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Tuesday 25 October 2022

It's All Up To You

Pete Wylie and the latest version of The Mighty Wah! played at Night And Day in Manchester on Sunday night, a sold out gig at a small, capacity 250. Taking the stage in a red, white and blue Sex Pistols shirt and black hat he sees as pleased to see us as we are to see him. The stage at Night And Day is tucked into the corner at the back, really intimate as gig spaces go with the audience gathering round the front and the side as Wylie laughs off some technical issues, a repeating loop of feedback clearly audible which they can't get rid of and are just going to play over the top of. Pete starts singing the Johnny Thunders song You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory, and that's the cue for both me and Lou to start welling up. Then the band launch into Come Back and we're off into Wylie- land. He promised 'all the hits' and that's exactly what we get, an hour and a half of Wylie back catalogue interspersed with plenty of talk, Pete talking, telling stories, explaining the background to songs and cracking jokes- he says he's writing his memoir (his Mem- Wah) and if all he did was transcribe his between song chatter he'd have the first draft already done. The tales come thick and fast, and among others I can't recall now include the story of why The Story Of The Blues missed out on reaching number one, a misadventure involving backing tapes, the Musician's Union and Duran Duran, and a very funny anecdote where Wylie, Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope and Pete Burns all go to the same dole office to sign on in the late 70s. All four are asked what job they want. Burns, 'in full regalia', replies to the DHSS officer, 'shepherd'. 

There is a long explanation of the CIA and their attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro which inspired the song Better Scream, a 1980 single, and a blistering version of the song. The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies gets a big response (Pete says he was writing a song about Liz Truss but she'd resigned before he finished it). Free; Falling (In Love With You) from 2017's Pete Sounds has echoes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Sinful, prefaced as an 'all purpose protest song', is a massive sounding outsider anthem which segues into Bowie's Heroes halfway through and then back into Sinful. He talks movingly about Janice Long, a friend and a champion of Wah!, who died last year, and of Josie Jones and Andrew Weatherall, dedicating an emotive Four Eleven Forty Four to them, with Pete's daughter Mersey's backing vocals present virtually. Heart As Big As Liverpool, not necessarily a song you'd expect to get a rousing reception in Manchester, is played and sung along to, Pete saying it's about a feeling not a place (even though we know it's about a place too). Then we get a magnificent romp through The Story of The Blues, a roomful of middle aged men and women singing every word back to the band. The encore takes place immediately, the band staying on stage, as Pete says, because 'they can't arsed going down those little stairs and then back up again'. Seven Minutes To Midnight, all loud, ringing guitars and Cold War fear, fills the room.

Come Back (The Return Of The Randy Scouse Git)

Pete Wylie may not have a massive back catalogue but the songs he has written and that get played tonight cut through, striking chords and hitting home, emotive songs about life, love and social injustice. More power to him. Pete, Wah! and his songs should be much better known than they are. 

Live music has a huge effect on me at the moment- I've said before at various points this year how often I've cried in response to songs at gigs in the aftermath of Isaac's death. Live music transports me too, lifting me out of it everything. In a small room, with enthusiastic crowds and songs that mean something, drums and guitars and vocals filling the space up, somehow for a short period I'm somewhere else. Several times tonight Pete Wylie's songs trigger tears, making me well up and wipe my eyes. They're those sort of songs and we're in that sort of place. Today is Lou's birthday, tickets to the gig were part of the celebrations. We've had a rough few days and today will bring its own difficulties- it's her first birthday since Isaac died, and his birthday and the anniversary of his death are fast approaching. But we're trying to celebrate too and as Pete sings in Come Back, 'Well did you ever hear of hope?/ A small belief can mean/ You never walk alone/ And did you ever hear of faith? It's all up to you/ Yes, it's all up to you'. 

Happy birthday Lou. 


Ernie Goggins said...

Sounds like you had a good night. I saw him in a similar size venue in 2019 and it was much as you describe - great songs, even better stories. For an encore he did a version of "Alone Again Naturally" which made even a stony-hearted old sod like me a bit teary.

Many happy returns to Mrs Swiss

I Sing In The Kitchen said...

Happy Birthday Lou. What a great post.

John Medd said...

I lose it all the time at gigs (and, yes, more so post-Covid). I often write about it; I find it therapeutic. (I'm sure you and do too - I'm so sorry for your loss).

Happy Birthday to Lou.

C said...

Sounds a marvellous gig - so intimate, and Pete on top form, a wonderful review. I was only thinking about him/Wah the other day because we watched a TV prog about the history of the Cavern Club and he popped up briefly and unexpectedly on there.
Great to know he's still performing. And sending warm birthday wishes to Lou.

Charity Chic said...

Sounds like a great gig.I sniggered out loud at the Liz Truss reference.
Happy birthday to Lou

JC said...

Wish I'd been theere....and if Wylie is indeed writing his autobiography, then it'll be a must-read. And with any luck, he'll promote it around the country with gigs of this nature.

As others have said......a great piece of writing. I'll be thinking of you all over the coming weeks.

Swiss Adam said...

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and wider wishes too. We've been away in Liverpool for a couple of days.