My wife doesn’t *do* gigs. The last time I made her come with me was a day at the Leeds Festival over ten years ago. She suffered a couple of openers, was impressively unimpressed by The Delgados, and finally lost it during a particularly noisy set by The Deftones. She borrowed our friend’s car keys, and drove herself home, returning to pick us up after we’d stayed on to watch At The Drive-In (probably a good job she’d gone by then, TBH), Embrace, Gomez, Beck, Pulp & The Black-Eyed Peas. Even when the surroundings have been more comfortable, she has made me leave before the end: gigs by Ruby Turner and Blondie both spring to mind. So when it was HER suggestion that we not only go to see Colin Vearncombe play as Black, but to make a night of it by booking a hotel and staying over, you could’ve knocked me down with the proverbial feather! I shouldn’t have been surprised really. Our wedding first dance was to Wonderful Life, and THIS album has been our joint favourite for almost a quarter of a century now.
So, act quickly: buy two tickets for CV’s hometown gig mid-tour, DsGran booked as overnight babysitter for the girls, get a room at the Premier Inn at Liverpool One, pay for it out of the joint account, and call it our wedding anniversary present to each other. (17 years and counting as of tomorrow, plus the decade before that with differently-surnamed post popping through the door, since you ask!) And so we found ourselves on Seel Street last Sunday, queuing to get into Zanzibar, a venue I admit I’ve never heard of, let alone been in before. Pleasant enough, small, with four little tables in front of the stage. Whilst I went to the bar, Julie aimed herself at the one unoccupied table. Unfortunately, she came back. “We can’t; it says ‘Reserved for Colin’s mum’ on it.” Aw, bless! So we sat down on some stools opposite, and thus started a lovely evening.
Support was a newtome singer-songwriter by the name of Jake Morley, a Londoner who spent half his set-time telling us about the years his late dad had lived in Liverpool. Inventively playing, and percussively self-accompanying, on acoustic guitar, Jake is no slouch. Speaking to him after his set, I told him that the songs Falter and Ghostess as a pair had made me think “Shearwater-esque”. I added that I hoped that description hadn’t offended. Graciously, Jake admitted he couldn’t be offended, because he didn’t know the name. Hey, if he does now, then my evening wasn’t wasted! ;o)
But we were there for Black. The live version of the band these days is just Colin Vearncombe plus player, singer, producer and son of folk royalty: Calum MacColl. The tour is in support of new album Blind Faith, which I like rather a lot. [There’s an Earworm coming soon, when Ali can wrangle it into submission.] The pair of them make a lovely warm and relaxed sound, and are experienced enough musicians to easily cover for instruments missing live from the studio arrangements. Colin’s voice is holding up very well indeed “It’s taken me decades, but I think I’m beginning to get the hang of this live show lark” was his self-deprecating line later; there was plenty of easy banter between Calum, CV, his mother Sylvia, and the already-onside crowd; and the set swung between new and old songs with no jarring moments whatsoever. In fact, given that I was snuggled up with Julie, the evening went so smoothly that it simply never occurred to me to reach my phone out of my pocket for photo or video opportunities. Sorry!
Anyway, we got over half of the new album, and songs as old as Sweetest Smile and (an a capella as final encore) Wonderful Life in amongst a very enjoyable 90 minutes. Talking to them afterwards, it would appear that they have a DropBox account that some live videos are put into. I’m waiting for my email inviting me to open the ‘Box, but in the meantime, here’s a YT vid of a song they did play, but this one is from LAST year’s gig at Zanzibar.
Before we left I even managed to get Colin to explain and confirm a rumoured connection between him and my school days over thirty years ago, but if you’re reading this, Colin, I promise not to divulge the result of the basketball semi-finals, OK?