I had to wait 27 years between the first and second time I saw the Only Ones. No wonder then that this a mere 18 months later seemed to have come round quickly. I remember having my reservations about seeing them back in 2007, wondering if it was best to remember them as they were the first time round. This situation was not helped when a skeletal Peter Perrett came onstage with arms so thin that they looked like they could break any minute and sang in a voice that was considerably higher pitched than it used to be. Fortunately, the band were in fine form and Perrett settled down and, by the time they played a truly awesome version of The Beast towards the end of the set, I was well and truly glad I'd gone.
Even so...these doubts came surfaced again. "I saw them on the comeback tour and they didn't disappoint then. Should I cut my losses and give this one a miss? I pondered, as blokes of my age tend to do. Thankfully I listened to my heart and not my head again. It's The Only Ones after all in a small, intimate venue on this low-key (and under-publicised) tour. And what's more is that it turned out this was the proper line-up. I was aware that Mike Kellie had suffered further health problems that had seen the band play some continental gigs with a different drummer and, having not read anything further on the subject, I was fairly sure that it was going to be a no-show from him. Thankfully he was back and not looking any worse for wear than he did last time round, though he did seem to drum very much within himself. Perrett possibly looked slightly better, too, though all things are relative. Still, at least he wore a jacket which hid those wafer thin arms! And he sounded better, too.
Perrett in a jacket.
Anyway, from the onset this was a top notch performance, with the band playing a less obvious set than last time round, opening with The Immortal Story that led more or less straight into a nicely subdued Flowers. The band had only played the one new number last time round a song entitled something like Learning To Fly that sounded rather under-cooked at the time but it was fairly obvious that we'd be hearing more new stuff this time seeing as they'd been back together some time and there's a new LP on the horizon. And so it proved, with the band confident enough to throw a new one, Black Operation, in as early as the third number, before they gave us Trouble In The World, perhaps the most notable omission on their comeback tour. They followed this with a great Inbetweens and a truly fabulous version of Transfixed, one of the tracks on Peter Perrett In the One's Woke Up Sticky EP. Still, if I'm perfectly honest, I didn't recognise it until the bloke next to me told me what it was. Whatever, this was 60s style neo-psychedelic pop of the highest order.
The Only Ones in action. And apparently not the only action going on in the venue....
The roadie then wheeled out some stools, acoustic guitars and bongos and, after Perrett had said that at their age they needed a sit-down, the band launched into what basically amounted to an Unplugged session consisting of a lovely It's the Truth, Special View, Is This How Much (another new one that went on a bit and didn't really do it for me), and wait for it! an acoustic Another Girl Another Planet. I managed to nab myself a copy of the set-list that states that this acoustic set also included The Whole Of The Law, but this wasn't the case as they had reverted to their electric instruments and standing up by then. Unfortunately, Kellie's bass drum was in need of repair, so the three front men played this alone until Kellie eventually joined in towards the end of the song. Still, my enjoyment was in no way spoilt because it's such a great song a favourite to such a degree that I felt a bit dewy eyed as Perrett sang that opening notion/ocean couplet. Not for the first time that night I was left thinking I was glad I'd come because, when it boils down to it, I was watching one of my favourite ever bands singing some of my favourite ever songs!
Me And My Shadow certainly fits into that category with its classic Bo Diddley beat, though I could have done without a drum solo in the middle of it. And I really don't like the way they play As My Wife Says live compared to the record. Still, The Big Sleep was fabulous and the toe-tapping Magic Tablet, which ended the set, sounded very promising. (And although it's not mentioned on the set-list, we also got a typically tight stop/start Programme, which was definitely a highlight).
As for the other newies, one (Black Operation, I think) had a jaunty beat and Stonesy riff, though I wasn't convinced that the chorus was strong enough after one hearing, whilst another (Gave Birth?) had a jazzy feel. One of them had a line that brought a smile to my face, too. I can't recall exactly what it was but it was something about Perrett not having taken enough care of his body, which seemed like something of an under-statement!
After Magic Tablet, the band then returned and Perrett said they hadn't been that good tonight, but that these things sometimes happen. He needn't have worried. We thought they were great! For the encore we got something marked on the set-list as C Voy and a "proper" version of Another Girl Another Planet that understandably had the audience going a bit nuts. The gig ended with the mighty The Beast, a track that is pretty much as good as it gets for me. It took a while to really get going though as Perrett spent the first few verses tuning up as he sang. Amazingly, he was able to carry this off pretty well before losing it slightly once he was finally happy with his tunings and had started actually playing. More bizarrely, at this point, the middle-aged, inebriated looking woman in front of me who had been snogging with her bloke shortly before suddenly started feeling my leg. Thankfully, as I was trying to back away, she soon realised that I was not her chap and removed her hand and placed it on his leg instead. No apologies or anything, mind! Anyway, her and baldie boyfriend then started getting tongue deep as the band played on. I was really close to the front by this point, and this woman then put her hand on the stage and moved her body backwards until her arse was against chappie's bits. Both then started gyrating with their body parts against each other. Honestly they may as well have been doing it doggie style at my side. "Stop it!" I was thinking. "This is one of my favourite ever tracks I don't want it tarnished by thinking of their actions every time I hear it!" I had to look towards bassist Alan Mair as any view of Perrett or guitarist John Perry was marred by this couple's vomit-inducing shenanigans. (Still, the irony of the song being called The Beast was not lost on me!) Anyway, I was eventually able to shut this out and concentrate on the instrumental section which, to indulge in rock clich้, kicked ass big style, with Mair driving the band onwards and upwards with both subtlety and gusto as Perry, who had exercised some restraint for the most part with his six string flourishes, also indulged in some rock clich้s of his own by going for the feedback effect and then throwing the guitar up in the air. Unfortunately it seemed to hit the ceiling and smack him in the face, but this didn't matter. Perry went for more feedback as the band powered on. It was, like in 2007, truly awesome!
Alan Mair on bass.
The night didn't end there, though, as one of the highlights was still to come... After purchasing a live DVD from the merchandise stall, myself and my mate, Mike, went to the loo. I'll try not to be too explicit, but there we were standing at the urinals, doing what blokes do at the urinals, chatting about the gig. "Who was the star of the show for you?" I asked, because I was so impressed with Alan Mair's performance I was wondering if it was just me. "The guitarist," said my mate, referring to Perry by occupation rather than name. "It was the bassist for me," I said, doing the same about Mair, and Mike too said how impressed he was with him driving the band on. We were still standing there doing our business and, though I was aware that someone had come out of one of the cubicles, I hadn't taken any notice till a voice, by now near the door said "Thanks." We looked around and I swear I'm not making this up! there was Alan Mair! Grinning at us! Mike joked that I'd known all along that Mair was in the loo, but obviously I hadn't and I'm sure Mair realised this. He held his hand out and thoughtfully I told him to hang on a minute while I put my hand under the tap before we shook hands! We had a quick chat, where he said that he'd enjoyed the gig and we told him to pass onto Peter that we had too, and that there was no reason to worry. He talked basses briefly and then off he went. I think we'd made his night though he'd certainly help make ours!