For one night only, the Wardour Street version of the Marquee (as opposed to the Oxford Street version, or the Charing Cross Road version, or the Islington Academy version, or The Leicester Square version, or the Upper St Martin’s Lane version) has risen from the ashes. Here’s what we learned.
**It’s The Marquee, Jim, but not as we know it **
Tonight’s event celebrates fifty years since the venue’s move to the Wardour Street location — although the anniversary was actually in March — and it’s not quite right. The old entrance is gone, so you enter through the lobby of the restaurant next door. The venue itself is now below ground, down a vast, sweeping staircase, the stage faces south instead of east, the urinals have a splashguard, the floor isn’t sticky, and the bar staff wear ties and waistcoats and hand over your change on little silver trays. Despite the concessions to wealth and health sand safety, there is an old school rock’n’roll vibe: the original stripes on the stage are back, the club’s founder Harold Pendleton is here, Thunder’s Luke Morley and the Quo’s John Coghlan are in the house, and there’s a good number of silver-haired men with taller girlfriends. At times it looks like a Bernie Ecclestone convention.
Cutting Crew get it wrong, T’Pau get it right
East Grinstead’s most successful exports Cutting Crew play four songs, which is approximately three more more than anyone wants to hear. The enormo-hit (I Just) Died in Your Arms comes second, and they finish with a new song. Worse, it’s a Christmas tune. It’s all a little misjudged, like turning up at someone else’s birthday party and demanding that everyone celebrate yours. Whereas Carol Decker totters onstage in very high heels, rips through the two big hits — Heart and Soul and China In Your Hands (the latter introduced as “still paying the rent and buying me fancy fucking shoes”) — and then leaves. You can’t help but warm to her.
That young fella in Ten Years After is a bit good
After a short acoustic set from Medicine Head man John Fiddler, which ends with the entirely appropriate Box Of Frogs song Back Where I Started (see how it’s done, Cutting Crew?) it’s time for Ten Years After. With Alvin Lee no longer with us and Leo Lyons leaving the band early in 2014, change is afoot. In comes former Whitesnake bassman Colin Hodgkinson (a sprightly 69) and guitarist Marcus Bonfanti (young enough to be his grandson), and it’s suddenly a proper show. Bonfanti plays guitar with fierce abandon, has the kind of rich, Bensons’n’bourbon voice that belies his tender years, and brings an energy to the performance that clearly rubs off on the old-timers. The set’s stuffed with the songs that made the band’s name, from Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl (they really don’t write them like that anymore), to Love Like A Man (the song that opened the band’s Reading Festival set in 1983 — see how it’s done, Cutting Crew?) via the closing Going Home, bereft of Alvin Lee’s playing-guitar-with-the-mic-stand trickery but still a monster.