A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Big Star at Shepherd's Bush Empire

I went along to to see Big Star at Shepherd's Bush Empire on Thursday with JP & Toby. We had seats in Level 1 which is pretty much one of my favourite places to watch a band.

Before heading over to west London I paid a much overdue visit to the Fopp record store by Cambridge Circus and ended up picking up a few bargains - a couple of Ryan Adams and Pentangle albums. I then made my way to Goldhawk Road tube station and while waiting for JP had a quick listen to the beautiful 'Green Fields' by The Good, The Bad and The Queen on my iPod which includes a nice reference to the said west London street.

Once inside the venue Robyn Hitchcock opened and just about pulled off his set of slightly eccentric English acoustic psychedelia. Next up were Big Star - Alex Chilton & Jody Stephens from the original line up along with Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer from The Posies. We had seen them around 2001 at the Mean Fiddler but Shepherd's Bush is a far superior venue. I thought Alex looked in good shape, sporting a nice cream/beige suit combo (Toby thought he looked like Dirk Benedict). His voice may not be what it used to be but he still carried the songs well and seemed in positive spirits (I wasn't certain this would be the case).

Starting with 'In The Street' they quickly set about going through their back catalogue. 'The Ballad Of El Goodo' was included early in the set and followed not long later by 'Thirteen' which continues to sound as pretty and affecting as ever.

"Won't you tell me what you're thinking of
Would you be an outlaw for my love?"

'Daisy Glaze', 'Way Out West', 'September Girls' and 'Feel' were other highlights. I find some the of most memorable moments at gigs seem to come from the surprises that you did not envisage - their inclusion of their cover of 'Til The End Of The Day' by The Kinks was one of these moments for me. They also played two more from 'Sister Lovers' - 'Thank You Friends' and 'For You'. The fact that they had raced through all of their "hits" so early on led Toby to speculate on 'Holocaust' being a possible encore. I suggested maybe a medley from 'Sister Lovers' but sadly it wasn't to be. No 'Nightime' or 'Blue Moon' then - two of my favourite Big Star songs which have quite a special emotional resonance for me, going back to 2001 when I first became familiar with the album.

I thought they kind of ran out of steam towards the end of the gig, playing several songs from the last album and then finishing with a fun but slightly superfluous cover of 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'.

Afterwards we headed back to Goldhawk Road and caught the Hammersmith & City line back out east. For some reason, on the rare occasions I take the H & C line it always seems to be full of people who have spent the evening binge drinking which can result in some eventful journeys. Tonight however it wasn't too bad - maybe helped by the fact I had a very pleasant conversation with one of JP's Spanish friends. Can't remember his name but he is from Vigo in Galicia, north-west Spain. I decided if I was to ever pledge allegiance to a Spanish football team it would be Celta Vigo as it seemed quite similar to my own team (Newcastle United) in certain ways (geographical remoteness, lack of recent success etc). Overall then, a great evening.....

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