Comments excerpted from Midnight Voices posts during the tour :
Pete Atkin (Sevenoaks, setlist) :
(Clive's bits in CAPS - (P) indicates poem)
Master of the Revels (short opener) - k
enc - Girl on the Train
Guitar songs played on the Atkin except for Me To Thank and Girl on the Train (on Taylor nylon strung)
Webmaster's note: subsequent dates featured essentially the same setlist, with small variations.
Jim Scrivener (Sevenoaks 30.09.05) :
Thirty years ago is a long way back. They were on stage at Hull University. The Live Libel tour. 1970-something. I felt like I was the only person in the room who even knew who they were. Certainly one of only a few who knew the songs. The rest were mostly drunk and wondering why we didn't have a danceable band that week.
Somehow I wiggled my way into the interval room, feeling the need to say, at least, thank you – for providing the soundtrack of my sixth form and the beginnings of my adult life. And I said something like thank you – and then – as official representative of those who knew the songs – asked if they could play Laughing Boy. But they said that it wasn't in tonight's show. Then I was swiftly removed from the room as someone realised that I wasn't one of the Ents. staff providing half-time water and whatever.
I left feeling odd, feeling like a failed fan. Meeting heroes in the guise of humans. From the performers' side it must sound like so much of the same sound-bites – either from the half-ignorant or from the half-fanatic.
What can you say in 20 seconds before voices that have filled those hours, those nights? The owners and creators of words and music that wrapped around you and somehow became part of you, hummed as you walk, recited as you drive, phrases retrieved as commentaries on moments of your days that echo moments of some day that Clive had years before.
You can't really tell them that – and if you try - in a sound-bite - it must sound like the over-enthused, the over-obsessed. I've often remembered that failed attempt. What could I say next time given a chance? It's like imagining what you'd say to Dylan should you find him in a café round the corner.
Thirty years. I hadn't been able to see any of the earlier revivals because I was living in Hungary – and the world tours haven't yet reached there. But tonight - a ticket for Sevenoaks.
It was wonderful. Songs I love – living again, unfolding in front of me. Pete's voice, if anything, stronger, clearer, better than ever. Clive nodding, as if in pleasure at recalling the words as they appeared.
And at the end, Laughing Boy. It felt like I was finally getting the request I'd asked for thirty years before. I was crying (and not just because Clive was singing). Or maybe that was part of it - hearing the author of the words singing them. And the joy at seeing Clive point at himself and half-stand for applause at the "leading young poetic hope of the whole planet Earth" line.
No need to push my way through backstage. In the foyer area (where I felt convinced that once again I was one of only two or three people who had ever heard these songs before) we have the merchandising table – with two heroes seated and smiling and signing.
A thirty-year old quandary. What do you say? Try again – something like Thank you – the songs have been a big part of the soundtrack of my life. Then maybe that I saw you both 30 years before. But it all sounds a bit naff. Getting a signature is perhaps the acceptable accepted ritual for contact between performer and fan. I'd brought some CD's and I'm thrilled that they now have both signatures on them. And I'd brought Clive's book of poetry "The Book of My Enemy (... has been Remaindered)".
So what did I say? Told him that I'd bought the book as a remainder for 3.99.
OK – now another thirty years to plan my next brilliant attempt to contact a hero.
Pete. Clive. If you read this. Thank you. You were wonderful. Then. Now.
"Keith" (Sevenoaks 30.09.05) :
Jim wasn't the only one there who knew the songs, though I have to say the audience could perhaps be best described as coolly appreciative - no jiving in the aisles.
Clive said at one point it was noticeable how Pete's performance of some of the songs had changed and was mellower. This was particularly true of 'Prince of Aquitaine', but on some of the others, particularly when he was playing the Atkin guitar (he also played a Taylor with nylon strings on a couple of songs) he achieved a real rock/blues feel.
I was too shy to thank them afterwards for a splendid evening, so I simply asked Pete when the Australia CD would finally appear, but my wife and I enjoyed the show very much, as we did when we saw them at the Gardner Arts Centre in Sussex in 2003 - also the first night of the tour, if I remember correctly.
This next bit is sad but I'm a civil servant so you have to make allowances. During the Sevenoaks gig Clive and Pete had an exchange about how Kenny Everett was sacked shortly after he started playing 'Master of the Revels'. Pete said Kenny was sacked for suggesting that there was something improper in the way the then Minister of Transport's wife had passed her driving test. This happened in July 1970, but the Minister of Transport in question was not, as Pete said, Ernest Marples (of M1 opening, Beeching appointment and 'Marples must go' stickers fame [sic]) but John Peyton, whose only claim to fame was his wife passing her driving test. Marples was Minister of Transport from 1959 to 1964, I believe, while Peyton held the post from 1970 to 1974.
I trust the rest of the tour goes well and is enjoyed by performers and audience alike.
Andy Love (Wavendon 01.10.05) :
Just back from The Stables, where a good gig was enjoyed by all. The auditorium was pretty much full and the audience nice and responsive.
It seems a bit difficult to post 'spoiler' messages here (is it?) so I'd better not say too much. But P&C were both in great form and appeared very relaxed and comfortable.
Good to see some familiar faces (in order of spotting): Kevin Cryan; John Waite & family; Colin & Kate Crooks; Keith Busby & family; and Sylfest Muldal.
An excellent evening - thanks.
Keith Busby (Wavendon 01.10.05) :
I was about to post the Wavendon set list, but Pete beat me to it. Consequently, I can't work out if my intended comments on the revamped "Prince of Aquitaine" are still valid, but it was slower that I had heard before. Now about that rewritten middle eight . . . "Biro" began with the "jeu d'esprit" we heard at PoD, with the opening chords of "Perfect Moments". It was interesting to hear two new songs ("I've Got Me to Thank" and "Here We Stay"), and to hear Clive read the words of "The Last Hill That Shows You All the Valley" before Pete sang them. Many of Clive's readings were ones I'd not hear (or read) before. Particularly amusing were the piece on the publisher's party, the review of Judith Kranz's "Princess Daisy", and the meditation that took its cue from the first Bush-Kerry debate. Being a resident of Bushworld, part deux, I loved Clive's description of the agony on W's face each time he searches for a word followed by the triumphant expression when he finds one, not realizing it's quite wrong ("vociferous terrorists"). Pete's shirt was very subdued, and Clive's old leather jacket shabbier than ever. The auditorium was about 3/4 full, I guesstimate, and the audience enthusiastic, although the couple next to Andy Love did not return after the interval (whatever did you say to them Andy? or were you annoying them by singing along? I was warned in advanced not to do so by the memsahib). A good queue at the merchandising table afterwards. I echo Andy's words about meeting up with him and the Crooks, and others. I knew there was another face (or voice) I had seen somewhere before but couldn't place and didn't have the gorm to accost. It was Sylfest, I think. Apologies to him. All in all, a good show.
(Last Thursday night, by the way, the missus dragged me off to the Bloody Sunday docudrama at the Tricycle in Kilburn. I highly recommend it if you can still catch it).
John B Smith (Shrewsbury 06.10.05) :
Great night at Shrewsbury. Drove 55 miles to get there. Met the Deity walking the streets, presumably before the gig. Pity the hall wasn't fuller but the age range was even more surprizing that when he was at Lichfield over two years ago.
Pete & Clive seemed to be having a good time, but Pete, was it something other than water in the bottle, or are we all just getting older and the little grey cells not working as well?
Still good gig.
Mike Walters (Manchester 09.10.05) :
Since no-one else has yet, can I just say how much I enjoyed P&C at The Lowry on Sunday. Although (of course) I enjoyed the previous tours, they felt to me a little like Clive James readings with Pete providing musical interludes, whereas this seemed much more like a genuine joint performance - possibly because Clive focused a lot on his poetry so that the bulk of the show was a balanced showcase of his lyrical gifts in their two complementary forms. I hope it's the opposite of a spoiler to mention the two new songs, which I liked a lot on first hearing, especially 'Here We Stay' which, as well as to my ears echoing Auden's 'Roman Wall Blues' (lyrically, that is - I've never heard Auden sing it), also sounded dangerously close to anthemic. I was almost tempted to get out the cigarette lighter.
"briannoggin" (Manchester 09.10.05) :
It was a fantastic night, and I can't remember the last time I laughed til I cried. Clive remarked on surrealism. For me the sureal note was struck by the person behind me. I thought throughout the first half he was rattling sweet papers, but found at the interval it was the tinfoil in which he had wrapped his hot cross buns - in October! :-o
Ian Sorensen (Manchester 09.10.05) :
I agree with Mike - it was a great night. P & C worked so well together - almost like a long-married couple who were genuinely happy to sit and listen to each other do their party pieces, even though they had heard them many times. Their cross-talk was delightful - I particularly enjoyed Clive's endless ad-lib interjections as Pete tried to start a song.
Pete's voice was the best I remember it - very expressive, selling the lyrics superbly. Even Clive's singing was better than before. (I always have to laugh that Pete counts Clive in - how can a tango dancer not be able to spot the beats in a song?)
If I'd known in advance that Clive was going to be mostly reading his poetry I might have been a bit apprehensive, but his selection was spot on. Joy and tenderness in equal part. (I still enjoyed the essay giving his take on the Bush v Kerry election best.)
The Lowry theatre was a very nice venue, and the audience was as receptive as any outside a Midnight Voices event. BTW the cinema beside the Lowry calls itself "The Cinema of Dreams".
I enjoyed the brief catch up with the other Voices there, despite some of them suffering the after effects of the previous night's cheese & wine party - sans cheese.
All in all, well worth the three hour drive home.
Stewart Betts (Lowestoft 15.10.05) :
Having managed to come up with excuses for not attending various FODs / SODs and previous tour gigs ("too far away", "important family events" etc. etc.) Pete & Clive finally came up with an unavoidable date and venue at Lowestoft last night... I hadn't seen Pete since the 70's, and although I've got copies of the Lakeside Sessions and Winter Spring I've remained stuck in the past, favouring the original albums which were so big a part of my late teens / early twenties. So, I found myself a bit anxious, sitting with unconverted wife, amongst a bunch of strangers in the delightful Marina Theatre. Would the old stuff be dismissed? Would I have to listen to loads of songs I wasn't familiar with? Would it be the same with Clive there??
Needn't have worried of course! It was a superb evening, plenty of familiar songs (Last Hill That Shows You All The Valley, Carnations on the Roof, Screen Freak amongst others), some great if less familiar ones (including Empty Table). The evening flew by. Clive's introductions and his readings were spot-on, sometimes very touching and emotional, often so funny that all in the audience were in stitches.
It seems that Pete and the material has matured along with those of us who were fans in the 70s - perhaps back then I wouldn't have an enjoyed an evening like this quite so much as I did yesterday. In the queue for signatures I stood with my CD of AKAN with a guy who'd brought his vinyl copy to be signed - both agreeing that the old albums are still the best, but I for one ready to give the new ones another good airing.
I left with wife pretty much converted, agreeing that it was a wonderfully entertaining evening. But Pete... that shirt?
"tcom57" (Lowestoft 15.10.05) :
Drove 135 miles to attend at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft and thoroughly enjoyed the show. Pete was in excellent voice and Clive's poem about his father was very moving. My wife is now a confirmed Pete Atkin fan, and I'm now working on my daughter who is most impressed that I have shaken hands with the star of the new Wallace and Gromit movie. Best wishes for the rest of the tour - don't leave it too much longer before you play in the midlands (Brinklow December 2000 was the last time I think..).
Paul Gunningham (Farnham 20.10.05) :
We managed to get down to The Maltings last night, and we weren't disappointed (well, OK, except for the venue's sound quality, which could have been better).
It was great to see Pete and Clive again, even though I was only able to spend a few minutes chatting afterwards, feeling conscious of the pressure of the queue behind me stretching right down the proverbial hall, mainly of folk carrying CJ books which seemed to be flying off the table in the foyer like custard pies (well, I don't think hot cakes often fly, do they?)
Apart from the stars, I didn't see anyone I knew there. Maybe the older generation of MVs is being supplanted by a new one? But that's as it should be. I guess there were a few MVs there though, as I noticed a few people clutching album covers and CDs for signature. So, hello to anyone else who was there, and I'm sorry we didn't get to meet.
I'm now the proud possessor of a signed photo of Mr Crock (thanks to Snoopy for his help with the pic!). Pete reckons I might get at least 99p on eBay for that - but I shall not be tempted by such riches ;-)
As for the show, the content was superb as ever, with (as Clive said) more or less completely different material from the last tour. But the usual mixture of good music, humour and some more serious items from Clive, some familiar and much else new, made it an evening to remember. So if you can, don't miss out on the last few gigs.
As for the two new songs, on this single hearing they are worthy additions to the esteemed repertoire. Is this tour the first time since the 1970s new songs have been premiered in public (as opposed to a private MV gathering)? I'm glad I didn't miss out on hearing those and look forward to hearing them in future (maybe on the next CD?).
Cheers to all
Not lying quite as low as previously
Paul's in-depth review of this concert, with photo and setlist, can be found here
Richard Bleksley (Farnham 20.10.05) :
Yes, Paul, I was there - and very glad I am too, to have seen such a wonderful show. Maybe I'm one of that new generation of MVs though....
I apologise for the lateness of this posting, but ever since the gig I've been having to get up at about four in the morning to go to work, and it's been leaving me too shattered to think straight enough to write. You try it sometime.
Our evening got off to a rather eventful start before the performance had even begun. Having struggled through the Guildford rush-hour on the A3, my wife and I rushed back (at some danger to our digestion) from the nearby Indian restaurant where we had been fortifying ourselves and arrived at the Maltings (a charming converted - you've guessed it - malthouse right by the River Wey) with a scant two or three minutes to spare before the show. Presenting ourselves a little breathlessly at the box office, we received a surprise offer. It seems that another couple attending had had an unfortunate mix-up in that each partner had bought two tickets as a surprise for the other, so that, always supposing we hadn't pre-booked (I hadn't, having phoned the box office and been told there were plenty of seats left) and we had the cash on us (I had), there were two prime tickets going spare. The deal was swiftly clinched, and so it was that, with unnervingly precise timing, we found ourselves taking our seats near the middle of the front row just a second or two before Pete and Clive took the stage.
(It occurs to me to wonder if either or both of the mixed-up couple are Midnight Voices. If so, rest assured that your spare tickets found a very appreciative home.)
Right from the outset it was obvious that Pete was in cracking form. From my privileged vantage point I could see the Roland quivering on its stand, such was the gusto with which Pete was attacking the keys in a short but rollicking rendition of this tour's regular opener, Master of the Revels. And I have to agree with Gerry Smith about "the increasing depth, maturity and sensitivity with which Pete endows the songs." I can't help thinking that we're really lucky to have as the object of our enthusiasm a performer who, instead of losing his marbles as he gets older, just keeps getting better and better.
Highlights? A definite one for me was The Last Hill That Shows You All the Valley - quite apart from the interest of hearing it performed first as a poem and then as a song. I've always felt that - in live performance at least - Pete is more assured and accomplished on the keyboard than on the guitar, but this was wonderful, the best guitar part I've ever heard him play, miraculously recapturing much of the punch and drive of Chris Spedding's electric lead on the recording.
Then there was Me to Thank, one of the two new songs. I like it so much after only two hearings that I'm sure it's set to become one of my all-time favourites. One of the things that appeals to me about Clive's recent lyrical output is the way it so often voices the concerns of older people - something very few songwriters ever do. (See Mel Powell's review of Winter Spring on the website.) At the age of f*fty-f*ve, the trials and tribulations of young love (or young lust), the staple subject of rock and pop music, no longer mean anything much to me, but this song speaks directly to me. The other new song, Here We Stay, ain't at all bad either.
I thought the duet on Be Careful When They Offer You the Moon, with Pete taking the first line, Clive the second, and singing the rest of each verse together, was very effective, all the more so as I don't have a vinyl copy of the album and so don't get to hear the song very often. And I very much like it, embodying as it does the effortless sounding, playful wittiness that characterises the best songs on that first album.
Clive was in good form too. My favourites were Portrait of a Man Writing and the one about his childhood - one dealing with each end of life.
Nice to manage a few words with Pete before rushing off home. Clive seemed a bit preoccupied with an apparently endless queue of people with books to sign, though he sat up a bit and took notice when I mentioned that I actually remember Red Line 7000, possibly the most obscure movie of the many mentioned in Screen Freak.
P.S. I could have told you, Pete and Clive, that Biro was a brand name. The very first ballpoint I ever owned (a Christmas present at the age of about eight) was a gen-u-ine Biro - Biro being to ballpoints what Waterman is to fountain pens, the grand original.
Gerry Smith (Canterbury 22.10.05) :
The trouble with writing these post-gig reports is that the shows just keep getting better and better; I need new words to fight with! And Pete and Clive's performance at the Gulbenkian Theatre at the University of Kent, Canterbury, last night, was no exception.
The Gulbenkian is a superb venue with a great acoustic and the 350+ seat theatre was sold out for the show - not an empty seat to be seen. The duo came on stage at 7.45 to warm applause, Clive getting the ball rolling by announcing in a gravelly voice "Mr Atkin will play."
The set generally mirrored the other dates of the present tour, so no surprises there. But what stands out for me is the increasing depth, maturity and sensitivity with which Pete endows the songs. He adds new and subtle nuances along the way, perhaps a pause in just the right place and greater ranges of tempo and dynamic which seem to give even greater body and effect to Clive's lyrics. One of the stand-out songs from last night was Carnations On The Roof to which Pete added some very haunting guitar harmonics (I think they were harmonics anyway) in just the right places. And what a superb rendition of An Empty Table which seems to have earned its place as the essential track from Winter Spring. Great to hear the two new songs as well. My mind is still recoiling from the harmonic acrobatics of Me To Thank. However, I came to a bit of a grinding mental halt on hearing the re-worked Prince of Aquitaine. It was a bit like coming home to find the Changing Rooms team had paid a visit and done a makeover of one of my favourite rooms! I may find it takes a bit of getting used to!
Clive was as entertaining as ever and it was good to hear him read some of his more recent work. The poem about his father was particularly touching. Equally good to hear him once again join with Pete for the last number and encore. Keep those singing lessons going, Clive! It would be great to hear you do A Man Who's Been Around.
Nice to see a fair smattering of Voices last night, inter alia the Birkills, Oliver Ash and Alan Manton.
Thanks to Pete and Clive for another memorable evening. How far things have come since 1997!
Carole Birkill (Canterbury 22.10.05) :
Absolutely agree with Gerry about the quality of the performances on Saturday night. Both Pete and Clive were on top form. The audience was responsive and enthusiastic, an enthusiasm matched by front of house. While queueing to get into the auditorium we spotted a publicity poster with the Sold Out banner across it. Ah, we thought, we'll have a photo of that at the interval. No dice - it had been pulled already!
Unsure I agree with Gerry about Prince Of Aquitaine though. I quite liked the slightly different version, especially the way the spacing emphasised the two sets of chords (if that's how best to describe it) between 'Prince' and 'of Aquitaine'. I also loved But Here We Stay. But I've always been a sucker for anthemic songs. Please don't slow this one down, Pete. In fact, just a little more thumping rhythm and I'll be with Mike on the cigarette lighter!
We had also been to the IOW the night before, where the performances were just as good and although the hall was not full, it was a good audience. People in the signing queue with vinyl albums too. We have never before combined the words 'car' and 'ship' as a mode of transport so it was a whole new adventure! A brilliant weekend!
S J Birkill (Canterbury 22.10.05, Newport IOW 21.10.05) :
Yes, Canterbury rocked. House lights down on this tour, and no preamble, straight into a driving Master of the Revels, showing the audience what the whole thing was about. The full house brought out Pete and Clive's best, and the sound was louder and clearer than I've heard on any of the tours. Unfortunately the concert wasn't recorded, as there were no suitable auxiliary outputs on the Gulbenkian's mixing board. But IOW was, and although Pete's vocal mics sounded rather thin and his guitar a little boomy out front at the Newport venue, those faults should be capable of remedy when he transfers it to SADiE.
Pete wore a more subdued (for him) shirt, the same colour all over. I didn't check (sorry, fans) the socks. His guitar throughout was the Atkin, and its maker, Alister of that ilk, a most personable young chap, was present in the Canterbury audience.
Two new songs were played. (I've Got) Me To Thank was the easier, a gentle but ultimately desolate lament for roads not taken, set to a rising and falling scale but with the trademark Atkin surprise melodic intervals, and one of those delicious endings where an extra phrase and extra line are inserted into what would otherwise be the same shape as the first verse.
But Here We Stay by contrast is a staccato machine-gun of a song, mostly short lines of one- and two-syllable words, a little reminiscent of Prayers against the Hitman or My Brother's Keeper, with doom and desolation all around. Apart from its typical Jamesian theme, this could almost be a pop song. Voices who missed the tour (more than two hundred by my reckoning) will enjoy these when they get a CD release -- roll on the next album!
A new poem from Clive, When we were kids, employed a consonant rather than vowel rhyme scheme. Clive explained afterwards that it was a trick he'd borrowed from Welsh bardic tradition, where all kinds of strict consonance patterns were explored. I forget the Welsh name he gave for this one -- was it a form of cynghanedd?
No sign of nervousness or forgetfulness on stage: a most professionally executed show that engaged and entertained everyone throughout; I thought of how far the duo have come since their reunion concert of the modern era at Buxton in 1998.
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