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Cellar Tour 01
The Jazz Cafe is like the Tardis; the inside is a different size, shape and ambience to the outside.
A compact floor space with a low stage; a 'mezzanine' shelf around three walls for diners, all with a good view of the stage, and two bars, selling at affordable prices - no second mortgage required.
Arriving at 9.30, interval music blared, distorted, from all sides, but the almost capacity crowd seemed happy with this. The buzz of anticipation grew until 9.45 when Al Stewart came down the stairs to the stage.
The next one and a half hours zoomed by; he was in a very cheerful mood - bar the usual debate about 'Cat' - "I'll get it over with so the people that wanted it can go home" - and was in very good form vocally and on guitar.
The list included The night the band got the wine, House of Clocks and Waiting for Margaux from Down in the Cellar but a bunch of old favorites, as ever, stole the show.
For most of the show, bass guitar was the only accompaniment, topped and tailed by AS solo.
Year of the Cat was, well, year of the cat, I suppose.
In Brooklyn and the obligatory medley of Clifton in the Rain / Small Fruit Song were excellent.
Roads to Moscow is as powerful now as when I first heard it; how does he do that?
Did I imagine Night Train to Munich and On the Border? I'm not sure now, but I think I enjoyed them, and Genie On A Table Top was much appreciated, too. I've never quite got Broadway Hotel, but I was definitely in a minority, judging by the applause. No accounting for taste!
A rare treat was a rendition of an Elvis Costello number; not one I'm familiar with, though I do like a lot of Elvis' stuff. I wasn't totally convinced; but the contrasting voice and style probably means a couple of listenings are required!
I'd never wish a broken string on anyone, but at this show, it meant finishing with one of my all-time favourites, My Enemies Have Sweet Voices; performed with panache (and a brief lapse in one verse!) on one string.
All in all, a great show; Al Stewart plays the audience as well as his guitar, so there was a good atmosphere - and suddenly it was all over; Neville was organising the autograph crowd into an orderly queue and selling T-shirts and albums for Jackdaw, the lights revealed a soulless concrete box with steel girders and grubby white paint .. but it didn't matter then... here's to next time [raises a glass of wine]
Andrew Heenan 1 March 2001
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