leather seats (that Ben & I soon grabbed). Oh - and one loo for all the audience (max 100), the bar staff and the acts! The door to the venue had one of those weird bells that go "bing-bong" whenever someone opened the door, but more of that later.

As I was there early and there apparently aren't any decent boozers in the near vicinity, I just had to stay and get stuck into the bottles of Young's Special bitter. The venue soon filled up, though Ben wouldn't start the gig until Jeff & Dianne turned up, which was about 8pm-ish. He then played a cracking set which included a few new songs (sorry didn't get the names) that he wrote on his recent visit to Nashville. He seemed to go down rather well and actually sold some more of his CD's which is always a good thing (p.s. I'd recommend them to anyone who hasn't already got them, and as Ben says, his songs only cost 80p each!).

By the time Nick got on stage, I had been drinking the previously mentioned YSB for nearly 4 hours, so writing down the set list was going to be a challenge! But here's what I remembered:

He started off with A Hundred Things and then commented on the funkiness of the venue and suggested that we should all be naked, as its location was so far off the beaten track... but no one took him up on that suggestion, which was probably a good thing! He then played Shadowlands and Radio Silence, before he commented on the fact that tonight's gig was sponsored by Doc Martens (this was actually a dig at the venue, as the only lights in the place were a couple of small ones that lit up his shoes, while the rest of his body and his guitar were virtually invisible!).

He then went on to sing Before They Put Me In The Ground, Aeroplane and Out Of It, then he may have played... something else ?!? My set list at this part is just a big wet blodge!

During either Two Way Thing or Song Of Madness, the little lights on the stage gave a weird view (that other people commented on after the gig) of Nick's hands that somehow just showed the speed of them in a different light - I can't really describe it, but it looked amazing! He then played The Magnificent G7, Smithereens, Kilty Stone, and Galaxy Song.

Then came a rather long interlude/heckle from the crowd, which went down quite well as it came from Ben! All sorts of things were discussed from jeans to football... Nick even commented on the plight of Barnsley Football Club, which obviously was for my benefit!

He went on to Love Is Music and Lily's Song - which was interrupted by a couple of "bing-bong"s as the front door was opened again for the 100th time. Nick then rightly commented that "there must be a long river of piss outside now," as virtually every bloke in the night must have nipped outside for a jimmy as the lack of loos had become a bit of an issue. He then (taking the piss slightly out of Ben) discussed his personal "Price Watch" - Ben's songs may be a bargain at 80p each, but as you can buy Double Life, with 19 songs, for 13, then that makes them 70p each... much more of a bargain!

After The Verse Time Forgot, he went offstage and eventually came back, with all the PA's and mics switched off, and walked around the audience singing a lovely version of the Nightingale Song which just rounded off an excellent night. The crowd were still clapping and shouting for him as he walked through the crowd with his suitcase of CDs. I heard him tell Russell and Tank (the guys running the venue) that he would do one more song, but for whatever reason the crowd thought that was that and began to leave.

All in all I had a cracking time, met up with loads of mates - including Mick & co, Marko & co, Jeff & co and a fair few new faces... I just can't remember the names yet - and to top it all a brilliant dark gig in a weird funky venue... what a chuffing treat! Hope to see some of you again in Camden or/and Aldershot or/and Birmingham or/and Ireland...

Created 8 December 2002
© MB/CM/PLC 2002