City to City
Boasting a barrage of talent, the Gerry Rafferty/Rab Noakes City to City tour reached London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in early June, and proved without a doubt Rafferty's genius and Noakes' potential.
Born in Fife and now living in north London, Rab Noakes offered a selection of songs mostly culled from his fine recent album Restless, ably supported by Steve Whalley and Richard Brunton on guitars, Brother Fataar playing bass, and drummer Terry Stannard. Brunton, who played on the album, was the most featured soloist, with particularly fine contributions to I Won't Let You Down, Lonely Boy and Restless, although Whalley slid a neat bottleneck over his somewhat incongruous-looking Firebird during What Kind Of Life Is This; mainly he was content, along with Noakes, to stick in a purely rhythmic vein.
The band left stage for a brief two-song acoustic interlude from Rab — Memories, described as 'something of a love song', and Guy Clark's Let Him Roll, another of Clark's affectionate looks at ageing drunken Texans. The set climaxed with Marvin/Farrar's It'll Be Me and Noakes' Get Away From Here, and got the band an enthusiastic response from the audience — though not quite the response from which encores are made.
Because the audience were there for Gerry Rafferty — and for two main reasons: (a) Baker Street, and (b) to see 'whether he can do it live', bearing in mind the sheer excellence of sound gracing the City to City album. Even before the band came on stage it was obvious that we were to be confronted by musicians concerned with good sound: a large area right is devoted to keyboards and their amplification — about four electric keyboards, a grand, various Acoustic stacks and foldback cabs form an enclosed rectangle. To stage left of this is the drum kit (a kit not in centre stage!! What are they thinking of...) and bass and guitar amp/foldback cabs following round between kit and PA rig stage left.
In front of all this is plenty of space for the mobile band members, plus the wind instruments rack. Impressive — someone somewhere knows what they're doing. (Presumably Hugh Murphy, billed as 'tour sound supervisor'.)
All this conjecture is more than paid off when the band actually come on — Tommy Eyre and Jeff Bannister in their keyboard domain, Julian Litman on Strat and electric mandolin, bassist Gary Taylor (remember the Herd?), Raphael Ravenscroft playing saxes and flute, drummer Liam Genockey and, of course, Gerry Rafferty (mainly playing Ovation acoustic). The opener, The Ark, starts a little limply — everyone finding levels — but with the second, Stuck In The Middle With You, safely under their belts the band are ready for anything — the sound is large, controlled, powerful and accurate; a fine achievement considering the sources involved.
Rafferty's repertoire is seemingly endless; he continues to pull out Humblebum songs, Stealer's Wheel songs and solo album songs with the ease of a practised conjurer producing rabbit after rabbit — Didn't I Tell You, Right Down The Line, Mary Skeffington... And then we get Baker Street. This piece of music is an even greater tour de force in the flesh than on record, with the visual bonus of instrument swapping in the keyboard department: Tommy Eyre switching from grand on the intro to Rhodes/mono synth for the verses, Litman doing a stint on grand for the verses, rushing out front for his cataclysmic explosion of a guitar solo, and Raphael Ravenscroft ripping into the biting sax line, leather-trousered legs adopting a stance guaranteed to please the photographers.
The level of excitement at a peak, the band shifted down to Whatever's Written In Your Heart next, but managed to keep the attention poised, moving through City To City, and including Stand By Me in a well-deserved encore — even though 90% of the audience were stomping for a second, the house lights came up and everyone dutifully filed out.
Sound Reports & Views
Music Review by Tony Bacon
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