With less than half the year gone 1977 has already provided an extraordinary brace of memorable concerts: Lou Reed and Emmylou provided some stunning moments in Europe; then there were the Kinks, Ry Cooder, Bryan Ferry and Peter Gabriel and Louis, again, all of whom played major concerts in London.
Further, incidental delights have included pub appearances by Otway & Barrett and Clayson & The Argonauts and the Kursaal Flyers. Heading the list thus far, though, are Television in Glasgow and Graham Parker & the Rumour at the Rainbow, a concert so full of thrills and excitement that I was coasting on the vibe for a week after the event.
It was inevitable that a band of the Rumour's class and talent (their contribution to Parker's phenomenal success is incalculable) would desire to expand their scope of action and take in a few appearances without their leader — an album by the group has been planned for some time. To London's Nashville, then, on Friday evening for the first of the Rumour's two-night residency at the venue, and a gig that proved to be no less enjoyable than any of the large-scale events mentioned above.
I mean, the boozy intimacy of the Nashville is a perfect atmosphere for the kind of extrovert music at which the Rumour, with all their skill, instrumental finesse and good humour, excel.
The night began with a surprising bonus: the unscheduled appearance of the very wonderful Elvis Costello. No band, not even a rhythm section: just Elvis, his electric guitar and his songs and his voice. Both the latter components are uncannily reminiscent of Graham Parker — like GP, his compositions deal fiercely with various relationships and being on the losing end of affairs — but he has a musical identity of his own that promises much for the future and if I don't have "Mystery Dance" and "I'm Not Angry" on a platter before the end of the month I'll be around to Stiff with a squadron of stormtroopers looking for the head of Jake Riviera. Elvis Costello spells Major New Talent. You'd better believe it.
So to the Rumour: arguably the best British band of the moment, they performed a set so exhilarating, so accomplished (despite the apparently tired and emotional state of some of the participants) and so thoroughly exciting that by its climax I was ready to collapse with exhaustion.
Bob Andrews, looking like some mad professor, took most of the lead vocals and acquitted himself with boisterous verve (he was joined on keyboards, incidentally, by Ace's Paul Carrack); Martin Belmont and Brinsley Schwarz traded guitar solos like veteran rock and roll desperados — BS's solo on "Till Sunrise" was particularly exceptional — while Andrew Bodnar (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums) made a vivid bid for recognition as the best rhythm section in English rock.
The Rumour's material was drawn extensively from their forthcoming album (to be released on July 25, Martin informed us), and included some truly engaging sons: one remembers with affection "That's The Way Love Is," for example, "That Lonely Avenue" and "Something About You"; as well as the thrilling "Something's Going On," which featured some precisely defined rhythm guitar from Belmont. Besides these, there was an exciting version of GP's "Between You And Me" (afforded a harsher, more rousing arrangement that was entirely successful), and "Shame, Shame, Shame," and, as an encore, "Run, Run, Rudolph," with Brinsley on lead vocal.
I can't wait for the album. Neither should you.