By Ralph Mellon
I witnessed something treasurable and memorable recently for the first time in 33 years.
I saw probably my first musical hero, Bryan Ferry, performing live.
Like many people, I’m a passionate music lover but, while my presence has graced a few live gigs, I couldn’t make any world record claims re the number I’ve attended.
Catching up with Mr Ferry, however, was something special, as he may be near the sunset of his live career (in-joke for Roxy Music fans).
It also continued something of a trend with my recnt concert-going, as I’ve seen a few other of my favourites after a hiatus almost as long.
I experienced Devo in Glasgow in 1980, then again in 2007. My top band for a long time was Magazine, and I saw them in Edinburgh in 1979 (supported by Simple Minds), then in Glasgow when they reformed in 2009.
Roxy Music (along with Hot Chocolate – sad news recently that Errol Brown was dead; No Doubt About It) were the first band I got obsessed with out of proportion, around 1975-76, when they were nearing the end of their first incarnation and Bryan Ferry was producing superb solo albums.
I finally saw them in Glasgow on the tour for Roxy’s last album, ‘Avalon’, in 1982 and, while it wasn’t quite the best gig I’ve ever been at, the exhilaration just at being under the same ceiling as Mr F, after all those years of following them, was hard to match.
Spinning forward to last month’s gig in Edinburgh, all the best seats had gone by the time I got my ticket sorted – and it wasn’t cheap – but I reckoned, as he’s turning 70 later this year, there may not be too many more opportunities to see the great man in action – and the fact he’s had to postpone several tour dates since then unfortunately reinforced my view, which I still hope is wrong.
But he sounded fine, he still exudes charismatic cool, and his band was superb. He also performed the song I wanted to hear more than any other – ‘Virginia Plain’.
I also arranged a mini ‘flashmob’ with a couple of online fans I’d never met before – so P and V from Edinburgh are my new besties!
There are a few more stand-out memories from my low-key live gig history.
A kilted Elvis Costello walking past me at a Pogues gig in Glasgow in 1985; Vic Godard of Subway Sect whistling into the microphone in 1978 and almost rupturing my eardrums; blagging my way backstage at Heriot-Watt University in 1984 to meet the lovely Annabel Lamb (remember her at all?) and The Lords Of The New Church threatening to stop playing at Glasgow Uni, around late 1983, because they objected to the audience’s behaviour. No, seriously.
Also, getting a colleague’s front-row ticket to see his favourite band, The Waterboys, in Dunfermline around 2006, after he’d been sent on a work course and couldn’t go. I told him afterwards: ‘You fair missed yersel’ at The Waterboys gig – I shook hands with Mike Scott and everything’.
Best gig? Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Glasgow, in 1979. Worst? The Dickies, in Edinburgh, around 1980, because they played for only 40 minutes with no encore. That sort of contempt for an audience was hard to match.