In good spirits, with music stands and instruments all over the place, Richard begins with Pharaoh, introduces DT and Christine and performs the first and last tracks of Hard Cash side one: Time to Ring and Mrs Rita. ("Employees were sacked for pilfering but they were being paid less than the minimum wage, so they had good reason to steal." Controversial.)
It has to be said that Christine is dressed like a Spice Girl, with a tiny outfit revealing about 3 times more flesh than it conceals. Her tops are coming down and hems going up at such a rate, they'll soon cross over. She sings well too. Mrs Rita isn't much of a song, IMO.
"Some more nordic angst from the last album before the industrial grit."
The Ghost OYW
Wall of Death. He sings it in the wrong key but everybody adjusts without a flicker. "Professionals", he comments.
Paul Clarvis (drums) and Tony Roberts (sax) are intro'd for Al B. Clarvis is incredible: he has to play restrained cymbals but his eyes are popping out of his head like a man thinking "Help. Why am I here? What on earth can I do?" But he's good, and younger than the average Saw Doctor. The sax blasts in on cue from a Ronnie Scott lookalike, complete with Gorbachev trilby. He's good and doesn't seem to have to try as hard as Pete Z. RT orchestrates US-style applause for each solo.
End of the first in a "game of three thirds" (RT). A very tight, relaxed show of about 30 minutes so far. CC's mic isn't as good as Richard's.
Then straight into Chorale and Sweetheart. It's the CD note for note. DT has a mic, so he introduces the band and theme. (The mic proves useful later when RT teases DT with "... this is the last time we work together." "So it's not all bad news for me", DT retorts.)
"The great Tony Roberts helped enormously with the arrangements. Tonight on flute, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophone and telephone." Dylan Fowler on guitar, cor anglais and oboe! (He straps a number of guitars up high. Richard steps back and admires his solos, they're that good.) Harrison Smith on saxes and bass clarinet.
Big Chimney is fantastic. The heat of the furnace burns you. Great RT electric solo, on a par with Pal last year.
The band is so tight. Each musician seems to be a top session man on many instruments. Makes you sick. Peter Knight and DT are relatively under-weaponed with only a fiddle and a string bass, but what sounds. And they make up for their single instruments: Peter turns his fiddle into a mandolin throughout Lottery Land, playing pizzicato with a pick (or at least fingernails, I can't see); DT whacks the bridge with the back of his bow on New Rhythms.
Drifting still sounds too low for RT and the breath pattern is a challenge. Saboteur has great presence, live. Last Shift is wonderful. The tune sounds unique but I'm told it's Russian(?)
They're all so relaxed, including Richard, all showing off by not raising their instruments until a milli-second before their part starts.
(Woodsie - Morris reference coming up.)
An encore. RT teases us by introducing a singalong and playing an intro. Some of the audience think they recognise it, but he goes into My Way to humiliate them. The song becomes "Keep That Wheel Turning (As we do a little Morris Dance)" It's a polka, very similar to Bring a Little Water Sylvie and the like.
A very unusual show. Hardly any improvisation but consummate musicianship. I loved it. Until Richard's vocal is a bit slow to come in after a solo on the encore, I haven't been able to detect even a hint of a fluff.
Some US listees have bemoaned the lack of a show over there, but this is really a Brit-specific theme and a spot of Thompson indulgence. They just enjoy it so much and they don't care about the ludicrous economics of five shows with expensive musicians and a CD. I can't imagine much of an audience for it in the US outside of listmembers and Scranton Pa. (Sorry if I've insulted that great nation.)