Some Impressions Of The Long Awaited Tour Opener...
The reception on the first night was tumultuous, as expected. Here were the three core members of The Shadows together again. Comment was soon passed on one of the Websites about certain technical aspects of the performance, and there were indeed difficulties from time to time with sound-balance and clarity of amplification. (Some fans, it would appear, generate problems of their own, by choosing ringside seats and then complaining when their listening experience is not enhanced by being rammed against banks of speakers). But most of the audience, I suspect, would be little concerned, if at all, with the minor glitches that generally accompany any sustained live performance (the group powered their way through 41 numbers!); they would have focused rather on the fact that The Shadows were there in front of them, responding to an appreciative audience with a programme of almost pure nostalgia. Hank in particular seemed to glory in the experience.
Almost everything they played first saw the light of day in what most would say was The Shadows’ golden period, the 1960s. The pounding opener RIDERS IN THE SKY (fronted rather mischievously by the first few notes of APACHE), committed to record in 1979 by popular demand and very much a stage favourite in the 1980s, gave way to a whole run of Golden Oldies. THE FRIGHTENED CITY (which has become a lot more fluid over the years), THEME FOR YOUNG LOVERS (a gorgeous melody, which would have been a blockbuster of a hit had it appeared a year or two before it did), PEACE PIPE (another tuneful piece, a fine contribution to the movie “The Young Ones” from Norrie Paramor), and THE SAVAGE (ditto, with many variations on the original from Hank and the awesome hell-for-leather virtuoso display from Bruce).
This sequence was broken with a reminder of the fact that the group also enjoyed considerable success as vocalists. LET ME BE THE ONE from the joyful coming-together of nations that is The Eurovision Song Contest, or Wogansfest, took us back to 1975: not a song that deserves a place in the superleague, I wouldn’t say (a couple of the others among the original six considered were definitely better crafted), but certainly a good stage-number rich in associations, that lends itself well to audience participation.
Back to the 60s again for THE STRANGER (another number that came to be played more adventurously by Hank over the years, particular towards the close), leading straight into the glorious KON-TIKI, which I would nominate as my all-time Shadows favourite track if pressed!
Mark Knopfler came in for some justified praise from Hank, as a lead-in to the uplifting GOING HOME, in its abridged form as per the single of December 1983. But this visit to that degenerate decade (in the eyes of many Shadows’ fans certainly) was short-lived, for the group then launched into the evergreen DANCE ON!, followed up with a decidedly jazzy rendition of NIVRAM, with a distinctive contribution from Mark Griffiths.
Input from the Marvin Welch and Farrar songbook was promised a while ago when ideas were being fielded for this tour, and there were certainly plenty of gems to choose from. There were only two represented, though the second, the rich tapestry of MY HOME TOWN, delivered with real panache, is something of an epic by normal standards; the first, LADY OF THE MORNING, was not quite as incisive, I felt, with a fair amount of spitting from Hank’s close-miked vocals. While the acoustic guitars were still to hand, there ensued a tour de force from our favourite lead guitarist with GUITAR TANGO, which benefited immensely I thought from this pretty radical makeover.
Then came four more from the 60s: GERONIMO (punchy), SLEEPWALK (what a shame The Shadows could not have revisited this classic for their “Life Story” CD set, even if Hank himself has recorded it in his own right), 36-24-36 (a supremely versatile piece, I loved this assault on it!), and SHAZAM! (in the group’s repertoire very early on).
As we were reminded, the 1978 single DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA was issued in response to audience acclamation, and it prompted a tremendous reaction in Scarborough. The first part of the concert ended with an explosive version of the Jarre classic EQUINOXE (PART V), recorded by The Shadows in 1980: an exciting finale, though Cliff Hall’s contribution seemed a bit on the pronounced side to these ears.
The second half kicked off with another of the more recent compositions, the magnificent and much admired MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON from 1989, and this was succeeded by the 1983-styled SHADOOGIE, with some fine variations from Hank: what a wonderful number this has proved to be over the years. A mean GONZALES from that stunning first LP sustained the fast pace.
At this point the three guitarists switched to the white Burns: there has of course been a lot of publicity about the reappearance of these striking instruments on the stage, but in the event not a great deal was made of them, for whatever reason. Fair enough, the two numbers for which they provided the accompaniment were originally Burns-backed, DON’T MAKE MY BABY BLUE and THE RISE AND FALL OF FLINGEL BUNT. But so too were some other numbers in this concert.
There next came the most sustained string of hits from the 60s: initially four instrumentals, ATLANTIS (prompting a reference to its composer, but as many remarked afterwards, not even a whisper about LIFE STORY), SHINDIG (always a great stage-number), MAN OF MYSTERY (there still seems to be much puzzlement at the sight of a slowly rotating Mr Marvin), and FOOT TAPPER, which must surely rank as one of the truly great examples of the genre.
There now followed what was for me, as for others I spoke to, one of the highlights of the evening. The group did so much for their singer in the 60s, not least in providing him with some of the best songs of the decade. A “medley” was announced in comic terms, but in fact six songs were delivered in close succession in their entirety. PLEASE DON’T TEASE got things off to a scorching start, with a solo from Hank closely echoing that beautifully judged original. IN THE COUNTRY is one of those exuberant singalong numbers at which Cliff & The Shadows excelled, and I COULD EASILY FALL (IN LOVE WITH YOU) is hardly less full of the joys of life. Hank’s THE DAY I MET MARIE is such a superb song that it could hardly fail to bring the house down, and it was decorated by some pretty jaunty soloing into the bargain. GEE WHIZ IT’S YOU, which was featured on that superlative LP “Me And My Shadows”, has always seemed to me to be at least a match for MOVE IT: what Ernie Shear did for that, Hank did for this, only better I would say. SUMMER HOLIDAY and BACHELOR BOY rounded off a very satisfying set of vocals.
Brian Bennett was the focus of attention for his renowned tour de force LITTLE ‘B’: more than one person remarked to me afterwards that they would have preferred one of the later ones (like CAPTAIN HADDOCK...): but given the general 60’s ambience it seemed perfectly apt to me.
The 1979 THEME FROM THE DEER HUNTER was a final brief revisit to a later phase of the group’s career: not a surprising inclusion, given that it is one of Hank’s favourite compositions, according to the man himself.
The second part closed quite aptly with their biggest ever hit, WONDERFUL LAND.
As The Shadows made to leave the stage, someone behind me, perhaps unused to Shadows’ concerts, anxiously remarked that they had not done FBI and APACHE. It was precisely these two numbers that occupied the encore. What can one say about either? Neither was that far removed in general approach from the timeless originals. I for one never tire of hearing either, and the encore was no less enjoyable for being predictable.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this very extensive programme was the sheer number of brilliant and varied compositions emanating from group-members or their close associates Norrie Paramor and Jerry Lordan: there was no repetitive formula at work here.
Newcastle the following evening was no less enjoyable, though there were differences of emphasis and substance in the repartee. But this report is about the musical content, not about what might or might not be read into what was said or not said.
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