This gig sold out but this pair have not sold out. Both in their seventies they performed like it was the 70s. The audience was more restrained – no pogoing or spitting – and lapped up 19 songs over two sets.
Some performers might save their hit for an encore but – Wild Willy insists they don’t do encores – they hit us with ‘Cor, baby – that’s really free’ early on. Cue much audience participation.
Those of you who’ve seen Wild Willy with his own band at the Muse before won’t be surprised by his antics nor his skilled instrument playing. He also provides wry commentary on proceedings and Otway’s excesses. I’m sure it was only the small low stage that prevented a leap from a ladder into the audience. Willy was always a good musician but over 5,000 performances means that John can sort of fiddle and strum but also waft his hands in the air. After all that’s what playing the theremin requires.
Each song comes with a story – a veritable history of John’s magnificent failures and occasional cheeky success – from his childhood desire to become a pop star to having “Beware of the Flowers Cause I’m Sure They’re Going to Get You Yeah” voted the seventh greatest lyric of all time in a BBC poll. That was fan power and his regular fan-funded and often fan involved projects and gigs attest to his pulling power.
Whether selling out Shepherds Bush O2 or the Royal Albert Hall or even the Muse in Brecon what you see is the performance: the goofy grin; the ripped open shirt but here in Brecon you also get to concentrate on the lyrics. We can do gloomy in Wales but his is a particularly English tristesse of loss and loneliness. But even when singing about being separated he finds a silver lining there in that nobody reminds you what time it is when you come home. But in another song Darling is urged to come back.
They are not afraid to tackle cover versions, even those that others might now be afraid to cover. Hence a spirited Two Little Boys.
Until Bunsen Burner (which they don’t play) John was a member of the one hit wonder club with Really Free. So he failed there. But he succeeded in drawing wild applause and a little speech from our dear Angus.
Many thanks as ever to all who were involved in putting on this gig, and the the wonderful Muse for their hospitality.
Photos by Barry Hill
Review by Nic Groombridge