Thursday, 2 February 2012

Hugh Cornwell at The Arc

Hugh Cornwell
The Arc, Stockton

Hugh Cornwell
Last time I saw Hugh Cornwell was at The Sage in April 2011. He had his band with him then; this time it was a solo acoustic outing for the former Strangler.

The Arc is an intimate venue which has seating added and removed according to the show. This was an all-seater affair.

Apologising for being jet-lagged, having just returned from America a couple of days before, Hugh quickly ran through his personal check-list before he started: 'set list; strings; water; microphone (low, near a seat) in case I get dizzy; microphone (high, for standing position) in case I don’t get dizzy; guitar; spare guitar; audience...right!'

He promised '...a mix of stuff. Stranglers songs and songs from my solo albums and maybe two or three songs from the new album - Totem and Taboo.' And that's exactly what we got.

The first song of the evening was 'an old Stranglers classic’, namely Duchess, which was well received.

The jet lag surfaced briefly during the second song - Land of a Thousand Kisses - when he temporarily forgot the words, but he quickly recovered and continued.

The set list for the first half included:

Never Say Goodbye
Under Her Spell
Nuclear Device ('I've never done it acoustically before but it works quite well')
Gods, Guns and Gays
Strange Little Girl
Hanging Around
One Burning Desire
Slow Boat to Trowbridge
Goodbye Toulouse 
Sweeter Than You (a Ricky Nelson song Hugh wished he had written)

'Anyone live in Stockton?'

There was plenty of banter between the songs.  'Anyone live in Stockton? Oh, that’s good. I hope.' There was time for slice of social commentary about neighbouring Middlesbrough too. Last time he was there, he said, he saw lots of young girls out and about in very short skirts and T-shirts, with nothing but 'a packet of fags' with them - in mid-December. 'It was me Mam,' shouted a member of the audience.

Following a couple of bizarre and eccentric comments from the audience, Hugh turned around to the empty stage behind him, pointed to nobody and said, ‘I think they’re talking to you.’

Three people came in very late due to traffic problems. This didn't go unmentioned. ‘Shall we start from the beginning again?’ I’ll tell you what you’ve missed…’ and he read from the set list. 'So not a lot really. By the way, this is the second set…’

'I'll tell you what you've missed...'
The second set brought a whole hour of songs, with further banter to and from the audience. 'By the way, you're a top guy,' commented one fan. Hugh, busy plugging in his guitar, looked up and replied, 'I beg your pardon?'  whereupon one local wag said, 'Your flies are undone, apparently.'

Introducing an Everly Brothers number, he asked, 'Anyone here called Mary, or Maria...?' which ran into: 'You're not a psychic, are you?'

The set list for the second half was:

Take a Message to Mary
Totem and Taboo
Midnight Summer Dream
The Pleasure of Your Company
Nice and Sleazy
Lay Back On Me Pall
Golden Brown ('...almost unrecognisable but if anyone can change it - I can')

The audience started chanting for an encore. 'Hugh, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh!' He quickly returned with the comment, 'It's like that film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes!' The welcome encore featured four more songs.

A Street Called Carol
Always the Sun
Nerves of Steel
No More Heroes

It was all good fun. Hugh said he'd be available to chat and sign merchandise after the show. 'I'll sign anything: bodily parts, clothing, bus tickets...'

A quick post-show chat

News and tour dates can be found on the official website. There's also an option to pledge towards the release of Totem and Taboo. The new tracks sounded good. Hopefully he will tour the album on its release.

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