'The audience is like a big animal which you keep prodding; you're just a goad to this great sweating beast. It starts to move and then gets excited... one just gets caught up in the whole energy of the thing.' KEVIN AYERS 1973

Comet Ayers' periodic return to England after an absence of four years in order to promote his latest album, 'Still Life With Guitar', was not a heavily publicised event. Advertising was restricted to a small panel in one of the monthly glossies while a predictably misspelt 'Ayres' appeared in the gig listing of the two rock weeklies. Nevertheless, about 200 people appeared on the first night of a three night bash, ranging from auld Ayerites through to trainspotters and the simply curious.

Once inside the theatre's foyer, it soon became apparent that Permanent Records weren't interested in promoting 'Still Life' and more money was 'saved' by not publishing a programme. Times are hard, cynicism and/or apathy rules....

But on to the concert.

Once seated in the theatre (capacity 450), the 200 odd souls assumed the mantle of audience/ big animal and dutifully sat through support band Riffs' opening set. A sort of trans-Atlantic, wide-open spaces feel to the music predominated, somewhat similar to the US Paisley Underground band the Prime Movers. Polite applause, but no encore was demanded. The big animal was saving its energy...

Shortly thereafter the Ayers band (sans Ayers) took to the stage - Ollie Halsall, guitar and backing vocals; Claudia Pujol, keyboards, occasional guitar and backing vocals; Enrique 'Quique' Villafania (from the 1980 'Deia Vu' band), drums; Marcelo Fuentes, bass ( as on the 1988 tour and 'Falling Up'). Pujol and Villafania are both from Buenos Aires. The band launched into 'Feeling This Way' with Ayers sauntering onto stage to front the band and deliver the apologetic accusation of the first verse 'There's not a lot to say, when you're feeling this way, and you don't listen anyway'. Who does he say it to? Girl? Audience? Same sentiment on 'I don't depend on you', when Ayers pointed significantly to a portion of the audience.....

The set continued: 'Shouting In A Bucket Blues', 'Animals', 'May I', 'Thank You Very Much', 'Everybody's Sometime Blues', 'Super Salesman', 'Ghost Train', 'I Don't Depend On You', Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes'.

The band left the stage with shouts for the obligatory encore which was duly delivered but not in the traditional bio-jukebox-crowd-pleaser-music-by-numbers sort of way. Ollie decided to 'alter' the intro to ye olde Softe Machine number 'Why Are We Sleeping' with a series of grating noises and mock guitar-hero postures, much to the amusement and consternation of Ayers and the band until finally settling into a long jazz-like run on the guitar to start the song.

Over the years, Ollie's guitar playing with Ayers has been a source of wonderment to me, always veering off at unexpected tangents. This performance was no exception and is one that I personally will treasure and remember him by.

Off trouped the band but still the audience demanded more until, eventually, Kevin and Ollie returned to do a shimmering rendition of 'Two Goes Into Four', bringing the evening's entertainment to a triumphant, serene conclusion.

Finally appeased and satiated, the big animal raised itself onto its collective haunches, snaked out of the theatre and melted into the night.


first published in WAWS #1, Oct 92