Reading South Park, 5th May
I first saw John Otway live around 1981/82 on the same bill as UK Subs and Gary Glitter (go figure!). I need to point out that this was before Mr Glitter had been outed as a paedophile. On the night, the UK Subs were Sh1t, I was totally underwhelmed by the young-ish Otway and Gary Glitter (and the original Glitter Band with 2 drummers) were superb!
Rolling forward to about 2 years ago, on a whim my friend Jarrod and I caught a JO & WWB show at the Windsor Arts Centre. I remember saying at the interval that what we had witnessed was either total cobblers or absolute brilliance, but I didn’t know which. Anyway after the second half we decided it was the latter and are both now confirmed fans. We also saw him last autumn in Gloucester, with his ‘Big Band’, although I drank so much that night that frankly, memories of the show, and the afternoon rugby game, are somewhat hazy!
Anyway to Reading: instead of the usual tiered seating at the venue, there were just chairs on the floor. The audience was perhaps 200-250 people, mostly fat fifty-somethings (yes … like me!), but with a smattering of people outside that profile. As usual a fair number were diehard fans and, again as usual, both Otway & WWB mingled with the audience before the gig, in the interval and after the gig. Pretentious they are not.
Seeing Otway is an event rather than a gig. The songs don’t change much, the patter between songs is familiar, Otway’s boy-ish enthusiasm, honesty and showing off would be totally daft in other settings but just works. Add in WWB’s excellent musicianship and dead-pan humour and you have a winning formulae. As Otway says … Wild Willy is just a Musician, whereas I’m a star!
So what was new on the night? It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a wheely-bin used in an act for a start. It housed Wild Willy’s amp for his electric guitar and was open and closed as appropriate. Totally idiotic, but it worked brilliantly. WWB also introduced a Pete Townshend guitar wrecking segment, although the damage was done DIY-style with a hammer and saw! After the show the guitar was flogged for £35! Musically, the highlight may well have been a touching(!!) rendition of Rolf Harris’ ‘Two Little Boys’.
An Otway concert is like a Jonathan Richman concert (another favourite of mine), in that you smile all the way through it and all the way home. It is that kind of experience.