On Thursday my gig buddy Jen and I fought train strikes and tube strikes to go and see one of our favourite bands at Wembley Arena. It’s the first time I have been back there since the Stereophonics with London sister pre-lockdown, when we fought snow and single-use plastics instead. I haven’t seen Jen since she moved to Yorkshire to hang out with birds of the feathery kind for the RSPB, so there was also lots of catching up to do.
We met at Park Royal and walked to Wembley from there, encountering the A40, some dodgy industrial estates and 1930s suburban housing developments – crossing railways on rickety bridges, wandering through new landscaped flats and generally having a good old gossip. By the time we reached Wembley (3.2 miles! It was hot!) we were very ready for a sit down so we had a milkshake and a Coke in the new shopping development before making our way into the Arena.
I like Wembley Arena as a venue – it’s big enough but not stadium-big. Over the years I’ve seen various people there: Springsteen on The Rising tour, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morrisette, Blondie, Meat Loaf, Stereophonics, Tom Jones, as well as Russell Howard on the comedy front. Usually it’s packed, but with the nationwide train strike I’d say it was about two-thirds full (which meant we could sneak a couple of blocks forward).
We arrived just in time to see the first support act, Chris Farren, whose set was very short but great fun – especially the fact that his backdrop was basically a bedsheet and a powerpoint he was controlling himself from a laptop. His final moment was a selfie – ‘look happy so my mom thinks I’m a success!’
Our gigs over the years have been haunted by a drunk (we assume) man who shouts ‘PLAY WONDERWALL!’ at any quiet moment in the show – we joke about him, but he’s been at every TGA show, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and even at a White Buffalo show that Jen wasn’t even at. Halfway through Chris Farren’s set, there he was shouting ‘PLAY WONDERWALL!’ from somewhere near the front. One of these days I’d really like someone (not Oasis) to actually play the damn song and say ‘NOW SHUT THE F*** UP’ at him….
The second support act was The Selecter, who I last saw at Looe Festival and who are – as they should be after more than 40 years – slick and brilliant at what they do. If I’ve got as much energy as Pauline Black at almost 70 I’ll be pretty happy. We loved the security person standing near us who was dancing away during their slot. They finished up with ‘On My Radio’ and ‘Too Much Pressure’ and made way for the headliners. They’re touring at the moment, so if you want a really feel-good night out go and find your nearest show.
The Gaslight Anthem went on ‘indefinite hiatus’ in 2015, so apart from a brief reunion for the tenth anniversary of The ’59 Sound in 2018, they haven’t been touring – singer Brian Fallon has been making and touring some excellent solo albums instead. When they announced that they’d reunited this year there was much excitement. They’re a pretty straightforward, feel-good, post-punk band from New Jersey who gained a lot of fans when Springsteen namechecked them on being asked who his favourite new musicians were back in 2008. One reviewer described them as a cross between the Boss and the Ramones, and you can’t go wrong with that.
Anyway – what a show. For the interested, the setlist is here – highlights for me were Handwritten, Keepsake, The Patient Ferris Wheel and The Backseat though from start to finish there were no low points. Laura-Mary Carter of Blood-Red Shoes joined the band onstage for a couple of songs, bringing a new harmony or two to Halloween and Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts. With no new studio album release since the reunion, there was no new material so everything was a singalong moment, and the atmosphere was amazing – the kind of setlist you really want when a band reunites, or when they’re playing a festival where not everyone is a fan. You know, the good stuff. The band were having great fun on stage as well, playing off each other and generally appearing to be happy to be back together – roll on the new album and the next tour.
The low point of the evening was trying to get back home afterwards – on the day before a tube strike the service is always bad in the evening. Had I not had to get Thing 3 to an event at his new school by 9.30am the following morning I’d have crashed at London sister’s and had a lie-in, but as it was…. a 15 minute wait at Bond Street for a Central Line train, followed by 19 minutes at Leytonstone for an Epping train as they were running a shuttle service, meant it took the best part of two hours to do a journey that should have taken a little over an hour. Still, worth it for a great night out with one of my favourite people. Move back to London, Jen!
Other things making me happy this week:
- fun with the Tortles at D&D this week
- making a couple of crochet tops for Things 1 & 2
- Swimming in the sunshine
- Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series
- Blackberry time in the garden
This week I am off from Wednesday for a few days, with a stack of projects lined up.
See you on the flipside
What I’ve been reading:
Swell – Jenny Landreth
The Running Hare – John Lewis-Stempel
Leap In – Alexandra Heminsley
Babycakes/Significant Others – Armistead Maupin