The cosy Bury Met plays hosts to one of Prog’s all time greats Caravan.
Within seconds we were whisked off to Canterbury of the 70’s with twin tracks Memory Lain Hugh and Headless from Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night warmly appreciated by the admiring, appreciative and thankfully largely non-phone wielding Northern audience.
Caravan has made sparse visits to the north over the last 50 years since I first saw them in Bolton Town Hall for 2/6d in the late 60’s so it was pleasing they returned to t’frozen North. Feet firmly planted in the early years we ambled into The Land Of Grey And Pink where we were invited to join in with the warbling but audience participation to engage us wasn’t needed as the fantastic sounds we were hearing had us already hooked. It was fun though!!! This neatly segued into the catchy quirky Golf Girl and although Pye Hastings admitted later he needed song sheet assistance to remember the words these days he need not have worried as the majority of the contented throng were supplying adequate support with all the lyrics throughout the evening.
To emphasise that we are on the road to recovery a funky Better Days Are To Come followed before we had an introduction to new material with the album titled track from It’s None Of Your Business. (reviewed here).
In the past, For Richard was played as the concert finale, but tonight it powerfully concluded the first half of the concert, during which we heard the hypnotic frenzy of the keyboards then some classy interplay of pizzicato viola and keyboard before a raucous ending. Geoff Richardson recalled that before he joined Caravan in his student days he would listen to Caravan’s second album with the assistance of smoking substances…obviously punkweed!!
Spending the brief interval mouth-wateringly wanting the boys to be at it again, appropriately they began after the interval with The Dog, The Dog He’s At It Again. Although Pye is clearly the main focus for leading the vocals and those awesome riffs which are an essential core of the Caravan sound, multi-instrumentalist Geoff Richardson shares the frontman duties and several times paid tribute to original past members Richard Coughlan and Dave Sinclair and showed himself as being proficient on flute, viola, guitar and electric spoons (sounds almost Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah that)!
A track from the lesser-known Unauthorised Breakfast Item, Smoking Gun followed and to show that the 21st-century Caravan is as entrancing as our much beloved 70’s material, this was followed by Every Precious Little Thing from the new album. The song may express the anxiousness of returning to live performance and some level of normalcy but the group showed they were fully back into live playing with aplomb throughout the evening.
Scooting back to the 70’s we had Nightmare; definitely not performance-wise as Geoff Richardson’s mazy viola and pizzicato lead enthralled. By now we could see how well the better-known favourites blended in with their more recent material and even though the band clearly recognise that The Land Of Grey And Pink is the archetypal album to play to please the throng. I was yearning for Grandma’s Lawn or Magic Man but the main set was completed by Winter Wine and the contrasting pieces that together make Nine Feet Underground leaving only one track fromThe Land Of Grey And Pink not played (Love To Love You).
Canterbury is clearly now twinned with Crowborough, with drummer Mark Walker, who must be the happiest drummer I’ve ever seen, his smiles and antics as he played showed his love of Caravan music and indeed he knew how to play all of their material before his joining. We were privileged to have much-travelled quality bass player Lee Pomeroy, (another Crowborough resident) with Geoff Richardson almost pleading for a longer term in the band as he was drafted in to replace Jim Leverson for the tour. The lineup was completed by Jan Schelhaas, whose part in playing the swirling hypnotic Caravan keyboard sound was mesmerizing and joyful.
An encore to bid us farewell musically with I’m On My Way from Paradise Filter sent all home contented and my dream of seeing Caravan back here in the North was complete, but as they say “ dreams are always ending far too soon!”
Photos from The Met by Mike Ainscoe