It’s ‘the final bow’ tour for Stackridge, the curious combo who put the West Country on the musical map long before trip-hop. They were probably just too quirky and uncategorisable for fame, but for a time, having opened and closed the first Glastonbury in 1970, they were a significant presence, working with George Martin, signing to Elton John’s Rocket label, and competing with the likes of Genesis and Wings to top Melody Maker readers’ polls.
They also toured with Camel and Wishbone Ash, and played Wembley Stadium with Elton and The Beach Boys. Indeed, their music falls – or rather leaps – somewhere between the melodic prog of Genesis and the bouncy British pop of McCartney, and their resistance to sitting in any genre too long brings to mind 10cc or XTC.
They split in 1977, but have reunited sporadically this century. At their core remain James Warren and Andy Cresswell-Davis, who clued-up readers will know also constituted The Korgis, the 80s electro-pop duo who softly sighed that everybody’s got to learn sometime. They’ve been known to include that and other Korgis hits in the set, but tonight it’s all about Stackridge.
The show honours an impressively creative if under-heralded career, with a 90-minute-plus rummage through their bristling-with-ideas back catalogue. If the band oft described as ‘the missing jewel in the crown that is British pop’ see any poignancy in playing a medium-sized pub when once they played Wembley, they veil it well.
Warren is full of quips about “The drugs really kicking in now”, and mentions that CDs are for sale at the back, “along with Black Lace and Herman’s Hermits”. He also jokes, “The next number is Smack My Bitch Up,” and confesses, “Stackridge songs are very difficult to remember – I wish they were easier sometimes.”
With the founders as bookends left and right, sharing vocals, violinist Clare Lindley takes centre stage. She’s a gifted player who brings energy and colour to their sound, but is so dominant sonically that Stackridge don’t always echo our dusty memories of them. Glenn Tommey on keyboards and flute and drummer Eddie John stick more faithfully to the old script.
It’s the material that remains timeless and twisted. From the hyperactive selections from the George Martin-produced The Man In The Bowler Hat album, like The Road To Venezuela and The Last Plimsoll, to the more relaxed but exploratory prog wig-outs of Purple Spaceships Over Yatton and No One’s More Important Than The Earthworm, the five reel back the years, then they take that well-earned bow. Their legacy will continue to wiggle.