Sunday, 29 July 2007



Sometimes - just sometimes - chess players like to spend an occasional evening away from the board of squares and seek their thrills and spills elsewhere.

In a period of particularly non-competitive spirit, I recently chanced a number of different ways in my quest to be entertained.

First up: a unique footballing treat in the form of a friendly match between second division Darlington and Premiership Sunderland. Darlington’s quest for play-off glory at the end of last season had not so much fizzled out as had been extinguished just as surely as it had been dumped right in the middle of the North Sea. Could their pre-season rebuilding strengthen them enough to give the Championship champions a run for our ticket money? Well...not really.

The waterlogged pitch didn’t even level the playing field; the skill-gap glared like a bald head at a Rockabilly reunion. Sunderland should have scored in the first minute and it was only a matter of time before the back of the home net bulged. In fact, Darlington, not short of effort, did well to hold the Black Cats to a mere 0-2 score line. Grim stuff. The black and white men could be in for a very tricky season.

The next slab of entertainment was much better. Have you ever seen Blondie in concert? They were sensational at Harrogate, from the moment they launched into ‘Dreaming’ to the second they finished their explosive encore. Clem Burke must be one of the most under-rated drummers in history. He has to be seen - and heard - to be believed. With his massive drum kit surrounded by Perspex to avoid deafening the rest of the band, he hammered away all night, more often than not leading the songs in and closing them out with a last rumble and smash. Every now and then he would hurl a drumstick high in the air and then catch it on the way down and continue with his pounding.

The whole band was on great form and all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying what they were doing. Debbie Harry is, of course, the focal point. She oozes ‘cool’ and class and has the audience permanently in the palm of her hand. For the first few songs her hair was perfectly styled and in place. Just before ‘Accidents Never Happen’ she slipped on a head band and ruffled her hair, punk-style. The audience went wild.

All the favourite songs were there, including ‘Heart of Glass‘, ‘Atomic‘, ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and ‘Rapture‘. The two most recent albums were represented by ‘Screaming Skin’, ‘Good Boys’ and, of course, ‘Maria’.

After the last tour, rumours circulated that Blondie would take to the road no more. I’m delighted the information was inaccurate. On this form, they could go on forever but next time they are in town make absolutely sure you get to see them. You’ll thank me for it!

Two nights at the Saltburn Comedy Festival completed a busy week. The invited acts were all trying out their shows for the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival.

I was unable to get a ticket for the first night of the Festival and the second night, featuring Norman Lovett, clashed with the football.

Festivals can often be a bit of a curate’s egg and this one was no exception. The first of the two nights is best described as ‘disappointing’. Swearing may well have its place in comedy; in the right context and used sparingly it can certainly emphasise a joke, punctuate a punchline and provide a cue for laughter. Used indiscriminately, fired around every couple of seconds like so many bullets from a drunk’s machine gun, they achieve the dubious distinction of becoming intensely irritating and dreadfully dull at one and the same time. Still, many other people in the audience seemed happy enough to laugh on cue so it’s probably a case of ‘to each, his own’.

The final act of the Festival was, for me at the least, the highlight. Jason Manford was a very good stand-up comic, masterful with ad-libs and skilled in the art of dealing with hecklers. It was mainly observation comedy, similar to Peter Kay’s stand-up routines. Very good fun!

For further details of this ambitious Festival, pop along to:

Hopefully there will be a similar event next year.

So, dear readers, did you go to any of these events too? Add a comment and share your thoughts, by all means!


Anonymous said...

Would you care to reassess your prediction of a grim season for the black & white men,Sean ?

Sean Marsh said...

I said 'tricky season'! But yes, Darlington have exceeded expectations so far and I really do hope they can keep it up. If they are still in the top bunch by Christmas then they will have a fighting chance for honours.