PARIS 1992

Line 7 of the Paris Metro came to a halt. Le Peletier station. Our stop. The weather in the 9th 'arrondissement' that evening was miserable. It was raining but what did it matter - we didn't even notice, far more concerned to find this famous North-West Passage Club where Kevin Ayers was going to appear....

And there it was, the entrance looking somewhat unpromising with only a small poster in a hidden window to inform the curious of the night's show. The place was lit up but the show didn't start for two hours so why not kill the agonising wait with a bite to eat? Soon sorted that out with a very enticing little Lebanese restaurant - (no) Sunshine and this crazy (Lebanese) wine make me think of you, Kevin...

21.30, time to go. No crowds at the door, no pushing and shoving. In we went. The room was small but welcoming; tables around the place and an inviting bar down one side. We sat at the side of the stage deducing from the position of the instruments that friend Ollie would only be a couple of metres away.

So then, so many years waiting would finally be rewarded - we were going to see and hear Kevin Ayers and all this with a beer in front of us, who could ask for more?!

The band came on without the 'maestro'; Ollie just at arm's length in front of us. The first notes of 'Feeling This Way' erupted into a long rhythmic introduction, a bit like an uptempo 'May I'. And out ambled Kevin - jeans, trainers, black silk shirt - looking happy, almost euphoric. The audience ( I guess about 300, the place was packed), all aged between 30 and 50, gave him a triumphant welcome.

A fine start and it would remain so during the evening. The sound was excellent, as was the choice of songs. Kevin was very genial, though who would have expected otherwise? Ollie and his fantastic solos now, alas, gone for ever. Quique Villafania pounded his drums - and what grimaces!! (move over, Phil Miller! - Ed.) Marcelo Fuentes was solid and in control (great solo in 'Super Salesman), Claudia Pujol discreetly efficient as required. The songs caught us all up together in the same happy mood, all there for the sole reason of seeing this musical Great Man. Plenty from 'Still Life' of course but also those classics which Ayers couldn't possibly NOT have played - 'May I','Shouting In A Bucket', 'Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes' etc. And then the finale of finales, the cherry on the cake, the zenith, the piece de resistance ....'Why Are We Sleeping'!! What a moment of intense pleasure! I wasn't expecting it! And what a superb version, as good as the Dr Dream or Drijbergen 1970 version. ( a little anecdote - there was a burst of manic laughter from the band when Ollie's mike started to play up during the spoken intro... Hmmmm )

'Sleeping' was the official end of the set but they came back on for 'Stop This Train' and an emotionally charged 'Two Goes Into Four'. But we wanted more! There were 10 minutes shouting and clapping and Ollie had to come out with a glass in his hand and say they were all exhausted before we accepted that was the end.

Merci, Kevin. Thank you for being yourself and what we expected. Your concert was happy, vibrant, perfect in every way and you seemed glad to play, to be there with us. When the lights came up, you know we all had smiles on our faces, happily overwhelmed by all the magic we had just lived through, like when some shouted 'Vive la banane!' and you said in French 'We could do wih some of those, eh?'

Kevin, my friend, you thanked us in Paris that day, but it's really we who should be thanking you for that magnificent evening and all those times made magnificent when we listen to your music.

(Kevin Ayers played the same club the night after. It goes without saying that if we hadn't had to leave Paris.....)


first published in WAWS #1, Oct 92