A sweltering afternoon in London greeted us two merry gigsters as we stepped off the train at Euston station. The obligatory visit to Fopp, our CD emporium of choice (disappointing, no tempting back catalogues at silly prices this time round) was followed by a pint and a meal in a nearby hostelry, and later another pint and a much delayed meeting with PD, head honcho of a rather fine prog group on Facebook. It's always good to actually meet Facebook "friends", as the much-maligned social networking behemoth really serves its purpose when web links become real people.
I'm digressing again aren't I? Under The Bridge is a small club underneath Stamford Bridge football ground, home of newly-crowned European champions, Chelsea FC. Stamford Bridge, situated on the Fulham Road is in one of the swankiest areas of London and is an incongruous place for a football ground, which are usually in more prosaic working class areas. An example of the smell of loot in the locale was an anonymous looking modern lo-rise apartment block nearby, advertising flats for rent from £850 per week!
The club has a capacity of around 300 to 400, and seems a strange choice for what is billed as UK's farewell UK performance, as tickets on the Night After Night 2012 world tour sold out in no time at all. They could probably have filled a venue three or four times the size with ease.
Tonight Eddie Jobson (muso cool, signature round shades, keyboards, electric violins) and John Wetton (monstrous bass and vocals) are more than ably assisted by Gary Husband on drums, who amazingly had only had a day's rehearsal beforehand, having replaced Terry Bozzio for the European leg of the tour. Gary was a human whirlwind who propelled the songs along with the energy of man half his his age. Lastly, but by no means least, come on down the unassuming but effortlessly brilliant Alex Machacek on guitar. Expecting anyone to play the lead lines laid down by the technically astounding Allan Holdsworth in the original line up is a big ask, but this poses the goateed Austrian no problem. Mind you when someone like John McLaughlin is quoted on Machacek's website as saying "Alex Machacek's music starts where other
music ends" you know you're probably in for a treat. Holdsworth's strangely detached, almost illogical but perfect solo from second number (and my favourite UK tune) In the Dead Of Night is handled with a skill that conclusively illustrates McLauglin's accolade.
Playing a good selection of songs from UK's small but perfectly formed back catalogue, John Wetton's voice was in fine fettle, hitting the high notes with ease, something that a lot of his contemporaries struggle with after the cumulative affects of age and living the rock'n'roll lifestyle have taken their toll.
There was a frankly risible rumour that a certain Robert Fripp might turn up to play some Crimson songs with his long-lost bass player, rumours fuelled by teasing but ambiguous entries on Fripp's diary website. I wasn't holding my breath as I reckon we have seen the last of Fripp in a band setting, the curmudgeonly maestro preferring a life of gentle English eccentricity as a 21st century squire in mythical Bredonborough with The Minx, and who can blame him?
My scepticism was confirmed when Jobson related the tale of how UK were formed. Wetton had phoned him up asking if he was interested in forming a band with him, Bill Bruford and Fripp, and Jobson's response was "Why would I want to do that"? Not long after Fripp broke up King Crimson and the rest as they say, is history. If Fripp was there Jobson's comment would have sent him scurrying away to his country house like Didier Drogba after a fat pay cheque.
Two Crimson tunes were covered though, the first a storming version of Starless, and the second a surprising but effective solo acoustic version of Book Of Saturday from Wetton.
The band were on stage for just under two hours including the encores, and the time mostly flew by. The only time it dragged for me was during Jobson's solo spot where he proved that ten minutes of screeching effect laden fiddle playing was....well, a bit pointless really. The band could have played at least one more song in the that time, but hey, it's a minor gripe. Jobson was also the emotional focus of the evening, especially when he thanked the punters in the reserved seats at the front for flying in from as far afield as Indonesia and Tokyo! He welled up when telling us that his 90-year-old dad was in the audience, watching his son play live for the first time in 30 years. I hope the old boy remembered to turn his hearing aid off!
Right, I've got a thick head, so I'm off to lounge about in the sun-drenched grounds of Burwood Towers..."Smythe, fetch the Pimms and the ice bucket"...
In The Dead Of Night
By The Light Of The Day
Presto Vivace And Reprise
Carrying No Cross
Keyboard and Violin solo spot
Book Of Saturday
Caesar's Palace Blues
The Only Thing She Needs