The Go-Betweens: London, The Cobden Club, 26th November 2002
Well now ...
Last night was spent at the fading, although recently tarted up, splendour of the Cobden Club. Named for the nineteenth century Radical Liberal politician Richard Cobden, and established in the 1870s to 'provide art and entertainment for the working man', its web-site claims that it continues this tradition. However its general air of a fancy private club, and the boasts regarding its restaurant and 'private reading room', together with the key indicator of the GBP 3.50 glass of wine, suggest otherwise (for our overseas readers, that's a lot of money even by London standards).
We gathered in the upstairs room which had the air of a provincial music hall, circa 1903, with gilt lions' heads around the wall, gilt surround to the proscenium arch, and a plush crimson velvet curtain. A giant iron armillary sphere over our heads and a full size sari-clad model standing on the bar were presumably designed to give a contemporary feel amidst all the Victoriana.
What follows is intended to give an impression of events and the set-list, including as much of possible of RF's usual verbal interludes (although these were taken from my notes and memory), and will avoid any attempts to describe the songs themselves. You know; the 'like rain falling on a tin roof' type of stuff. I must say though, on the strength of this evening, that the new album certainly seems to be something to look forward to.
The surprise guest MC was none other than Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, who's over here to play in the Beyond Nashville concerts at the weekend. Not being one to waste words, he started 'Ladies and Gentlemen', announced that the bar would be closed for the duration of the concert, then stood aside with a simple: 'The Go-Betweens'. (No doubts there then!)
Our heroes strolled on to applause, taking their usual positions: RF stage right, GWMcL seated to his left.
RF: 'Thankyou ... we're very happy to be here'.
More applause, then straight into the chords of:
1 Magic In Here
To give the customary fashion notes at this point: RF was clad in a what appeared to be a double breasted, corduroy jacket, with those burnt-orangery, rusty red striped trousers we've seen before. Perhaps in a colour coordination attempt, GWMcL wore his usual jeans, but had on a plain similarly rusty red shirt. Not his customary T with slogans or logos this time. From the back RF appeared to have favoured a sort of wet-look curled styling to his hair, which we haven't seen before, but there was no real chance to examine it at closer quarters. RF played a black acoustic all evening, and GWMcL a plain blond top acoustic.
At the end of the first song, RF started fumbling in a pocket, saying: 'I'll be playing some slide in this next one ... I don't have a slide ... I just have a cigarette lighter ... 1-2-3-4 ...'
2 Poison in the Wall
A classic strong Grant song from the new album; possibly his best of the new songs.
And it did include an attempt at a lighter slide solo from RF in the middle, which managed to last a couple of bars.
RF: 'This song goes back a long way ... to the year 2000 ...'
3 Surfing Magazines
Now I've made the case before that this song can be seen as RF's 'Cattle and Cane'. Bell's!!
It was also possible to hear the neatness of the bass line as played on Grant's acoustic. I think people have commented before about the melodic nature of Grant's bass playing.
RF: 'Now this next song needs a bit of introduction ... I'm going to break a golden rule that you should never explain a song ... there were two people born in the same year ... 1957 ... one is famous and the other is not ... one is Princess Caroline of Monaco, and the other is me ... both born in the same year ... her birthday is in January and ... er ... mine is in June ... this is called: "Caroline and I"'
4 Caroline and I
Some people may have heard RF featuring this over the last couple of years; it's my personal second favourite recent RF song. It has a sort of 'La Bamba' intro and interludes, if you can imagine it, with RF lyrics on the idea of their parallel lives. What really struck me during this song is the strength of the rapport between the two of them. After all these years, and I guess, their recent three day a week musical meetings, it has a particular intensity. If nothing else, Grant always appears as amused by Robert's stage presence as the rest of us.
Then, to follow on from those thoughts:
RF: 'This is song 3 side 1 ... this is a beautiful song and written by the master: 'Mrs Morgan'; and the master's going to count it in. Cue to Grant to start the count to:
5 Mrs Morgan
Another Grant song from the album; perhaps his version of 'don't tell your problems in a country town'.
The song ended with a long silence from both of them, with RF looking somewhere to the top of back right of the hall. After a pause:
RF: 'This is the 9th song on the album ... it starts with a guitar riff that a lot of people are calling the guitar riff of the year'.
6 Something For Myself
This includes one of Robert's sweetest choruses.
There followed a bit of a drinks' break and chair moving about, and then we actually heard from Grant: 'This is a song called Old Mexico ... and I'm not sure ... pause ... and a funny thing ... pause ... when I put this capo on the guitar, Robert said "are you going to play "Old Mexico"?", and I said "I always use a capo".' Laughs.
RF: 'I was on drugs in the studio ...'
Goodness knows what the above exchange referred to, but it was followed by:
7 Old Mexico
Some whispering amongst themselves, then:
RF: 1-2 & 1-2-3-4
8 Make Her Day
At the end:
RF: 'We thank you for coming along tonight and we'll see you soon'.
Off stage to prolonged applause; to return for the encore:
RF: 'Ah ... I believe that they weren't serving drinks before ... if that's the case then, could they now ... please ... open the bar? The next one is a long one, and you may regret asking us back. You know that our songs have always been Forster/McClennan, although usually written separately ... this is the one exception ... Grant wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics ...'
Encore 1 Too Much Of One Thing
This was my personal favourite of the evening. As might be expected, the writing technique as described above plays to their strengths, with some of Robert's best writing, including his unique way of slipping the lines into the rhythm, and the overall sound is a sort of countryish two-step. Grant sang one verse, so perhaps he added more than suggested, although I have always noticed that both of them appear to sing along to each other's songs away from the microphone. The 'too much of one thing' appears to be the constancy of change. The song includes a classic RF line: ' I have known a hundred women: part of me loves to fail'.
Encore 2 Right Here
Perhaps slower than usual; bit less rollicking?
GWMcL mumbled something and they were gone.
Review (c) 2002 Lloyd Mitchell, used by kind permission.
Photographs (c) 2002 Jonathan Turner
This page added 3rd December 2002