Bob Dylan. Manchester Apollo Oct 28 2015

There are some artists that you just have to see at least once in your life. And so it was that tickets for the great man Bob Dylan came into our hot sweaty little hands. The chance to strike another “legend” off the bucket list was too good an opportunity to pass up on, especially as at the age of 74 it was highly unlikely I would ever see him again so me and Beancounter jumped into the bangbus and we headed off to the Apollo in Manchester to see him.

We got to our seats a few minutes late so missed the first six minutes of the performance but there he was, looking frail and old and every single one of his 74 years. I had not expected him to be standing there with an acoustic and a mouth organ across his chest but the line up did surprise me. Consisting of drums, bass, guitar, steel guitar, violin and of course Bob on the piano. The music was great and well played even it if did have a feel of the Grand Ole Opry to it. Not what I expected at all. To be honest I was not sure what to expect but whatever it was, what I heard was not it. Anyway     after 45 minutes there was an intermission and the band walked off as the house lights went up.

After 20 minutes the band walked on and straight back into the music to rapturous applause. He and his band played for another 45 minutes before walking off stage once more from the stage without a word. Cue standing ovations and calls for the Great Man to reappear which he duly did and performed one encore before disappearing again. It is for this reason that I mentioned we were six minutes late. He did not as far as I can recall say anything to the audience at any stage. No “Hi Manchester, it’s good to be here”, “So long Manchester, it’s been a pleasure”, nothing at all. I think this is the first concert by anyone I have ever been to where the audience was not at least acknowledged.

Beancounter asked me what I thought of the show and I said the music was good but I did not recognise a single track that was played. Some of the music was vaguely familiar but I did not recognise a single track nor understand a single word he sang or should that be mumbled all night? I have to state that I have never been a great fan preferring his tracks when sung by someone else. I cannot think of any Dylan song I have ever heard over the last 50 years or so that did not sound better when performed or recorded by someone other than Bob. Hopefully this has not come across as criticism but merely a statement of the facts as I saw and heard them.

I appreciate that diehard Dylan fans will be foaming at the mouth and spitting vitriol and death threats in my direction at my recollections of the evening and some of the comments I have expressed here. However for the record I did enjoy the evening and I am glad I went to see him and his band. Would I go again? No. One night of the great man is enough for me and I will never forget this show if only for the wrong reasons.

The Answer. Manchester 2012

The band            The Answer
The venue          Manchester Academy
Location             Manchester
Date                      13/03/2012

Back in February 2009 I took Bean counter to Paris to see ACDC at the Bercy stadium. Supporting the main act that night were an Irish band by the name of the Answer. I was impressed enough by the support to decide if they ever toured the UK as a headline in their own right I would go along and see them. As luck would have it in mid March 2012 they headlined at the Manchester academy along with a support act of their own and me and BC went to see them. In fairness it should be pointed it was a double headline act but the Answer finished the night and as far as I am concerned that means topping the bill.

If you not seen or heard of the Answer they are a 4 piece full on rock outfit consisting of drums, bass, guitar and vocals with the ability to bang out a good blues track every now and then. The vocalist is a bundle of energy in the Angus Young mould of never standing still and managing to look like cousin IT from the Adams family with St Vitas dance. He dived into the audience during “Preacher” and managed to get everyone around him to sit in a circle. This sort of thing is quite normal up north and does not happen a lot in the Hammersmith Odeon. The set list consisted of something old, don’t follow me and too far gone with lots of new stuff from the revival album. As a night it was pure rock with the venue packed to the rafters enhancing the atmosphere. I was jumping up and down like an 18 year old on crack by the third song. If you have not seen this outfit, go and see them now before they reach stadium level where they will be the size of matchsticks. I am sure you will not be disappointed. Check out their website for more details

Of course the crowd had been warmed up by the previous band the Union.  Formed by Luke Morley thunders ex guitarist this is a powerful rock band with a couple of albums under their belt. Check out their debut album Union and the follow up Sirens song.  The vocalist (Pete Shoulder) dominates the stage with a throaty powerful voice and the ability to tell a tale. His story of how the band were stopped by the police on the way down to Manchester and probably faced a hefty fine on their return went down well. I was in party mood long before they left the stage. I had not heard of this band before but their albums are on my Xmas wish list.

Well before we arrived and shortly after booking the tickets the pair of us decided we would stay the night in Manchester so we could have a drink and something to eat rather than face the drive home and the associated traffic. What we required was a place not too far away from the Academy and not too noisy. And so it was that I stumbled upon the Martin Luther king hotel which fitted in with what we needed and with the price being right I booked for one night. I never gave it a moment’s thought until we arrived in the grounds of the hotel and I thought this looks like an old college or school. And so it was that I had booked us into a theological retreat. I suppose the name should have given it away but I just assumed it was a trendy name like Mandela walks which are given out randomly by the “right on” PC brigade.

I can tell you it in is fact a charming place and if you ever want peace and quiet within the inner city this is the place to go. I could see me staying there for a couple of days to recharge my batteries and unwind but probably not for much longer than that. With an epic concert and a comfortable bed it really was a great night.

Rush October 2007

The Band:                   Rush
Venue:                         MEN
Location:                     Manchester
Date :                          14/10/2007

For what seems like the first time in Ages me and the bean Counter went to Manchester and stayed overnight. “The occasion?” I hear you ask, A concert by Rush to celebrate 30 years together and what a concert it was. The best light show I have ever seen in an indoor arena. As for the music well it was everything that rock n roll stands for. Self indulgent solo’s, long complicated tracks and deafening noise and a blistering 3 hour set. The tour was to publicise Rush’s new album “Snakes and Arrows”. While the new material is excellent the loudest applause was of course for the old stuff such as “Passage to Bangkok”, “Spirit of Radio”, “Tom Sawyer” etc. To be fair it was not about sex, drugs and rock n roll. If you want that kind of stuff go and see ACDC or The Who.

The only downside to the evening was the venue. Thrombosis inducing seats, no room to stretch or carry out any of the exercises the airlines advise on long haul flights. You can no longer stand at seated arenas for fear of the wrath of the Nazi Elf n Safety marshals threatening you with ejection if you don’t sit down again and then there is the design of the building. The main corridor is a circular affair with the toilets and food stalls and merchandising stands spread out along its length. This means that if there are queues at any of the stands you can’t get past to walk around with any ease. Added to this the marshals will not let anyone leave the building even to obtain fresh air and it was stiflingly hot in there. If you do you will not be allowed back in again. It was my third time at the MEN and it will be my last.

Peter Frampton November 2011

The Band             Peter Frampton
Venue                  Bridgewater Hall
Location               Manchester
Date                      11/11/2011

For those too young to remember, Peter Frampton was one of the biggest selling rock artists of the 70’s. A member of the Herd for 3 years before forming Humble Pie with Steve Marriot and after 5 albums he left the Herd to became a solo artist. His most successful album, probably his greatest and the one he is usually remembered for is “Frampton Comes Alive” released in 1976. It was this album that first brought him to my attention.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the double album “Frampton Comes Alive” Pete took to the road to perform all of the tracks from the ground breaking album live. The Celebration tour kicked off in Manchester and I was lucky enough to get tickets to see him. The hair may have gone and the waist may have thickened ever so slightly and but the talent is still there and so is the voice. The dexterity in his fingers shows no sign of slowing down or loss. The whole of the double album was played in one sitting and was as faithful to the original recording as it was possible to be. “Do you feel like we do” still had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up even after 35 years. 35 years? Where does the time go? Sadly Bob Mayo is with us no more but this was excellent vintage stuff.

After the “live” album set list was finished there was an interval and then our hero strode onto the stage and performed: Asleep At The Wheel, Restraint, Float, Boot It Up, Double Nickels, Vaudeville Nanna And The Banjolele, Road To The Sun, Black Hole Sun, Four Day Creep, Off The Hook and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. All in all a blistering set performed with craft that rolled back the years and belied his age. I may never get the chance to see him again but I won’t forget this concert in a hurry.

For more information check out Pete’s website.

Mothership February 2012

The band:            Mothership
The venue:         Pacific Road Arts Centre
Location:             Birkenhead Wirral
Date:                     03/02/2012

When you go to see a tribute band you know roughly what you are going to get. In some cases it is the nearest you may come to seeing your real life heroes. I never saw Led Zeppelin live and it is now impossible to see ever see the original line up even if those who are left were to play again. So when the opportunity came to see a Zeppelin tribute band I thought why not. I have been to see a lot of tribute bands in the past including the Australian Pink Floyd and Limehouse Lizzy. Some of the bands have been great and some have been decidedly so so.  Sadly this fantastic venue is under threat of closure so it was possibly a last opportunity to see anyone perform here.

The last Zeppelin tribute band I saw here were Awholelottaled and they were OK if not surprisingly the “real deal”. I had high hopes for Mothership and the band came straight on with no support to warm the crowd up for them and launched into their set which included classics such as Rock’n’Roll , Black Dog, Whole lotta Love and of course Stairway to heaven, never my favourite track at the best of times. A storming set of 2 hours was only marred by technical problems with the sound. At times all I could hear was the ringing of Hi Hats and at others the speakers in the PA sounded as though the cones had been ripped out. The acoustic section of the performance was held up while they found a new battery for the pick up on the jumbo acoustic.

Some excellent guitar work accompanied vocals that were at times the nearest thing I had heard to the original so far. When they were good they were very good and when they were not so good they were still OK. Kashmir and the Lemon Song were for me at least the highlights of this performance and yes I would go and see them again