Friday, April 09, 2004

Worst Gig Ever

John and Pat are brothers and regular drinking friends. They had, let us say, a rather eclectic musical taste and a habit of taking me to see unusual bands.

So there I was, not doing much in the office, except finding new ways to maim my collegues using only an elastic band, a drawing pin and several paper clips, when the phone rang.

“Hey Scary, want to see Al de Meola? Tonight.”

“Who's he, then?”

“Legendary guitarist. Brilliant. You’ll kick yourself if you miss this. Hammersmith Odeon. One night only.”

"Will it rock?"

"It'll rock."

Sold, one ticket to the idiot. I went.

We drove up to London that evening in the pouring rain. It was coming down in a solid wall of water as we reached Hammersmith Broadway. We didn't even park in our usual place - outside my old house a few minutes' walk away, such was the deluge, paying a scandalous fiver to park underneath the flyover that runs next to the theatre.

Good grief, I'd been to many a concert at the Hammy Odeon before (now, shamefully utterly corporatised as the Labatt's Apollo), but tonight, it was absolutely swarming with people. And not one of them spoke English.

What I hadn't been told was that I was being asked to shell out sixteen of my hard-earned English pounds to see the support act. The main event was some Brazilian chap called Milton Nascimento, who is huge on the continent, and completely unheard of on these shores. So, the place was swarming with Germans, Swedes, Portugueseses and God knows what else, all getting their last minute tickets to see Pele's brother. And then there was us, right at the back of the circle waiting for the support act, Al de Meola. Guitar great.

Al took to the stage to a smattering of applause, almost drowned in the Babel of voices. He was on his own. Just him, a stool and his guitar. No backing band.

Two words: Jazz odyssey.

Actually, that would be an insult to Spinal Tap. At least they had an excuse, an eighteen inch model of Stonehenge and a cucumber wrapped in tinfoil. Al had none of these, but where he did is excel was having the stage presence of a dead owl.

There were no tunes, just explorations of the sounds produced on the guitar by one very smug man on a stool. Like I've always said: Jazz is like masturbation, it should only be attempted in if you are supremely gifted, and Al was very, very good. He seemed to be enjoying himself. I certainly wasn't, and neither were the majoity of the audience, who had slipped out to the bar, and were getting noisily drunk, the lucky bastards.

It was not really a performance, more a musical act of onan, and Al whipping out his old man and shooting one off into a hat would only have been an improvement. Jazz is totally acceptable in its place. As long as the place in question is the surface of the planet Venus.

After an hour or so, he left. Two people cheered, one of them called for an encore. We beat him to death with the backs of our seats.

We stayed for one song from the Brazilian guy. The Norwegians went ape. We just went.

By nine, we were back at our usual Friday venue - The Old Devil, and were drunk by ten.

Next week...

“Hey Al, want to see The Charles Bronson Acid Skiffle Band?”

"Will it rock?"


“Fuck. Off.”

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