Edinburgh, Queens Hall, 26 May 2010 - Deb and Karen hit Scotland

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When last we wrote we were still in Belfast. What has happened since? We had a day (post-gig) to spend in Belfast before catching our early evening flight to Edinburgh so we decided to do a tour of the city by open top bus taking in the city landmarks, buildings and halls, the titanic sites, Stormont in a glorious park setting, high on a hill above the city and finally loyalist and nationalist housing areas, with the iconic murals and the dreadful peace walls, a stark reminder of the troubles. 

It really made us appreciate the places we grew up in and wonder at the friendliness, generosity and spirit of all the lovely people we met in, what we both agreed, was a wonderful city.

We positively sailed through the rigmarole of the airport... something had to go wrong and something did. Nearly a 2-hour delay on flights and we arrive in Edinburgh just as most of it is shutting up shop for the night. We share a taxi to the centre with Nik, an American travelling across the UK, and induct him in the music of and our enthusiasm for Steve Harley.

Finally we have the key to a room to lay our heads but it is without most of the essentials – pillow, chair etc so we nip down to reception to get things sorted out and end up sitting in the bar chatting and drinking with some lovely people. By the time the bar empties we are starving and despite the best efforts of a rickshaw driver offering to take us somewhere, we manage, all by ourselves, to find a pizza restaurant up on Edinburgh’s Mile that stays open until 3am. We don’t stay quite that late as we have serious sightseeing to do the following day, not to mention a date at 7pm at Queens Hall.

Nightmare! it’s pouring when we wake and neither of us has a coat. We need a miracle! Decide to eat breakfast, go back to sleep and see if it’s any better when we wake a second time. Wow! It is and we set off up the mile towards the castle in bright sunshine, stopping only briefly en route to get Deborah’s hair cut (least said about that the better). Much of the view at the castle is obscured by work going on to erect seating for the forthcoming festival. Today there is insufficient time to do justice to a tour of the castle so we descend instead via all the shops, alleyways and ‘squares’ that lie off the main drag, stopping briefly to buy gifts and borrow scissors and sellotape from the lovely ladies of the Museum of Childhood (where else would we be) until we are back at our hotel with time to prepare for the gig.

The Queens Hall looks like a church from the outside and we discover that this is precisely what it was in a previous lifetime. Ruud, Bea and Julie Brown are all there, plus Drew McAdam and we meet fan John (who used to live in the west country not far from Karen) and ‘cuddly man’ who didn’t tell us his name (but revealed he was a social worker) and was in the right place at the right time. We take our seats high on the balcony in converted pews to the left of the stage, next to local fans from way back when, Sandra and her husband Dave. Unfortunately this point obscures the part off the stage that we know Robbie and Lincoln will occupy; a chair sits empty centre stage awaiting, we can only imagine, a very nervous young lady! And an extra mic stand, nestles between Lincolns spot and Stuarts Drums for an equally nervous older sister.

Dear God! How he works his wonders! He sends in his angels to this House, that was once his dwelling place, a House of Gods. The Queens Hall clearly displays the signs of past times, this building steeped in history. Strangely enough, we first encountered these young ladies, the Lartey sisters, in a small chapel , a house for God’s children, only last year, when they captivated us with their unique jaw-dropping talent, and since that amazing discovery we’ve waited in anticipation and wonder, of how they would fare on our worlds stage with Steve and the Band.

We sat and waited in wonderment and excitement for the girls to take the stage; lights set, they were announced as Steve’s very own special guests and were greeted with a warm round of applause from a packed and respectful audience.Hushed silence was split in two as the sisters, Faye and Ashley, sailed in to what we can only describe as sheer joy , a joy to behold. Ashley’s angelic radiant voice rose up and out across this room, as clear as a tolling bell, whilst her sister Faye cradled her guitar that pulled sounds you just could not imagine, mere words could not describe how music speaks louder than words. She played with her sister’s voice as they joined together in perfect harmony, astonishing. Astounding talent for such young girls, truly heavenly sent. God given. So heart warming and emotional, it brought tears to Deborah’s eyes and she had to leave the building, go for air, breathe again; you know when Barry pulls those high flying notes from his bow, that take you so high you could almost stop breathing , heart stopping moments that take your breath away. The fifteen minute scheduled set, became a full half hour of their own self-penned unique delights, culminating in their first single/download which Steve himself has produced, with other members of the band also contributing, which can be found on this site, as the girls politely announced before departing the stage, to tumultuous and well deserved applause.

A short interval ensues, followed by the main event of the night. The cheers and cries of ‘Steevo’ with a distinct Scottish accent resound, as the lights in the hall dim and we anticipate the arrival of the man and the band. James was first to emerge and take up his position behind his huge arrangement of instruments followed shortly after by the others, including, to our delight, the Lartey sisters, one to either side of Stuart’s drum platform, and finally the man himself, Steve Harley, looking around at his ensemble before counting them in to the first of many songs from the new album, Faith and Virtue which featured Ashley on vocals adding a new dimension – see, never the same twice.

The new song goes down a storm and then they launch quickly into those Psychomodo sounds, with James crashing the keyboards and an infectious blues rhythm pumping throughout the hall; smiles all round before he takes us off on a carousel with Judy Teen; by now the audience have been completely drawn in and are singing along, dancing in both their seats and the open areas of the balcony. The added female voices on stage made us ‘appy!.

No rehearsal this is perfection, Panorama was wicked tonight – this might have made a great single way back when. He had us all dangling our feet in the pool of joy he was creating. W e had an excellent view of him drawing the best out of the band, whilst checking and caring that those girls were not only OK but really enjoying their Cockney Rebel debut.

No Bleeding Hearts, with light and tempo changes that left the audience in awe. For many it may well have been a totally new song, but they certainly got it and the applause rang out. Steve explains the origins of the next song, Daniel Johnston’s deceptively simple True Love Will Find you in the End. We can see Ruud on the other side of the balcony sporting a T-Shirt with one of Daniel’s creative little cartoons, as Steve enunciates the words and the melodica carries the simple tune.

Back to an old number and Mirror Freak, coloured with Lincoln’s bass and Robbie’s gentle mandolin - heavenly. This is clearly an audience built of fans who know their Harley; they bought the vinyl, went to the concerts in and around this lovely city and were back today to see the man who made all that possible. The song is greeted with huge appreciation – we can feel a new existence beginning..... Sitting now in our hotel, just off the Royal Mile, closing the window as it’s a wee bit noisy, in a place where we could only have dreamt of being, in the pocket money days, when we read the reviews in the NME and the mags and saved up Christmas and birthday money, paper round and baby-sitting money to attend our local gig; we are so lucky to still be able to see our hero and for him still to be doing what he loves best. And every one is the best, and every one gets better – how can that be? Were all the previous ones just rehearsals for the perfect one to come....?

This Old Man is breathtaking, Stuarts drumming and Steve’s vocal is strong and deliberate – there is no mistaking the meaning, the respect the lyrics embody.....and then straight in to the lovely lilting sound of All the Men are Hungry with Robbie’s guitar work and a bevy of young dancing fans, who could have only been in their 20’s (if that) dancing away across the balcony; a joy to behold! Next huge applause greets the opening bars of Mr Raffles, which, we have noticed has become slower and more articulated in its deliverance on this tour.

Now you know Steve Harley? He usually includes one song in the set that is ripe for a bit of a sing-song, sometimes that is Tumbling Down, Best Years or even Riding The Waves. This tour there is a spontaneous and unexplained crowd led decision that this will be Here Comes the Sun – it started in Dublin with absolutely no egging on from Steve and curiously has continued on the first three gigs of the tour. The singing tonight is strong and beautiful and prompts him to comment how good it sounds. Baby shoes is next and the painful lyrics, part masked by the jolly tune, gain depth by the inclusion of Ashley’s sweet voice to accompany Steve’s – beautiful!

Breathtaking moments follow – the Lighthouse draws the best Barry solo yet. Full of surprises, whatever is coming next? We are Blinded with Tears, some us literally, but sure in our heart and so to Mr Soft and those dual instrumental solos from Robbie and Barry and Stuarts regimental, marching tempo that skips a beat so as to keep you on your toes. Stranger Comes to Town is so powerful and heartfelt, Steve is shutting his eyes and pleading; but safe this night, a welcome stranger has come to town.Sebastian is stupendous and, in addition to Stuarts little drum rolls and James’s marvellous piano, a new sound emerged strong and clear to the left where our view of the stage is slightly obscured. Leaning forward we spy Ashley, flute to mouth, accompanying Barry’s violin as the notes soar to a crescendo and all the time Steve’s voice takes us back, takes us up, takes us forward, takes us up to the rafters , and far beyond even to those breathtaking Highlands. The stage is now dark and empty and then the stomping, pleading and cheering begins.... come back!

A curfew at the venue means that we only have time for Loretta’s’ Tale as an encore, before the guitar twangs those opening bars and we’re dancing and singing along to Make Me Smile, the audience on its feet, clapping and singing along. He is so happy, you can tell, they all are happy; he waves his guitar aloft in total appreciation and we really can’t see Scotland dropping off his tour list any time.... from here to eternity.Right, that’s us done (for now); so tired! Two planes (another shortly to catch), trains, taxis, buses and almost a rickety rickshaw, not to mention a lot of shank’s pony we’re off home! Very happy Harley fans! Back on the road Saturday...watch this space.... oh and one last thing....we wish you good luck for your English A Level exam this afternoon, Faye!

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