Here's A Splendid Report From Jim Nugent On The Hammersmith & Palladium
What can one say about the final London concerts on the final tour by The Shadows?
So much has been written about this tour that it now seems de trop to say very much more, but
I thought my few angular observations might be worth mentioning.
Saturday 12th June
For my companions and myself, the weekend’s main musical festivities started on the
Saturday at Hammersmith. Parking the car in the shadow of the Flyover Chapel at around 4pm, Roberto
Pistolesi, Alessandro Tonini and I approached the Trout pub, widely-flagged as the main mustering
point and watering hole, where we met up with dozens of other fans – many of them very well known to
one or more of us. I had already attended a southern England concert a couple of weeks earlier – but
for the other two, this was their first experience of The Shadows’ 2004 UK Tour, or, for that matter,
of the Shadows live on stage.
As reported by others, watched by a theatre packed with dedicated fans from every
corner of the planet, The Shadows started their penultimate concert with RIDERS IN THE SKY,
launching it into the W14 evening with the original introduction from APACHE (and didn’t
Duane Eddy do that trick on a mid-sixties record?). The Shads thus neatly linked their first and last EMI
hit records. The on-stage repertoire went on to include every consecutive 45rpm A-side from
APACHE to THE RISE AND FALL OF FLINGEL BUNT (fifteen single hits in a row
– count ‘em), revisiting the later part of the sequence with 1965’s DON'T MAKE MY BABY BLUE
and adding-in their seventies hits LET ME BE THE ONE, DON'T CRY FOR ME
ARGENTINA, CAVATINA and the aforementioned RIDERS IN THE SKY. They
even included a couple of B-sides (does THE STRANGER count as a B-side?), including
36-24-36. No WHAT A LOVELY TUNE though... for some reason. Many of the
audience, especially overseas fans who had booked flights before the Palladium concert date was announced,
were seeing the Shadows for the first and last time simultaneously.
It’s worth noting that even though I had seen the group playing live many times during
the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, I had never before heard the Shadows play their hits SHINDIG,
36-24-36 or THEME FOR YOUNG LOVERS live on stage. Indeed, I wouldn’t be too
certain that they had ever played any of them on stage – and the same can almost certainly be said for
GONZALES, yet another song extracted from their first LP, released as far back as 1861.
Mind you, I have a “live at the BBC” version of that song on tape somewhere...
Speaking of that wonderful first album, the group naturally also played long-standing
stage favourites SHADOOGIE, SLEEPWALK and NIVRAM. And now I
think of it, because this was the first time I had seen the Shadows since 1986 ( I didn’t attend that
almost-final tour in 1990), I was also hearing a “live” Shadows version of MOUNTAINS OF THE
MOON for the first time, though that came from a much later album...
So, what can you say that hasn’t been said already? One thing that pleased me was the
inclusion of a couple of superb Marvin. Welch & Farrar songs, in the form of LADY OF THE
MORNING and MY HOME TOWN – I would have liked to hear LONESOME MOLE
(still used on stage after the Shadows had reformed in 1975 and memorably reprised by Bruce a few
Shadowmanias ago), but you can’t have everything, can you?
Monday 14th June
The following Monday afternoon, a group of Shadows fans converged on a restaurant in
London’s Chinatown. We were a mixed bunch - some Englishmen and women, two Scots, a handful of Italians
and a couple from Sweden, waiting around for the Big Event and enjoying a meal in relaxed company.
Naturally enough, the conversation centred upon the Hammersmith concert of two days earlier, the
Bonnington gathering the night before and the impending finale. It occurred to me that when, as a very
provincial 11-year-old schoolboy, I saw the Shadows for the first time at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool,
it would have seemed unlikely that I would sit, forty-two years later, in the midst of such cosmopolitan
company, discussing and anticipating the Hammersmith and Palladium concerts.
By that Monday afternoon, the sense of anticipation had hardened. We were all fully
aware of the significance of what we were about to witness. Some (especially the Italian fans) had never
seen the Shadows in performance before seeing the Hammersmith concert (this weekend must have seemed
like a special dream to them, witnessing their first and last Shadows concerts). But even so, this final
performance of the Shads’ final tour was like nothing I had experienced before. Walking through the
streets of Soho from Chinatown to Argyll Street, we were shown the site of the Two Is coffee-bar in Old
Compton Street (it’s funny, but I had never looked for it before). We also found that at almost every
turn of a corner, we were bumping into other Shads fans walking in the same direction, recognising friends
from all over the world – New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, USA, Canada, Singapore. The sense of occasion
and excitement was heavy in the air.
On arrival at Argyll Street, we found the area thronged with even more concert-goers
“hanging out”, meeting up with old friends, chatting, rendezvous-ing to collect precious tickets for the
show – and running the gauntlet of the infamous West End ticket touts, who were out in force, accosting
everyone with an anxious “Got any spare tickets for The Shadows, lads?”. To be honest, I had never
encountered such a feverish and upfront quest for Shads tickets at any previous concerts – not even at
Hank’s last solo performance at the same theatre a year or two earlier. Lord knows what they were charging
luckless and ticketless fans for last-minute admission, but tales of £300 and upward abound. This audience
was a very upmarket one – to borrow phrase used by a famous Shads fan a few years ago, the cream of the
world’s Shads fans were there, including a significant number of very famous names.
Monday 14th June was the hottest day of the year so far in London. You certainly knew
all about it in the Palladium’s Royal Circle, where the temperature and humidity were almost as high as
the sense of expectation. In stark contrast to the arrangements at Hammersmith and previous tour venues,
a very heavy-handed security crew were robustly throwing their weight about on the subject of photography.
Even in the moments before the performance began, some of them were wading out among the audience,
insisting that there could be no pictures taken, with or without flash. They were still at it even during
that now-famous recorded announcement (used at all the concerts) which advised that photography – though
not with the aid of flash - was allowed. At those words, a spontaneous round of applause broke out round
the auditorium, and the guards retreated… for the moment.
Better scribes than I have given an account of the concert itself and of the exceptional
and tumultuous reception given to the group for every single number of this exquisitely-chosen set (I’ll
just throw in a mention for MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON). Let it suffice for the purposes of this
scribbling that the set-list was virtually the same as before – except, of course, for the little matter
of Sir Cliff Richard striding out onto the Palladium stage to take over lead vocals from Bruce and Hank for
three songs during a slightly-rearranged “Cliff and The Shadows Tribute” section in the second half:
SUMMER HOLIDAY, BACHELOR BOY and THE YOUNG ONES. If it were
possible, the crowd went even wilder than they already had; it was an emotional moment for everyone present,
not just Cliff and The Shadows – the sort of thing you only fully grasp once past the first flush of youth
and in possession of the measure of your own mortality. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. We shall not see
its like again.
Black Mark For Crassness #1
During the final number, APACHE, a large-framed security guard, believing
(rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t matter which) that someone in the front row was using a video camera,
plonked himself at the end of the row, loudly insisting that the hapless fan should hand over the offending
equipment. He stood there implacably and insensitively, throughout that final, historic, irreplaceable
moment, blocking the view of a group of spectators and completely spoiling what should have been the
emotional highlight of the concert. Someone ought to take that gentleman aside and remind him of what
business he is in. I could say more on the subject, but shan’t.
Black Mark For Crassness #2
On leaving the theatre, a group of us (Roberto, Alessandro, Gary Hurst, myself and others)
were astounded to learn that a noted Milanese fan, Renato Vianello (incidentally, an astounding Shadows
style guitarist specialising in the John Farrar period) had been excluded from the theatre because he faces
life from a wheelchair. His friend who had bought the tickets, over the phone, said that he had been told
at the theatre that if he had mentioned the wheelchair, the ticket wouldn’t have been sold to him. What a
contrast with Renato’s treatment at Hammersmith Apollo, where without notice of any kind, he and his chair
had been accommodated without problems. A Tale Of Two Venues indeed. Luckily (if you can call it that),
Renato had therefore at least seen the antepenultimate concert, a memory to be treasured for a lifetime,
lasting long after his insulting treatment at the Palladium has been forgotten. I don’t really think the
Really Useful Theatre Group wanted to alienate, disappoint and anger the thousands of fans at the Palladium
on Monday 14th June 2004, but if they had, they couldn’t have arranged it better.