anniversary concert @ Islington Academy, London 30th July 2004
Night to Remember... ...and don't forget the 20 Years Gone before!
This well anticipated
celebratory concert of 20 years in existence of the most refined of
folk-punk bands, The Men They Couldn't Hang, started with the challenge
of finding the entrance to the venue located inside a modern shopping
center near Angel station. You enter on ground level, get your bags
searched in a hap-hazard way, then go to first floor level for the
venue. This was how what surely would be a night to remember got
safely inside, finding the way to one of the bars on either side was
for most an easy task with immediate rewards.
venue itself seemed perfect for an evening that was going to be filmed
for a future DVD release. Both light and sound were of good quality,
something that hopefully will be apparent on the DVD.
up were the Fast Lane Roogalators, who had supported TMTCH on many
previous occasions. However, this was the first time I had seen them in
their full lineup. They worked their charm on the audience and got the
usual suspects dancing to their own twist of folk-rock music with
critical lyrics with bite.
I wanted more than anything else from this band was their mandolin!
Nope, not the player, JUST the instrument, to shove it in Paul's hands
and tell him to bring back that classic TMTCH sound!!!
at about 15 minutes to nine, The Men came on stage in the company of
Nick Muir, their long-lost keyboard and accordion player and the ever
impressive Bobby Valentino, who was already sporting a big smile and
that customaty cigarette hanging from his mouth.
Day After” was the first song of the evening, which was
introduced by a cheerful Swill. After this Nick Muir decided to
disappear off the stage again and was called back by the band, who were
joking whether he was embarrassed to be seen with them! At least there
was no need to ask Bobby V that same question, it would have taken a
tractor to remove him from stage (or, alternatively, the Freddie
Mercury look-alike bouncer, who certainly had the sensitivity of a farm
security inside the venue were determined to make up for the neglect of
the door's security to check for cameras and jumped any person trying
to get a few shots of the band. I'm happy to say that several of us
still succeeded in getting some great pictures of this most memorable
songs chosen were a good mixture of old and new, but regrettably
nothing from their album “Never Born To Follow”.
But they did play songs that had been requested on the website's
made a welcome return, which Swill sang accompanied by Nick Muir on
keyboards and Bobby Valentino playing the fiddle before Swill performed
the now customary solo “Barrett's Privateers”
without musical support, but with much conviction. This was followed up
by Cush performing two rarely performed songs “The
Bells” and “Silver Dagger”.
dedicated “Smugglers” to Buck, who had been
inspirational in organizing a special after show event and had been
instrumental in making sure a 20th anniversary show would go ahead.
evening seemed to be over far too quickly, but the band returned with
Jon Odgers, who had been watching the performance from the side of the
stage until then, to play two more songs. Apparently Jon had been very
nervous and had been practicing for this event especially. It was good
to see him back on stage with TMTCH!
shock of the evening must have been the absense of any stage invaders
during “Green Fields Of France”. This was not for
the lack of trying by some determined fans, but the security where fast
to stop any hopeful stage climbers. They also seemed to take offense at
the two ladies sitting on someone's shoulders, one a tower of three,
despite the fact that it was peaceful and harmless fun.
Shanne, who was a guest ten years earlier at the Mean Fiddler, was
absent from this anniversary celebration. No-one knew how to get in
touch with her to ask her to join in on bass for a song or two, while
another rumoured guest, Atilla The Stockbroker, was too busy jumping up
and down with the rest of the audience to appear on stage for a quick
“Iron Men Of Rap”.
The cameras used to film the concert with were distracting at best of
times, but I think everyone was happy to put up with this inconvenience
in return for a digitized memory of an excellent show.
in all it was a wonderful evening which ended with a spontaneous chorus
of “We'll support you ever more” by fans!
The songs played that evening were as follows (but not necessarily in
this particular order!):
Day After (show opener)
Back To Coventry
of Cable Street
(Swill with Bobby V and Nick Muir)
(dedicated to Buck)
Fields Of France (last song of the evening)
for the next part of their 20th anniversary celebration at the nearby
Wenlock Arms pub some challenges awaited the band – for Swill
this meant trying to find the pub by himself after the organization
skills (or the lack thereof!) of the other band members who had arrived
at the pub early left him behind at the venue holding the guitars.
came upstairs to inform us of the reason for the slight delay, which
made Buck feel anxious about whether any acoustic gig would be
forthcoming at all. As it turned out, Cush himself had been blissfully
unaware until he arrived from South Wales that morning that an acoustic
set had been arranged. He was in good spirits about it, though, but did
not feel like performing a stand-in accapello set until Swill and the
guitars were found.
Once Swill and the guitars had safely arrived, the next challenge was
to find songs they remembered how to play and which they hadn't played
in the Academy gig.
and Swill started off with three beautifully played ballads, before the
song requests demanded the presence of Cush. He then took over from
Paul on guitar and the duet of the two singers also turned into a bit
of a cabaret. After their first three songs they were interrupted by
Will the landlord, who informed us that as the governor, he was
expecting things to wind down by 1:15 in the morning and all of us to
leave by 1:30am.
Town” was a request which was probably ill-advised. First
they managed to tie themselves into knots, but once they untangeled
from slaughtering the song, Cush added extra guitar sounds Flying
Swill was thinking of what other songs they could play, Cush filled in
by playing an impromptu cover version of “In The
Ghetto” by himself, at the end of which Swill suggested to
laugh, rather than clap!
Ribbons” certainly was a highlight, with Cush remarking about
recent political events.
was happily flogging his solo CD when Cush suggested they play
something from that CD. Maybe he regretted that idea moments later when
Swill managed to trip him up by playing his new reworked version of
“Family Way”; maybe he should have given a copy of
his CD to Cush!
a short debate about playing an acoustic version of
“Rosettes”, they burst into song again with
“Donald Where's Your Troosers?”.
“Rawhide” was supposed to be the last song, with
the time now gone way past 1:30, but they were on a roll and added
another two covers of songs you would normally not associate with
TMTCH. When folks were still demanding one more song after that, Cush
added “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” to the list
of covers and cock-ups before dropping to the floor in mock exhaustion.
was shortly before 3am by the time the last lot left the pub to find
their way home by cab or bus, after a member of the small Wenlock
audience had finally managed to say goodbye to Swill for the 100th
time, then was peeled away from Swill by his girlfriend who wanted to
finally go home!
songs played at the Wenlock:
Have And To Hold
In The Rain
Law and Ali Macgraw
The Ghetto (Cush)
In The Giro
Where's Your Troosers?
I Stay Or Should I Go? (Cush)
Sadly not all the people who had wanted to attend
the Wenlock occasion were able to do so. Hopefully on the short tour
later this year they will have a chance to catch TMTCH at a
cabaret-style acoustic performance as well. Hope to see you all (again)
at the next event!