In all my thirty years of gig attendance I have rarely attended a concert that I enjoyed as much as I did last Thursday, 1st May 2014 at the Union Chapel.
First of all, the line up; the support was Nerina Pallot; an artist who I was introduced to by my friend Paul Edwards a few years ago, and who I was very much wanting to see perform live. Then the main attraction; after 10+ years of being apart, McAlmont and Butler, with the backing band of The Magic Numbers! The gig had come about as Bernard wanted to raise fund for the Bobath Centre for Children with Cerebal Palsy; he had already run the London Marathon some weeks earlier, damaging his hamstring in the process, and this gig was also contributing funds towards the same worthy cause. All the musicians donated their time and talent and this should be recognised as a very good thing indeed.
I was planning to go to the gig on my own, knowing I’d bump into several people I’d know. I’ve become somewhat part of the furniture at Fingersnap gigs (the collaboration between David McAlmont and Guy Davies) or as they recently put it “Lady Chan is Fingersnap royalty”. I’d bought a ticket for my friend Tony but as his plans that evening were uncertain, had posted it to him. My friend Pam had said that she was going into London first for a mooch around, so I arranged to meet her for a pre-gig catch-up. The weather was dire so we decided to plonk ourselves in a coffee shop in Soho for coffee, catch-up and cake. Pam had been to Fortnum’s to buy some cakes for Bernard (who’s birthday it was that day) and David (who’s birthday it was on 2nd May).
We made our way up to Islington, managed to miss our stop as we were too busy yakking and after a cheeky drink in the Hope and Anchor, joined the queue outside the Union Chapel where Tony had made it and was waiting in line already. Soon after that we were joined by Marcus, Roland, Eleanor and her sister. Within minutes the door had opened and our little group made our way to the central pew and secured our seats, 3 rows from the front, which we were very happy about!
After catching up with our crowd, spotting other friends in the chapel etc, Nerina came on stage looking beautiful in a 1950’s style vibrant red dress. She sang a song, with her guitar, then moved to the piano to sing one more. Two more acoustic numbers (including “All Bets are Off” which I love) to finish with a song accompanied by Bernard, who produced her last album “The Year of the Wolf”.
A half hour wait later and our much anticipated main act were on stage; David looking resplendent in a vibrant blue suit, co-ordinated with his trademark bling, of a red serpent, and a skull/heart/crown combo brooch which was being worn around his neck on a chain. He was clean shaven, which seemed to knock the years off him, and he was evidently a very happy bunny. The show opened with “The Soundtrack to McAlmont and Butler” which was the perfect intro in what was to provide the eager audience with the rest of the tracks from their albums. “You know, some ‘fans’ asked why we never did a second album”, David mused sardonically. Of course McAlmont and Butler produced two albums in their hey day of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s… just in case anyone was, you know, wondering! 😉
I remember seeing McA & B the first time around; it was at Manchester University and although I took photo’s at the event, I can’t for the life of me find them…. I remember David looking directly at me from the stage and feeling some sort of a connection. Little was I to know that a few years later we would befriend each other on MySpace (and later Facebook, & Twitter), eventually meet, David would write a song about the son I didn’t have at that time by the husband who I was to meet a year later in 2003, and that we would become good friends. Such is life… sweet as sugar.
The Union Chapel gig seemed to neatly (if unintentionally, I suspect) fall into two parts. The “first part” of the gig was comprised mostly, but not exclusively, of songs from their debut album “The Sound of McAlmont & Butler”; including heart-renderingly funky yet beautiful tunes such as “Disappointment” “Don’t Call it Soul”, a personal favourite “Blue”, and from the Union Chapel’s vast pulpit “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” with the unseen Bernard playing the chapel’s organ.
The “second part” where everyone was encouraged to stand and dance, included the brilliant “Bring it Back”, the beautiful single “Falling” and a surprise track “Zoom” originally recorded by The Fat Larry Band in the 1980’s. The song could’ve been written for David as his vocals fitted the song most perfectly. Someone once said “one of these days David will start to sing and a Cathedral will fall out” which I think brilliantly sums up the perfection and strength of his voice. He is truly the most under-rated singer in this country.
We were sadly progressing towards the end of the concert and the ensemble was joined on stage by Bernard’s son, a mini-me of Bernard with similar attire and trademark floppy fringe.
After singing Happy Birthday to Bernard, the gig inevitably ended with the duo’s most famous song “Yes” and although they’d been on stage for more than two hours and exhausted most of their back catalogue the crowd were left wanting for more!
We progressed upstairs to the bar so we could say hello to David and were lucky enough to be ushered backstage where we chatted with David and met Angela, Michelle and Romeo from the Magic Numbers, had a quick intro to Bernard (Pam got a kiss on the cheek; I’m not envious at all (much)) and some of David’s band. David then shouted “selfie” grabbing myself and Pam, Bill and Kenny completed the first picture and the second was Pam, me, David, Romeo and Michelle from The Magic Numbers. We left the party with Nerina and her husband Andy and walked with the back to their car, chatting about football of all things!
I parted with Pam at Islington tube as we were heading in different directions. My journey home was somewhat laboured, but do you know what; I cared not. I’d just experienced one of those landmark evenings that I will never forget and I suspect that I wasn’t the only one to feel the same that evening!