Reviews

SOULSEC - COMEDY BUNKER, RUISLIP 28/02/07

"I don't normally spend my Wednesday evenings in Ruislip. It's the wrong end of the Central Line for me, and even if I did go there the last place I would end up would be a Golf Club. At least they had a restaurant for me to amuse myself in pre-gig, and the irony of seeing weary golfers carrying golf bags full of clubs mingling with the black "Aural Sculpture World Tour 1958" T-shirts was not lost on me. My expectations were low, and in that sense dinner did not disappoint. Any place where the wine list consists of "red or white" should seriously consider it's qualification as a restaurant. On the plus side there was little travelling to be done from tube, to dinner to upstairs venue, which meant that the logistics were satisfyingly simple, even if the enchiladas were over fussy.

I should mention at this point that this was a fantastic gig! If you were there then I dare you to disagree, and if you weren't, then you may want to kick yourself now.

The upstairs "comedy" venue was small with about 40 seats, a small stage and PC projector advertising up and coming events. Paul hit the stage with Andy at 8:30pm, promising songs, stories, questions, "and more" and kicked off with acoustic versions of Golden Boy and Money. Paul looked very calm and very relaxed - more so than I have seen him for a long time. After these 2 songs there were some Stranglers stories which inevitably revolved around issues with JJ. No major revelations or surprises, just a very personal and intimate account about what went wrong, how things happened and a bit of why. The audience started in shy mode with respect to questions, but Paul seemed to have come prepared to open up his soul, and his emotions gushed out. More music followed including Mine All Mine (great song, always better live than on the album) and Sinister (never a favourite of mine, live or studio, but I'm warming to it).

Unexpectedly, Paul used the PC and projector to give us a PowerPoint projection! The subjects were:- letters from female stalkers, letters from JJ, some photos, and then a rehearsed routine imitating the stage dance techniques of JJ and John Ellis. Two more songs (including Valley of the Birds - surely one of the finest MK2 songs written) and then the interval.

As usual we crowded to the bar at at the interval, and fortunately I had learnt the relevant part of the wine list off by heart ("red").

In part 2 the crowd were more open to ask questions, all of which Paul answered, although he was not too forthcoming about his relationship with Baz. As already stated, there were no major surprises. We all knew that JJ was the difficult one, Jet was great, Dave was great (and simultaneously weird) and Baz was - well - Baz. What was endearing was the emotional frankness of it all. The iconic band seemingly out of reach to fans was all of a sudden humanised and dissected in front of our very eyes.

More songs, including some new stuff (e.g. Desert Soul), and Paul's version of "Slipping Away" - I certainly wasn't expecting any Mk 4 material!. Paul is clearly proud that he wrote that song, and wanted us to hear it "as it should be sung". Finally, a very surprising encore - Golden Brown. I am really pleased that Paul played that song. Not because I like it particularly, but more because in my opinion Paul made those Mk I songs his own during his 16 years, and he is as entitled as anybody to sing them. I am really happy he had the confidence to do that.

Andy was superb on guitar - the best I have ever seen him. He too was relaxed, well rehearsed (you don't always get that with Soulsec gigs!), and he was content sitting in silence during Paul's long narratives. His acoustic arrangements of the songs were subtle and clever, and a joy to listen to.

I am sure that the experience was cathartic for Paul. Also, I sense that he is preparing a bigger show, and honing his skills as a raconteur. He mentioned Hugh a number of times and it is clear that he feels an empathy with him.

It all finished at 11:00pm - two and a half hours is value for money in anybody's book.
And as for JJ, I expect that if he sent Paul a Christmas card, it would be Thrown Away.

Set List:
Golden Boy
Money
Still Life
Mine All Mine
Sinister
Here
Valley of the Birds
She gave it All
Slipping Away
In a While
In Heaven She Walks
8 days
Postcard
Desert Soul
New Morning Town
Fried
Golden Brown (encore)"

Anthony Goodwin

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