UK Gigs November 2003

Renfrew Ferry

free day


STEVE FOSTER reports from the ASTORIA, LONDON November 15 and 16 2003

Progeny (Prog Rock Festival). Not quite sure how Kevin qualifies. Some might argue that Soft Machine and co. kicked it all off, others that Dr Dream might slip in to a very broad definition of the genre. Maybe it's the keyboards? I don't know. Whatever the merits of this kind of music, and with due respect to the other bands on the bill, it beggars belief that Kevin was playing second fiddle here.

Saturday 15th November

Line up announced as (in order of appearance): Magenta, Richard Sinclair, In Cahoots, Pallas, The Carl Palmer Band and I.Q.

Kevin and band appeared as late (very late) replacements for The Carl Palmer Band, whose guitarist had apparently gone deaf! Inevitably few fans were aware of the gig and after a good 50-minute set there weren't enough of us in the audience to even call for an encore.

Sunday 16th November

Line up announced as: Kevin Ayers, Arena (unplugged), Mostly Autumn, The Enid and Pendragon.

Kevin and band opened the ball at 16:00. Inspite of the Sunday afternoon slot there was a fair turn out of fans this time, but still no encore. The band over ran their allotted 50 minute slot and Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes was nearly interrupted as the house lights were switched on. Ludo carried on banging his cowbells, Kevin continued his guitar intro unaware, the lights were quickly dimmed again and the band joined in.

Both gigs were excellent, though the Sunday gig definitely shaded it (Alain brilliant on guitar). No sign of ring rust that I could detect but hey the band have all played these songs enough times before. I heard from Galen, Marvin and Alain on Sunday that they hadn't been happy with the Saturday gig (no sound on stage). It sounded fine down in the pit where I was standing.

A little steep at £15.00 a ticket and £3.00+ a beer for 50 minutes of music but well worth it Martin, just to hear those first few bars at the beginning of Super Salesman!

Anyone reading this will be able to guess at the set list. For the record:

Saturday 15th November: Feeling This Way, Champagne and Valium, Mr Cool, Super Salesman, There Goes Johnny, Lady Rachel, See You Later, Didn't Feel Lonely, Everybody's Sometime Blues, Shouting In A Bucket Blues and Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes.

Sunday 16th November: Feeling This Way, Champagne and Valium, Mr Cool, There Goes Johnny, Lady Rachel, See You Later, Didn't Feel Lonely, Everybody's Sometime Blues, Super Salesman, Shouting In A Bucket Blues, When Your Parents Go To Sleep and Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes.

BILL TASKER reports from the CAVERN, LIVERPOOL November 17 2003

I had arranged to meet with Martin beforehand in 'The Grapes' (when the Beatles played The Cavern, it was a jazz club and had no drinks licence so the lads used to nip down the road to The Grapes for a bevvy. Unfortunately, I think our wires got crossed and Martin didn't show. Here's a tip to WAWS correspondents - arrange to meet Martin in a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint - he will definitely turn up then!).

I got to the Cavern just after 8:00 pm and staked out a table in a central position. I looked around for our Editor (anyone remember the good old days when we used to get WAWS magazines?). I spotted a stall selling Kevin's CDs, and I spotted some of the Wizards who were really enjoying the set and cheering the band on, a group of fans from Belgium who were following the band around the UK, but I couldn't spot the breadcrumb-bespattered one - but not to worry Serendipity Dawg came to my aid, as a lovely lady came and sat next to me. Her name was Helen and she had black corkscrew curls (a la Crystal Tips) and a youthful face and figure that belied her claims to have seen Kevin back in the 70's. She was wonderful company throughout the evening and a definite improvement on our editor who would have reminded me of the Welsh footy team's affinity with banana skins, and then gone into graphic details of his own new 'Bell End'.

Well what of the gig review you ask? Well, I won't give a set list this time but I'll mention a few things that stood out. When the band first kicked off we had the usual Kevin arriving fashionably late as ever sweetie thing. To my brittle ears I think they had the mix a tad wrong with the drums mic-ed too loud in the mix while Martin's keyboards were too quiet. I remember thinking that the keyboards weren't loud enough last year. Later on the drummer would use brushes and those beaters with the big fluffy ends (the world of timpani had a sad loss when I developed 'skin problems' (boom boom)), he was also mic-ed up to do the backing vocals.

The bass was solid throughout and like a referee - you only realise what a good job they're doing when you realise that you haven't noticed them. On lead, Alain, was again having a blinder. His heft hand looking like four chipolatas wriggling and jumping in a hot frying-pan (I think I'm overdosing with metaphors today). He let rip in blistering fashion whenever let off the lead - or should that be let on the lead? Has he ever attempted 'Blue' - an Ollie-adoring mate's yardstick of 'Ollieescence'. Oh yeah and the bloke on rhythm guitar and vocals - he played the odd bum note, mucked up an intro to one song by playing a different song entirely, but apart from that he was just seven kinds of wonderful.

Highlights of the evening were the spookily atmospheric versions of 'Lady Rachel' and 'Whatevershebringswesing'. Then there was the rockier 'Shouting...', 'Didn't feel lonely..." and 'Stranger....' which all went down well. I bumped into Kevin during the interval and he is as charming as ever. I remarked that I'd first seen him with 'The Whole World' back in 1970 and he replied that I'd find the current band a lot more.... 'together'. I wouldn't call it lowlights but I missed not having 'May I?' in the set - that's been in every set that I'd ever seen up until last night. Helen was also disappointed that there was no 'Why Are We Sleeping?' in the set. Still it would be a four-hour set if we had all our favourites played.

- Martin I still owe you a pint and you owe me several issues of WAWS.

I report from the CAVERN, LIVERPOOL November 17 2003 and WITCHWOOD, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE November 18 2003

I was in the right pub in spite of the scurruilous accusations above, but admittedly at the wrong time. I always assume gigs start an hour after the time advertised on the ticket. 8.00pm hints at some sort of faint action around 9 o'clock. But don't try that with Bob Dylan. He starts at 7.30 so he can be in pyjamas with his cocoa at 9 o'clock. Otherwise the Wakeling rule of thumb works well and you are spared some horrendous support acts. Or lots of gratuitous chattering and plastic glasses.

Liverpool was excellent, the Cavern suitably dark and almost pushing the 100 strong crowd on top of the band so essential intimacy was guaranteed. I don't think this is an aura of Beatles magic - I think only the toilets probably retain some flavour of the original venue. Kevin looked very well and the sound was good with the band able to play quietly at times and bringing some essential dynamic to the set. No surprises whatsoever in the choice of songs and nary a new one on show apart from the risque (ie rude) 'Big Bamboo' which formed part of the encore. There are some politics involved at the moment in this choice of songs which I won't expand upon here but fair to say that the 'classics' - Rachel, Didn't Feel Lonely, Whatevershebrings etc (you know 'em!) - stand out exceptionally as clear favourites. Others which seem to have been lengthened without being 'developed' or lifted a level don't present Kevin or the band at their best. You know I'll include Super Salesman in that category but Feeling This Way and There Goes Johnny are starting to join it? The whole set in Liverpool was excellent because the venue and sound quality nurtured every note. Alain, as always, was sublime - top marks too to Ludo who battered his kit with splendid urgency and pace. I was thrilled to meet up with several Wizards of Twiddly - both Andys, Simon and Pete Goddard. Much hugging ensued after 8 years - can you believe it? And yes, the word 'reunion' was mentioned. As we trooped backstage to say 'hi' it struck me that I was standing in a room with my two favourite bands of all time. If only Arthur Lee, Randy California and Peter Perrett could have joined us - mind you, if they had, I would now be writing this in a wooden overcoat...

The Witchwood gig was hard work for the band against an unforgiving venue (imagine a vandalised bus shelter), harsh light and a rather flat sound. Again, about a 100 people. Ashton is middle of nowhere territory and this venue traditionally does well to keep going on weekday nights but we need to tell the promotor to use a bit more imagination in finding a central Manchester venue - there's several hundred thousand City fans just up the road! Highlight of tonight was again an ethereal Lady Rachel though, unbelievably, had to shout at two women who talked/shouted all through it. That pisses me off. Nothing should damage that song. Friends who came never having seen Kevin were awestruck by that song but politely reserved judgement on certain others. Mrs Editor (not present at Liverpool) thought it 'workmanlike' but I think that's harsh. To me, the word means getting boiled potatoes when you could have chips. Surreal part of this gig was a beaming fat bloke in a suit with a 58" waist (and rest assured, I am ideally placed to assess this kind of thing from personal experience) who waltzed and jived and jitterbugged to the Kevin Ayers Dance Band. It was lovely, pure Phoenix Nights to watch. Where's the bouncy castle?

The sets were as the Astoria (see above) with Star, Blaming It All On Love, Whatevershebringswesing (not at Witchwood), Big Bamboo mixed in. Can't remember the order. Ask a trainspotter.

STUART was at the RENFREW FERRY, GLASGOW November 19 2003

Arrived with my mate at the ferry, an old car ferry converted into a nice wee place for doin this kind of gig.

8.00pm sharp the place was empty...........

Get the drinks in.

Scotland was playing and getting humiliated by the dutch nuf said.

A local band came on and played for three quarters of an hour,ok but lead singing couldn't be heard clearly and drummer a wee bit over-bearing.(kev was on a late meal).By this time the place has got a lot busier 60-80 folk difficult to say i was upstairs looking down on the great man,i still look upto you thou kev.

The man arrives at 9.00 and is onstage at 9.40ish

For the next hour and three quarters the place is jumpin,all the usual goodies are played. feelin this way, there goes johnny,mr cool ,parents go to sleep,Our hero doesn't stick to the list of songs at his feet.

Cant complain all my favourites are played,Kevin's voice deep and melancholic as ever.A few shouts from the crowd play this.... play that.... brings a smile to Mr Ayers face.Two songs are sung for an encore and Kevin looking tired gives up, marvin and the lads look like they could go on,

Kevin is looking tired it is 11.35pm nite nite.

Thank you Kevin for another classic Ayers evening.

Was anyone there at Shrewsbury? Please drop us a few words. Many thanks.

I was also there at the BOARDWALK, SHEFFIELD November 22 2003

This gig was a reaffirmation of faith and an opportunity to put aside the jocular and simply say that, on nights like this, Kevin Ayers is the best there is. Unassailable and without parallel.

What are the magic ingredients? After a week on the road, as in previous tours, this band reaches a peak where all comes together like a turbocharge kicking in. Add the second ingredient of excellent sound - and this was crystal. The band clearly are at the whim of whoever is at the venue mixing desk and totally reliant on their level of skill, sympathy and care. The Boardwalk are very lucky to have whoever they had on the desk last night. The balance had a warmth and clarity that was an effortless joy to listen to. And the third ingredient was clearly the 55 people counted in the audience. The last minute switch of date from Wednesday had evidently confused the good people of Sheffield, lead to a chronic under promotion of the right date and caught people having already made alternate plans for the weekend. However, small but beautiful, the Sheffield 55 were there to hear the man - some apparently had travelled over from Newcastle and Cambridge to catch a date. Enthusiasm, applause, whoops and hollers trebled, quadrupled, magnified the numbers till it no longer mattered.

I can't explain the fourth ingredient but you will understand and know what I mean. It's more than the old 'sum of the parts' chestnut. This is the unseen presence of EveryFan willing and urging the spirit of every song, past, present and future to a higher and higher level, deeper and deeper within us.

Kevin was full of beans, metaphorically and as a result of lunch.The charm was all there and just kept growing. The parcel never actually got unwrapped before Lady Rachel's castle got discovered, but who cares, or even noticed - the chorus thundered in with customary magnificence. The set had been rejigged a little, still essentially as above but with 'Everybody's Sometime Blues' much earlier and 'Champagne and Valium' towards the end. 'Whatevershebrings' was reinstated (by request, many many thanks for the kind words) and a lovely 'May I?' was plucked from the repertoire as a finale. It was a very very satisfying set that, with a short interval, filled the evening. On this form even 'Super Salesman' merited its place with Alain's runs ever more Ollieish.

I think I've said enough to convey the drift that this was special, very special. Special thanks also to Kathryn and Alan for continuing good company.


Good turn out (200 plus fans in full voice) in this excellent venue - there's some tenuous link between Kevin and the owner going back into the mists of time. The gig had an end of tour feel to it and was of the warts and all variety - all endearing stuff. Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes really ripped. Close your eyes to Lady Rachel and you could almost hear Jimi (Alain even starting to look like him with that shock of hair). The consensus of opinion, however, seemed to be that the band had played better the previous night in Sheffield.

A splendid evening and great to catch up with members of that extended family that is the Banana Tribe (Margaret, David and Christine, Al and partner). Fantastic, too, to see a lot of younger faces in the crowd.

First set: Feeling This Way, Everybody's Sometime, Mr Cool, When Your Parents Go To Sleep, There Goes Johnny, Blaming It All On Love, Lady Rachel.

Second set: Super Salesman, See You Later, Didn't Feel Lonely, Champagne and Valium, Star, Whatevershebringswesing, Shouting In A Bucket Blues, Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes

No encore - 10:30 curfew! And nowhere to have a drink afterwards - even in Soho. Our friends from Belgium think we live in the Dark Ages.

Globetrottin' STEPHEN FRYER was also there at the BORDERLINE, LONDON November 23 2003

This was the Bands 3rd appearance at The Borderline in just over a year and an audience of over 200 were most enthusiastic in their support. It was no surprise that the gathered throng were so vocal. The sound was good and I feel the songs were all performed at or near their very best. A wonderful gig. Much frivolity too when Blaming it all on Love was re-started due to a words mess up. Even more laughter and applause when Everybody's Sometime Blues was abandoned when Kevin announced half way through "sorry I've just realised we've already done that one" !

From the 4 gigs I attended this past week, this has been a succesful little tour played by a wonderfully talented band in good spirits and visibly enjoying these brilliant songs. Kevin extended the happy mood tonight by encouraging audience vocals on Whatevershebringswesing and, unusually, Shouting in a Bucket Blues. However, the faithful were left wondering what happened to Beware of the Dog, May I, Big Bamboo, I dont Depend on you or Thank you Very Much. All had appeared earlier in the week. A big disappointment too that a loud five minute plea for an encore proved fruitless.

So a slightly truncated set but the quality of Marvin,Patrick, Ludo and the permanantly brilliant Alain once again lifted Kevin Ayers to great heights. The man himself was singing as well as ever and , if he still "doesn't enjoy performing" it certainly didn't show tonight

RICHARD KEMBLE rounds up the reports from the BORDERLINE, LONDON November 23 2003

The Borderline is a terrific Ayers venue. The club had about 180 or so happy Ayers fans who had escaped the wet elements.

I always think Kevin is at his best in the Metropolis. Tonight he was dressed in familiar black. He seemed relaxed and appeared to enjoy himself. The set stayed the same as on tour, starting with ‘Feeling This way.’ I notice that Kevin seems to prefer the rhythmic numbers these days: ‘Super Salesman’ and ‘There Goes Johnny’ being particularly well performed. ‘Blaming it all on Love’ had to be restated but part of Kevin’s enduring charm is his ability to make a mistake and get away with it.

Of course I miss the numbers that were omitted, such as ‘Stop That Train’ and ‘May I’ but still cherish anything that Kevin chooses to perform. We all joined in ‘Whatevershebringswesing’ and Alain put his own sparkle into the great ‘Lady Rachel.’ This is no mean feat because Mike Oldfield, Ollie Halsall and Andy Summers have all stamped their mark on this wonderful song. I also notice that Alain appears to play most of the songs with his eyes closed. Awesome!

I was looking forward to an encore of ‘The Big Bamboo’ but it was not to be despite a lot of calling and stamping as we had reached the strict Sunday time limits.

I gather Kevin and the band will return to the Borderline in May. Fingers crossed.

Thank you, as ever, to the kind souls whose words make it possible for us all to sniff a few flowers.