The 100 Club - London

Friday 16 April 2004

TicketIt's very rare that I venture down to London, but every now and then a special occasion justifies it. When it was announced Deke Leonard was leaving the Man band (again) a month or so back, it was deemed to be such an occasion. You've got it to do.

After a damp and misty start in Yorkshire, London turned out to be bright and reasonably warm. London's a big place, so they tell me, and yet, round about sixish, whom did I chance across outside a Prêt-à-Manger on Oxford Street, drinking coffee and warming his bones in the sunshine, but the self-same Mr.Leonard. Greetings and best wishes were exchanged. Apparently he had been killing time wandering round some favourite book shops. Any special feelings about tonight's event? "No, I'm just treating it as a normal gig, really".

A normal gig, eh? Hmm.

The 100 Club has been established as a jazz club on Oxford Street for decades, and even boasts a blue plaque inside. It's in the basement, but is thankfully air-conditioned. There's a bar at one end serving reasonable beer, and the room oddly has the stage along its length, and together with the sizable pillars, this means sound quality varies depending on where you view from. On a Friday night, it becomes Club Bang! Bang!, run by the genial Jim Driver.

The poster suggested this was a double header, but in truth everyone knew Here and Now were the support. Still, they were better than I feared they might be. A guitar - bass - drums trio, (the keyboard player being on holiday in Spain), they produced some enjoyable heavy psychedelia. The musicianship was of a creditably high standard, and they went down well. In fact it seemed some of the crowd were there for Here and Now in the first place.

George and MickyIt was appropriate that the Man band allowed Deke to kick things off with Ride. It's always been something of a guitar extravaganza, but three guitars, that's rather unusual. Together with the aforementioned uneven sound quality, it set the tone for what was going to be a sonically imperfect night. Don't get me wrong, I have heard worse sound at Man gigs, but it was frustrating. Still, from my spot Micky's first solo of the night, pretty close to what he generally plays in this song, was just great. The close cropped hair takes some getting used to, but it's so good to see him healthy again.

But when it comes to hair styles, well, Ace wasn't going to be uspstaged, and was sporting a bleached barnet, which he showed off to good effect in the next three songs. The power of the three guitars worked very well on Mad on Her, though George's solo was lost in the mix. Micky's solo in Kangaroo was just brilliant, but Walrus is a simple song which I think works best when in a more accoustic mode - three Fenders here is just too much.

There were further sound gremlins in Hangin' On, though this hasn't really gripped me as a live piece, so I wasn't too bothered. C'mon though, as we should have expected, was the song that really proved that Micky Jones was back. His solo was long, inspired, inventive and technically crafted. Unsurprisingly, it got a rapturous reception. But just to remind us that he has been away for a while, he almost missed a vocal cue and had to be prompted by George. A beautiful moment.

Martin and DekeDeke now demonstrated that he too is more than capable of stumbling over the vocals during Chinese Cut, but to be fair, it's more than a few years since this one was aired. Getting the wrinkles out before it becomes a staple of a solo tour maybe... The triple axe approach was back on form during Feather, and even more so on 7171, which also featured Gareths' most prominent contribution of the night (at least from my vantage point) in the form of a synth solo. We were also treated to a noticably different Leonard solo, and to be honest, he doesn't change them that often.

Daughter was an absolute barnstormer and included George taking a solo on his second guitar, having won the race to break a string. So the main set ended...

The crowd, understandably, went b*n*n*s. "Deke! Deke! Deke! Deke!" The band were not even permitted the dignity of trooping off stage and trooping back on again - the place was pretty damn full, and the punters were in no mood to be denied. In defiance of his usual policy, Martin Ace asked the crowd what they wanted next. My vote for Spunk Rock lost. Bananas won. Going by the rapturous uproar that ensued, I think the electorate approved. We had the novelty of Micky switching to SG mid-song (I assume he had forgotten to at the start) and Romain finished things off. The lights came up, and I believe the band would have played on if they hadn't.


Another terrific night. I remain convinced that gigs like these are more about the sense of occasion than the actual performance, but it was clear that everyone there had a thoroughly wonderful time.

"A normal gig"? Yeah, right Deke.

Before I finish, I'd better add that Bob Richards was his usual flawless self, and Gareth, as far as I could tell, did nothing wrong. I'm sure they won't mind if their roles were more supporting than usual this time. Because this night was really about Micky and his return from two years of worry, and Deke and his imminent departure for new ventures.

Gentlemen, I wish you nothing but the best. May your paths cross happily and often.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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