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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Four gigs and a fuck up - seeing Robert Forster, Bad Bad Hats, Liam Gallagher and Gary Numan…and failing to see Honeyblood…various venues, London, May/June 2024

Two weeks of very different gigs and a lesson in the need to check stage times...


Honeyblood, Oslo, London, 23rd May 2024

Mrs JO'B and I bonded over Honeyblood early in our relationship. She had seen them way back when in Bedford, supporting Courtney Barnett on a jaunt over to the UK back in 2014. It was one of the gigs we discussed when we first met in 2015, and I was quite jealous. Courtney Barnett in a tiny venue sounded very cool. I didn't know Honeyblood, so bought the album and took her to see them as we started "courting", as they used to say. We have seen them a few times together and have all three of their rather fine indie-rock albums. They are a little more rock than either of us would normally go for, but they are catchy and cool. They have been very quiet for the last five years, but Killer Bangs and Ready For The Magic remain bangers.


The previous day's General Election announcement has caused me all sorts of issues with work – we were still working out what we could / couldn’t do in the pre-election period. My colleague and I headed for a beer in Islington before the gig to talk it through, and meet Mrs JO'B there. We talked a lot, and decided we were enjoying ourselves too much to rush off for the gig. It's 15 minutes away, so we agree we will have "one more" and miss the beginning of the show. But we will definitely see some of the gig. 


As I have got older, I have got into a bad habit of missing gigs - too tired, too stressed, too much going on. Actually, it's not a bad habit - better to look after yourself than force fun and frolics. Twickets means I can make sure someone else can have a great time instead and get most of the cash back. Result.



Tonight though, it's too late for the Twickets option. My colleague heads home and we hurtle down to Oslo (the venue in Hackney, not the city) and rush into the venue. It's 9.40. We will have missed a fair bit of the show, but we will hear the hits, surely? As the security man scans our tickets and stamps our wrists, he tells us we are late, in a slightly scolding tone, like one of my more weary lecturers, dismayed at my poor punctuality/attendance back at University. We laugh, not realising how late we really are. 


As we walk into the show, we are in time to hear the last chord and Honeyblood frontwoman Stina Tweeddale yell "thank you, goodnight!". It's 9.40. Does she have an early bedtime? Then we realise, the venue has a club night, so the band have to be off stage. Bugger. We have a consolation beer and look briefly at the merchandise, but we have fucked up. Next time.

 

Robert Forster, Omeara, London, 25th May 2024

Two days later we have another gig in a small venue. This time, I check the venue timings carefully. There is indeed another club night after the gig, so Robert will be on stage at 7.45. We are in the venue 20 minutes early. Lessons have been learned.

 

Mrs JO’B and I saw Robert at another tiny venue, Bush Hall, back in December 2015, before we were dating. The former Go-Between is still going strong, playing solo shows, just him, his stories and an acoustic guitar. Tonight is the second of two London shows – he’s learnt 40 songs to draw on for this tour around various cities in Europe, and he’s playing the lot over the two nights at Omeara. It’s impressive to be able to play so many songs and I’ve taken a sneaky look at the previous night’s set list. We have missed some crackers like Born To A Family, but we are in for a treat tonight.



Robert is touring small venues across Spain and Portugal after this. It’s a tour for the fun of it, taking him to places he’s never been. One venue has a capacity of 90 people and is sold out, so he is looking forward to the trip. Sadly, he has a bug, but he’s loaded up on over the counter drugs and is struggling on manfully.



Robert takes the stage to rapturous applause, the venue crowded and friendly with dedicated fans who know all the words. He apologises for his rather poorly state, but he will do his best. He needn’t have, his voice is in good form and his playing throughout is fabulous. He’s stylish, cool and his manner is understated, like his nuanced lyrics. He's Lou Reed meets Dylan, but without the former's legendary nasty streak and the latter's vacuum cleaner vocal stylings....he's voice is nasal, breathy, with a debt to Jonathan Richman, part spoken, part sung.

 


Tonight’s set weaves solo songs together with a range of Go-Betweens tracks – all are welcomed like old friends. He opens with I Can Do, a track from Warm Nights – that album has just been lovingly re-released on the Needle Mythology label, run by music journalist Pete Paphides. I pick up a copy from Pete at the merch desk and am too shy to say what a great job he has done, bringing back a range of wonderful records in beautiful packaging on vinyl. I am also too shy to ask about how he feels selling Robert’s own brand muesli from the merch stand (the brilliantly names Spring Grain). Was that how he imagined his career? Check out Needle Mythology – there are some great releases from The Finn Brothers, Whipping Boy and more.



The show includes a generous helping of Go-Betweens songs (rather than bowls of muesli), including Here Comes A City, Rock And Roll Friend and The House That Jack Kerouac Built. Nine in total tonight. But his solo songs are just as memorable, especially Let Me Imagine You and She’s A Fighter, the latter inspired by his wife’s battle with ovarian cancer (successful, happily).

 

He tells the crowd he’s going to do something he hasn’t done in many years, decades even – play a new song, Breakfast On A Train, which is gorgeous, inspired one imagines from his recent solo jaunts. He doesn’t mention his muesli, which a lesser artist might not have resisted.



His voice holds up for the show, and he finishes with the magnificent Surfing Magazines, a song from the second iteration of The Go-Betweens’ career. It’s a glorious singalong, the audience “da-da-ing” along to the refrain with gusto.

 

Robert bows, leave she stage and heads off one imagines to take a lot of Beecham’s Flu Plus and sleep, a restoring bowl of Muesli ready for the following day’s breakfast, to set him up for the next stage of his trip.


Bad Bad Hats, The Lexington, London, 30th May 2024

Bad Bad Hats is another band that Mrs JO’B introduced me to. I picked up Psychic Reader, their debut album on her recommendation when we first met, and now all four of their records sit on our shelves. They are band that I can put on and guests will be tapping along, trying to work out if they know them, and eventually cracking, asking “who is this?”.


They are from Minnesota, and they are very nice indeed (“Minnesota Nice” is a cultural stereotype). Though they have been going since 2012, this is their first ever UK gig, COVID having scuppered previous plans.



They are supported tonight by Tilly Louise, down from Liverpool with family and fans in tow. Her X profile declares “i make music better than ed sheeran i promise”. Ignoring her not using capitals, she may be onto something. The songs are catchy as fuck and she has the audience participating before they have had time to consider what they are doing. Not my usual cup of char, but I would definitely check her out again if she was playing at a festival or supporting someone else. Huge fun.


The main act soon take the stage. Again, folks are here, singer Kerry Alexander’s mom being in the audience (they look SO alike it is ridiculous).


Bad Bad Hats' tunes are joyous, pure pop, quirky, spunky, with sharp lyrics detailing day-to-day issues in singer Kerry’s personal relationships. The songs power along, though you can't help but feel they are perfect soundtracks for some terrible US teen drama - you know the ones, where the soundtrack is infinitely better than the story you are watching.



Tonight's highlight was Bored In The Summer, from their new eponymous fourth album, with its synth splashs, its nostalgic lyrics and its cracking Sheryl Crow vocals. I haven’t written much in the review, I was too busy enjoying the show, so forgive the brief write up - but give them a spin, there is much to love here.






Liam Gallagher, O2 Arena, London, 6th June 2024

At first I feel cold, wet liquid showering over us. Beer throwing. I thought I had left that behind at festival’s in the 90s. My shirt is already wet as some drunk, clumsy arse has just slammed into me as I carry two pints back to my friends. I am outraged - primarily because he’s spilt a third of a pint, which costs £8.95. What a waste! The oaf begrudgingly apologises and offers to buy a new one - when I say yes please, he laughs, walks off and says he’s “fucking apologised”. This, sadly, is one of the better interactions of the evening.



As the gig progresses, we get wetter, and soon it’s no longer beer. The liquid is warm and I realise my left arm is covered in piss. Another nearly full pint hits me in the back, and then another lands, hitting the person in front on me in the back, bouncing off, hitting me in the chest. I have had enough during Cigarettes & Alcohol (if only it was just alcohol), abandon my friends and head to the back of the gig.


It's such a shame, because the show is actually good fun. First up as support act is Villanelle, Liam's son Gene's band. They are pretty terrible, but do improve as they progress. But they are very much The Rain rather than the new Oasis. The venue is too big for a band with no stage presence or indeed experience. Misplaced nepotism. They are followed by The View, who are bland and dull, as they were when they first came out. Their singer Kyle is wearing running shorts. it's very odd. The other nights have Cast as support, I wish we had seen them.



Liam's stageset and the countdown from 2024 to 1994 is great. Playing the whole of Definitely Maybe and its associated single and b-side tracks is a great idea - a trip down memory lane on an album that means lots to me, soundtracking my transition from university to working life (see Definitely Maybe Certainly).


The stage has all the elements of that album's cover - the globe, the picture of Burt Bacharach, the pink flamingos...it's beautifully designed. As the calendar counts down, they play I Am The Resurrection and the crowd, bucket hats everywhere, lose their shit. It's joyous and friendly (the beer has not started flying yet) and then the calendar counts back to 1994 and Liam takes the stage to Rock 'n' Roll Star.



His voice is strong, better than I might have hoped for and the song brings back a whirlwind of emotions - break ups, beers, parties, crushes, fun - my mid-twenties are suddenly spinning across my mind as the band belt out this statement of intent, a song that succinctly sets out exactly what Noel Gallagher wanted to achieve in five minutes.


They crack on at a pace, straight into Columbia and here the faultlines appear - the original is trancelike psychedelia and though their first drummer, Tony McCarroll, was far from great, he did a good job on that song. Liam's band now play the song with a leaden, half-arsed beat. After such a rousing opener, the mood for me at least, crashes / a soaring song never leaves the runway. After this, it's just a fairly workman like interpretation of a classic album.


There are moments of beauty though. The set is sprinkled with a range of b-sides and even unreleased tracks (they play a terrible version of Lock All The Doors, which Noel revisited and nailed on his second solo album). Liam sings two Oasis b-sides that Noel sang on originally - his versions of D'yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? and Half The World Away are beautiful, the crowd singing every word and beaming with joy. Just like Oasis, these b-sides are the highlight, as strong as any of their singles and album tracks. Liam’s voice shines.



In fact, Liam's voice is superb throughout, but the crowd are awful. Young men (and it's a predominantly male audience) dressed like it's 1994 and behaving like the worst football hooligans. I move to the back, sick of being covered in beer and piss, and watch a little of the encores, but even there, people are throwing plastic cups full of liquid. The security do nothing, they are useless.


Supersonic opens the first encore and it's great, the band's leaden drumming finally coming to life on this, Oasis' debut single. It's nonsensical lyrics have everyone screaming along and I cheer up, but it's not enough. I bail during Slide Away, missing Live Forever and I Am The Walrus, which is such a shame. But the idea of travelling back with this mob is just too awful to contemplate.



What a shame, a potentially great gig ruined by the worst of Britain and a venue not equipped or willing to deal with them. Liam is now contemplating playing next year, presenting the whole of (What's The Story) Morning Glory, but I will leave that alone, a lesson well learnt. If you do go, wear a waterproof with a hood and shoes you don't care about.


Mrs JO'B saw Blur last year at Wembley and the crowd were cool - Blur really did win the Britpop war in the end.


Gary Numan, The Roundhouse, London, 8th June 2024

Another nostalgia gig, but wildly different from Liam. The crowd are friendly, polite and at no stage feel the need to throw their beer. They drink their pints and manage to limit pissing to toilets. How civilised.



Gary is touring his second album with Tubeway Army, Replicas, and his debut solo album, The Pleasure Principle. He has had some great success in recent years, his career re-evaluated as a ground-breaking pioneer of electronic music. And rightly so, he is an artist that has attracted some of the most visceral criticism and hatred from journalists I have ever seen.


That criticism is largely in the past, and he is on a roll, playing his 1,000th gig last year. Tonight may be a nostalgia-fest, but the music sounds fresh, powerful and the show is stunning. His tall, bald bass and lead guitar players stand either side of him, like huge, imposing pillars or balding, Uncle Fester goth-monks in cassocks, carrying guitars rather than acolyte candles. And the light show is never less than stunning, reminiscent of his early tour shows, but hopefully without the bank balance shattering costs.



Gary is clearly having fun on this, the second of three nights at the Roundhouse, the set being made up of the whole of the two albums, but he has dropped a couple of the original album tracks and swapped in b-sides like We Have A Technical and Do You Need The Service?. Unlike when these songs were originally released, he's not the icy-cold android on stage. Instead, he prowls the floor, throwing shapes and acting like the full-blown rock God. He's rarely still, unless he has jumped behind a keyboard. And he looks great, his hair is superb (four lots of surgery, totally worth it).



The music is true(ish) to the originals, though it sounds more tribal, more rocky, more....human? It's not stripped down, more like meat has been added to the bone. Cars is an obvious highlight, but Metal and M.E. remind you how much he has been sampled by dance acts and how influential he really has been



The show ends with Are "Friends" Electric? with the line that sums up the whole evening "You see: this means everything to me" and you can tell it really does. You can read more about my love for Gary here - I Nearly Married A Numan - Gary Numan’s first two albums.


Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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