Due to a couple of pre-gig pints Andy, Yvonne and I were a little late arriving at tonight’s gig and, consequently, missed the beginning of the support act’s set. I’m not sure how long they had been on stage when we arrived, but there was something vaguely familiar about them. A glance over to the merchandise table revealed a publicity poster that, even from a distance, jogged my memory into remembering them as Blackheart, an acoustic duo who I’ve heard of only because they occasionally play what amounts to the local village hall. When they finished playing whatever song we had walked in on, Andy leaned over and suggested I might want to take advantage of the more intimate venue next time they played there. Not that they were lost in the Duchess, simply that they were so good.
Rick Pilkington plays guitar, occasionally with what sounded to me like added loop effects – I have since been told by the duo that they don’t use loops, which makes Rick’s playing even more impressive and shows what I know… – while the stunning (in looks and voice) Chrissy Mostyn provides the vocals and, for a couple of songs, plays the omnichord (an electronic instrument manufactured by Suzuki – I had to look it up…). Introducing one downbeat song, Chrissy describes the duo as a “miserable band” but that’s not something that permeates the set. The third song we get to hear is much faster than the previous ones, played in a finger-picking style and with vocals that reminded me of Vanessa Carlton. Towards the end of the set, the duo are joined on stage by Clare Lindley (touring member of Stackridge) whose violin playing adds a little extra to the performance, although Chrissy seems a little surprised and pleased that she stays for the final song, current single Wednesday Afternoon, which is as far removed from miserable as you can get and provides a nice, foot-tapping end to an entertaining set.
There has been a few bands who found fame in the 70’s playing in York recently but Stackridge are the first that I’ve seen who I’ve never even heard of before. However, a friend who is a big fan (and whose visit York from the States missed the gig by just two days) had told me that I would probably like them. So, in for a penny…
Formed in 1970 and both opening and closing the inaugural Glastonbury festival of that year, by 1974 Stackridge appeared to be on the verge of greatness. However, line-up changes eventually led to the band splitting up in 1976. The individual members continued to make music and, in 2007, Stackridge is reborn. The current line-up includes original members Andy Cresswell-Davis (lead guitar, vocals and keyboards), James Warren (guitar and vocals) and Jim Walter (bass) with touring members Glenn Tommey (keyboards and vocals), Eddie John (drums) and Clare Lindley (violin and vocals) completing the band we see tonight.
Not knowing any of their material, I was completely at the mercy of songs being introduced in a coherent way, but it wasn’t until three songs in that 1973’s The Road To Venezuala was the first to be announced. Even before that, though, Andy’s description of the band as “whimsical” seemed to be accurate and the lyrics were edging towards the quirky side. Whatever it was that came next, the brushed drums and clipped vocals gave it the feel of a Noel Coward song while the next included some lovely harmonised vocals. Clare changed from violin to acoustic guitar while Andy moved up to electric (and somehow managed to look less comfortable playing it, at least until later in the set) for Long Dark River (from the latest album, A Victory For Common Sense), which was a much rockier number which built to a stunning ending. What followed sounded familiar and I originally thought it was a cover. However, Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime was originally recorded by The Korgis, a spin-off from Stackridge (although it has also been covered by a number of artists). Then it was back to 1972 for Lummy Days before both Clare and Andy took up ukuleles amidst jokes about how all aging rockers eventually have to play them, how Clare isn’t that old and that, eventually, Jim (who, throughout the evening reminded me somehow of a children’s TV presenter of the Johnny Ball ilk) was the only member of the band not playing one – yes, even the drummer and keyboard-player could be seen strumming away. It was definitely back to the quirky and whimsical side of things, especially when Eddie also wandered to the front of stage to provide a bit of whistling. A superb instrumental piece was followed by Something About The Beatles, another Korgis song, which acknowledges John Lennon’s influence on the band’s music. Then it was back to the latest release for Lost And Found and final song Boots And Shoes, before the band returned for an instrumental encore which had a distinctly Scottish influence, starting with just Clare on violin and Eddie on what looked to me like a bodhrán drum before ending with the full band. The above makes it sound as though we were short-changed on the length of set, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the course of about ninety minutes we were treated to something like sixteen, mostly extended songs.
Whimsical it might have been, but you couldn’t question the quality of musicianship on show. A mix of folk and progressive rock, Stackridge’s music left me with a smile on my face. Most of the band may be in their sixties (in fact, I’m beginning to think that, if I were to add up the ages of the band members I’ve seen this year I would get something slightly older than Methuselah) but they can still play and entertain brilliantly and clearly enjoy playing. Hopefully this line-up will endure for a bit longer so that we get a chance to see them again.