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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Games For May 40th Anniversary Show

Well, the digital age moves so fast, that although it took 40 years to recreate the Floyd's Games For May show (12th May 1967 to last night), it was available on-line by the time I had travelled back from London to the Frozen North. And if it's up to Matthijs' usual standards, it will be an excellent recording:

First Set

01 - Matilda Mother
02 - Flaming
03 - The Scarecrow
04 - Jugband Blues
05 - See Emily Play
06 - Bike
07 - Arnold Layne
08 - Candy And A Currant Bun
09 - Pow R Toc H
10 - Interstellar Overdrive
The first set began as it should, with tape effects including a dawn chorus, before Robyn and the first set of Heavy Friends took to the stage

Robyn Hitchcock - Guitar, Vocals
Kimberley Rew - Guitar
Paul Noble - Bass
Terry Edwards - Keyboards, Saxophone, Trumpet
Morris Windsor - Drums

From 'Bike' onwards they were joined by Woody (drummer with Madness) and soon afterwards by Graham Coxon, ex-Blur, on guitar and occasional vocal. The band was tight, emphasising the R'n'B aspects of the early songs, and with the quality of harmonies you expect from the Soft Boys.
From where I was sitting (halfway up the hall in an aisle seat) the sound was great, really punchy - but I was bang in line with the PA speakers over the stage. Friends sitting nearer the front... so much lower than me... reported the bass being too dominant.

I was directly alongside the lighting guys and it was a pleasure / education to watch Peter Wynne-Wilson & co. at work: manipulating those oil slides, projecting bacteria spreading across jelly and other marvellous effects... on the recording, you'll hear Robyn say at one point, "No, don't turn it off, it's fantastic... " or something like that in response to a kaleidoscope that was whirring around him as he tried to concentrate on introducing one number.

The first set is what the Floyd are reported to have played in May 67 by various sources, including Wikipedia. But as delighted as I was to see Robyn & co. perform Jugband Blues, was it really on the original setlist ? I sincerely doubt it. I'm pleased to see that David Parker excludes it in the Random Precision appendix. The first recording of Jugband was on 9th October 1967, and I would be surprised if it wasn't written closer to that date than 12th May 1967. Still, it was a fine version, with Terry Edwards contributing a disintegrating trumpet line while Robyn somehow kept drawing enough breath to keep the circling 'la la la la la la la' vocal going.

During Arnold Layne, women of suitable age, dress and appearance (i.e., they looked like Rose and Licorice of the Incredible String Band back in the day) took to the stage and gyrated in ways which haven't been attempted since my mother had one too many at our 1972 New Year's Party and put on the original cast recording of 'Hair'.

During Interstellar Overdrive the same women (one of them heavily pregnant, but with her bump psychedlically decorated) and their children wandered the audience distributing yellow flowers... iris and chrysanthemums rather than daffodils, I'm told by Inge, who had spent the day running a stall at a farmer's market, so she should know. I noticed someone wearing military uniform in the rear stalls, but he didn't join in on the flower distribution.

And that's where the Floyd finished their set... so it was time for a break. Robyn returned with an acoustic guitar and Isobel Campbell on cello, plus Matthew Cullen on a second acoustic. They ran thru delightful versions of some of my favourite solo songs.

Now I have to say, I don't know a Syd cover version, official or unofficial which I enjoy as much as Syd's originals, but if anyone consistently comes close, it's Robyn Hitchcock. I winced at Chrissie Hynde's anguished version of Late Night at the Barbican. Hitchcock caught the gentle resignation of the song perfectly, and the cello and 'wee voice' accompaniment from Isobel Campbell really complemented his delivery.

Second Set
01 - Terrapin
02 - Love You
03 - Late Night
04 - Long Gone
05 - If It's In You
06 - (Wouldn't You Miss Me) Dark Globe
07 - Dominoes
08 - Wined and Dined

Graham Coxon came on for Wined and Dined. Initially he took the lead vocal, but he appeared 0f out of sorts with his voice and left it to Robyn, contributing rather unconvincing lead guitar instead.

Altogether more convincing was the finale, involving absolutely everyone, firstly in a freeform jam, using Reaction in G as the excuse for an Unlimited Freak Out. Robyn pointed out (at the same time that BBC2 was broadcasting a programme saying the same thing !) that this was where progressive rock began... but that was the risk you took when you began to experiment.
09 - Reaction in G
10 - Astronomy Domine
Neither Reaction or Astronomy featured in the original Games For May show, but Lucifer Sam was the Floyd's encore, and the finale here: a rasping version, especially since there were four guitars, two drumkits, a cello, a bass and a saxophone driving it. Better still was the encore (played in the absence of other rehearsed material and still involving the whole ensemble) of See Emily Play.
11 - Lucifer Sam
12 - See Emily Play
As the hall emptied, a second set of tape effects played and the bubble machine dispensed bubbles apparently without any ill consequences for the seating.

We were fortunate to be invited to share a drink or two by Terry Edwards (currently acting as record label supremo to a Department S comeback - or something less dramatic than that), so lingered for another hour or so. Nonetheless, as we left, those dedicated guys were still carefully individually disassembling and packing all of those strange lighting effects. Well worth the effort, and thank you, guys.

PS: My one moan ! As you'll see from the programme scans, Robyn's short piece about Syd is headed 'Syd Barret'... come on, proof readers, get your act together. Just as with Gilmour's Arnold Layne sleeve, the tribute would be more effective if the name of the person being honoured was spelt right.

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Blogger youri said...

It's a son of Syd Barret!!! Look and listen, it's -

June 24, 2007 at 7:31 AM  

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