This Is Matt Sanders' Excellent Report On The Concert At Cardiff...

I am sure all of us are amazed to see the Shadows in concert again, a situation we thought we'd never see!

I attended Shadowmania in 1999 and it was a fantastic event, seeing Bruce on stage in the finale set was amazing, also to see Licorice Locking and Jet Harris performing was a rare and real treat. The only way to eclipse this would be the Shadows again in concert and what a wonderful experience that is for us in 2004.

The Cardiff Arena was packed with about 3000 people and the venue was small when compared with say Birmingham, but this I think made the performance better. A couple sitting next to us had come from Stockton on Tees because this was where the only show tickets they could get were left. They told us they had met at a Shadows concert in 1968 and also showed us a signed photo of the group from 1962, I think these sort of occurrences really make the event so much more enjoyable.

The show kicked off with the opening to Apache swiftly transformed into Riders of the Sky. This number was very loud, I guess they were adjusting the sound balance. From my own experience in bands you get a hall full of people and it can't half sap the sound output, but they soon had it sorted. It was just fantastic, I was sitting about 12 rows back and right in front of Hank's amplifier and it was a generally good view. They had packed in the seats on the floor area where I was I guess because of demand but that was a minor point, the music was what we were here for!

So how have the performers fared since their last collective appearance? Hank looks younger than ever, younger than in the 1984 Birmingham show, Bruce looks trim and in very good shape, Brian also seems younger, Mark Griffiths is unchanged save for greying hair and Cliff Hall seems to have fared well. They went for a casual look rather than the 'original' Shadows look of matching stage outfits.

The performance started and ran through a brief introductory section of some of their early hits without really any pausing, up until Hank introduced the band. As one hit ended, another recognisable one would emerge, to say the audience appreciation was electric would be an understatement.

The band stuck largely to the recorded arrangement versions of their hits, but every now and then Hank might put in different inversions of the tune which were well done and as the event was being filmed for a DVD, it will be nice to see these as all us budding guitarists will want to have go at replicating them!

The inclusion of two Marvin, Welch and Farrar tracks, their Eurovision stomper Let me be the one, plus some of Cliff's vocal numbers was well done, proving they are as then a more than capable self contained unit. There was frequent guitar changing as the band went from later to earlier material, Hank having one of his guitars set up for the early material with a wound G 3rd string, the added benefit of the guitar changing was that the guitars could also be tuned when not in use. Hank's frequent tremolo arm use probably isn't that kind to the tuning!

It was nice to see the Burns Marvin guitars the Shadows used from 1964 until the early 70s in use, although Hank's is one of the new reissues made in China of which a limited edition of 2004 will be produced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Burns Hank Marvin guitar. The sound of the Burns Marvin against the Fender Stratocaster Hank uses is interesting. The Burns that Hank was using was copied by Burns London from the one that Bruce was playing, which is the original one Bruce owned during the Shadows patronage in the 60s.

Those keen eyed among you will have noticed Bruce was using a Vox AC30 amplifier which of course the Shadows used up until the 1980's. If you'd been close to the stage, you may have noticed a Shadows script badge in Brass on Bruce's Vox AC30. In the 60s the Shadows had these badges on their amplifiers and they are now being made by a chap named Eric White in Somerset, he made the one for Bruce's.

It was disappointing that Hank was not using an AC30 or even a Vox Valvetronix Tonelab to get that exact hallmark sound of the AC30 but this may have been due to technical difficulties as he has his amplifier set up so his soundman can change Echo settings remotely, but the sound was good from Hank's amplifier. When he was using the wireless radio pack for his guitar in 1984 at Birmingham, the guitar sounded pretty dull, but wireless technology is miles ahead today so a more realistic sound is achievable as was in evidence at Cardiff.

It was nice to actually hear Bruce's guitar for a change! So often in past recordings or at the 84 concert for example, it was quite well down in the mix, but this time it was great to hear it and the great rhythm guitar he is famous for playing, ringing through. Brian Bennett's drumming was first class and the Little B solo was very good but maybe they could have lost a minute off it and it would have still been great but that aside, it was a monumental assault on his kit that was superbly executed.

Mark Griffiths was solid and reliable on bass, his Nivram solo was very nicely done. Mark puts in what needs to be played into a number, so he gives a nice controlled performance that doesn't sound frantic or fraught. It's smooth and controlled and his performance would have been of or better than the standard of any of the other Shadows’ bass players.

Cliff Hll's playing adds subtle nuances and a fullness to contrast the often shrill tone of the guitars. Like Mark Griffiths, he puts in what works and sometimes you take his contribution for granted, but listen deep to the music and Cliff is there adding tones that help consolidate between the shrill lead work and the strident rhthm section. If he wasn't there you'd notice it!

You will probably read elsewhere in these concert reports the running order of the songs so I won't go over that ground , but all our favourites were there plus some nice surprises like Peace Pipe and Gonzales getting an airing. The vocal numbers were good, especially the Cliff songs but maybe they could have been shorter so we could have had more of the instrumental work. I guess you have to try and please everybody but it worked very well.

A party of 4 Russians were sitting in front of us and they were really enjoying the music. It was a bit difficult to see around the one in front of me but I changed seats in the second half and got a better view. This chap must have been well over 6 feet and big build but as Wonderful Land died away into applause he was dabbing at his eye, isn't it amazing what this music can do? Maybe Wonderful Land was the first track he hear of the Shads in Russia where it was probably against the law to have such music in those days. It was great that they could freely travel here and enjoy the event, it was like being in a big family event such was the atmosphere.

Well, we weren't disappointed with the finale, preceded by a standing ovation, FBI was belted out along with Apache to round off probably the best concert I'll ever see....... unless they decide to have another final tour which we all hope because they were on superb form. If they can play to this standard, why stop?

The Cardiff concert was incredible and I feel enormously privileged to have seen the Shadows in concert as someone who has followed them and played their music for many years. I'd like to say thank you to all the members of the audience that were there, you behaved superbly, there was no trouble, drunkenness, bad language or fighting, all that was in plentiful supply in the streets after we had all gone away. The audience was an amazing mix of people of all ages who behaved superbly and enjoyed a most memorable occasion.

Even if this is the last concert tour, we won't forget it! Our thanks also to the wonderful helpful staff at the arena and lastly to Hank, Bruce, Brian, Mark and Cliff for giving us a lasting memory of the Shadows live we can treasure for all time, your style has launched a thousand bands! We also have the added bonus that we can also relive the concert on DVD soon!

MS, 2004

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