Cardiff, St David's Hall, 09 June 2010 - Peter Juckes-Hughes takes us inside St David's Hall
Monday, 14 June 2010 19:49
Cardiff St David's Hall, in the heart of the Welsh capital. It was my first visit to this fabulous venue, and although in the past I'd consumed alcohol on the premises (when visiting for rugby internationals), I'd never actually been inside the concert hall. My first impressions of the venue were favourable, as this was the same design layout as the fabulous Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.
I wasn't disappointed, because the acoustics were the best I'd experienced yet on this Harley tour. Each venue different, unique, both in audience, performance and sound. Tonight it was A class venue, B class audience and A class band performance.
Initially a little reserved, the audience soon warmed up. The banter was good, with Harley the master communicator warming the Welsh hearts; with lines such as "Are you lot looking forward to the World Cup Finals?” Only the maestro could get away with goading the Welsh audience. Hecklers were friendly, but Steve can get away with anything with his tongue in cheek, because the audience love him.
Harley's music is guaranteed to raise the hairs on the arms of the most hardened music fan. Such classics as Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), Judy Teen, Mr Soft, Sebastian etc etc's timeless memorable hooks are ever dependable. But it's the new songs that raised the hairs on my arms. To plug your new album so heavily is a risky business, but when the new album is as good as it is (and I adore it) then the risk is lessened. The songs sound even better live, and the mix of new and old is perfect. The old chestnuts for the casuals, and the new exciting canvases for the faithful.
Especially good live from the new songs are 'Stranger Comes To Town' and 'This old Man' with Steve's affected vocal style giving character and depth to some wonderful song writing, which is poetry set to music.
'No Bleeding Hearts' is the new Harley classic. It's standout, it's awesome a statement of intent that he still has the capacity to write to the highest standard. Thought provoking, intelligent lyrics, a gradual build up, then a cacophony of sound, with Barry adding some mind blowing 'ear shattering' effects with his guitar, with the band pushing the power of the song to its absolute limit.
Unique, deeply moving and thrilling. The show is acoustic and raw, then utterly rocking; the intensity never less than full on. The show is a roaring success. The presence of the youthful Harley is never less than magnetic. Smiling and having fun makes one young, and Harley still looks the teen rebel.
Confidence rising, the Lartey sisters looked to be more comfortable and at ease, than at previous shows I attended this tour, and really enjoying themselves. It was great to see them relaxed and smiling. It is wonderful to have the 'full band' effect onstage, and the addition of more guitar, flute and tambourine, only add to the glorious sound. There is fun to be had at all venues, and in Cardiff, 'Here Comes the Sun', worked its magic, enticing a number of people out of their seats, and rushing to the stage to participate in some manic dancing. To see people dancing with such joyous and careless abandon was a pleasurable one to behold.
The singing in the aisles, and the obligatory and joyous singalongs "oh Oh We’re having a parteeee' during the show never ceases to move me. These songs are so powerful, and you just can't resist joining in, and looking around, spying all the smiling enthusiastic faces. People lost in music. Sebastian, Make Me Smile... some may sing along. Faithfully singing the lyrics, some/most singing to their partners or lost in their own private universe. Some in tune, many not, but don't give a hoot. They are all in the Harley time warp, re-living their youth and favourite songs, and cheering their idol. Breathtaking and timeless, the rebel rousing Make Me Smile ends the proceedings.
As the band wave goodbye and stroll off stage, the entire audience is up as one, cheering and clapping. Always the standing ovation; Harley and Co. never fail to satisfy.
So it ended, tired, happy and on the way 'home', with some of us looking forward to doing it all again the next night in Shepherds Bush.
Ray and Jane, Gareth, Rob, Chrissy and Gill - it was nice meeting you there. At a Harley gig you are rarely a Stranger in the town or city, because you always meet up with at least a few smiling and friendly faces, with whom you have partied with so many times before.
Long may it continue