Thanks for your support
If you know one thing about me from reading any of the reviews I’ve written over the years, you’ll know this. I get to a gig at the start.
Ok then, half an hour after doors open is allowable, but no more. If you only turn up in time to see the main act you’ll miss out on the chance to see someone new, and in my world, that’s not something you should even consider. You’ve paid for it, after all, so why catch Eastenders before you leave home, or turn up early but then sit in the bar? It was Saint Etienne at the Leadmill this week that put me in this frame of mind. Her support act was none other than Rumer. Honestly, it really was. The doyen of Radio 2 and who not so long ago sold out the City Hall. As it turns out, she once sang the vocals on some tracks by her mate Rory More, an extraordinarily talented organ player. Those tracks have just been released, under the banner of Stereo Venus, so, even though I’m sure there are pressures to promote her own imminent release, she’s making some unannounced appearances to help him out in his support slot with Saint Etienne.
As if to prompt me in my pleading with you to get there early, Facebook informed me that today marks the anniversary of the day in 1999 that Muse played the Leadmill as they opened for Feeder.
With that in mind, I thought I’d run through some of the best bands I’ve seen, when they were lower down the bill than they would be today, and who gave me the opportunity to show off to my mates and tell them, ‘I saw this lot when they supported … (insert name of headline act of your choosing)
The Leadmill’s always a favourite for having a gloat and telling someone who they missed, as the gig always starts so early. A couple that come to mind for me were Paulo Nuttini, when he supported Jim Noir, and Simple Kid supporting the Thrills. Paulo’s clearly gone on to achieve greatness of Radio 2 proportions, and it was clear that night that he had something about him. His stunning support set led us on to an equally deserted free gig in the basement of the Virgin megastore, before he returned to sell out the main Leadmill stage as he began his move onto greater things.
The other Leadmill discovery I mentioned was Simple Kid. He never achieved the greatness he deserved, and you’ve probably never heard of him, but his two albums, and the half dozen or shows we made it our business to see after that one, rank as one of the most significant bodies of musical work I have ever experienced. I should write an entire column on Simple Kid and his music, both recorded and performed live, and maybe I will sometime soon, but just have a look at these clips for a taster.
Way back when I was a spotty youth, my first ever gig, was one which to this day, takes some beating. It was way back in the mid- seventies. Everyone was a fan of Mott the Hoople, even if they were really only minor league Glam-Rock. Nevertheless, opening a national tour in our very own Town Hall was much talked about when I was growing up in Leeds. But whoa there; who on earth were this band of unknown upstarts who came on to support them? With their long-haired guitar player, and prancing showman of a lead singer. Had they no respect? They were treating this a bit too seriously. Where were the overblown costumes and make-up we’d come to see? I pretended to be immune to them, but inside I had a suspicion that this band, Queen they were called, were actually quite good. It marked for me the start of many nights of going to gigs, and cemented permanently the idea that you should always turn up to see the support, even if, or especially if, you’ve never hear of them.
The fate of the support act is not always a happy one. With this in mind, one last band I’d like to give a mention to is Headway from Nottingham, last seen supporting One Republic at the O2 Academy in 2009. I’d been a fan for some years and I imagined that this was going to be when they would at last be appreciated by a massive crowd, and everyone would realise they were better than the headliners. Instead that gig marked the end of their career. They were dropped by yet another record label, and they had had enough. I’d been banging on about how good they were since 2002, but it was all over. I did have the satisfaction of knowing that everyone I played them to, almost without exception, loved the few singles and demos that did see the light of day, but they moved on, having played one support slot too many.
One last one which deserves a mention which I would have love to have seen was in the sixties (yes, even I wasn’t going to gigs back then). None other than Jimi Hendrix once opened for The Monkees. They used their popularity to give unknown acts a chance, but this must have been a sight to behold. He didn’t go down well, and it only happened a handful of times. Quite what their audiences would have made of this I have no idea, but just think what stories you could have told if you’d been there…….