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Birmingham NEC 25th Feb

Here's my halfpenny's worth on last night's gig. Basically GREAT!! (although
not my best ever, that was the Duke tour, Manchester Apollo, a nice small
Anyway, going through song by song.

No Son of Mine
Great start, this is definitely more suited to Ray than PC

Land of Confusion
Ray again did well and Nir drove this through at a fair old lick.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Good crowd reaction on hearing Tony's piano intro and a nice 'rocky'
version. Also Ray only succumbed once to singing that irritating Phil-ism
"and the lamb lies down down down! on Broadway". In other words much more
faithful to the original.

Calling All Stations
Nice enough but slightly flat compared to the epic album version. Guitars at
the beginning were good though. Honourable mention to the Jumbotrons which
were really effective on this song.

Carpet Crawl
Really good version although the beginning is still missing! I thought
Anton's guitar work was nice and sweet on this, although not quite as
perfect as Steve's SO version.

There Must Be Some Other Way
A good rendition. Tony did a good solo and seemed really into it. At one
point he changed from his usual head bob and sort of gave a violent rock
with his whole body - very un-Tony!

No complaints here. Again Nir drove the whole song along and the 2001
Jumbotron effects were as effective as ever.

Fifth of Fifth
Ah! the subject of much controversy. I really liked Anthony's solo. He's got
a very smooth, full sound and doesn't feel the need to go up and down the
fretboard at 1000mph (sorry Daryl). I guess it came across as a mix between
Steve's original and his Revisited version. I'd also add that on the song's
he played guitar on, he definitely gave them a harder edge.

A nice version with a better and more coherent arrangement than on the
album. I found the animation a bit naff though.

Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea
Stomped along very nicely with Nir driving things again. I'd agree with the
reviewer who compared him with John Bonham in some respects - he really hits
those skins! The band were really tight on this one.

Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
They say that sometimes the simplest things are the best. Well the highlight
for me was Ray singing the first line "Can you tell me where....."
unaccompanied. His rich voice rang around the hall and sent a shiver down my
spine - was that Peter on stage? :-))). I preferred this to the version they
did on the Duke tour.

Follow You Follow Me
I was a bit apprehensive as to how this would sound without keyboards but
they carried it off brilliantly.

Lovers Leap
Another nice version. The guy next to me was convinced that they were going
to do the whole of Suppers Ready - I didn't want to disappoint him! A
special mention here to Anthony who took the lead on these songs and gave
them a very sympathetic treatment.

Ray can't do the laugh like PC? WRONG!! He sang it beautifully. Two points
though. At the beginning where the cha-cha-cha's come in, Tony's keyboard
sound had a phased quality which sounded slightly odd. Also they missed off
the second verse at the end again. Have they ever done the full thing live?
It's this last verse with the extra keyboards that makes the original such
an epic.

The Dividing Line
The guitar duel at the beginning was excellent. However I felt the drum
solo went on too long with too little variation. This was the only time I
really missed Phil & Chesters' drumming. Having said that Nir was good on
the rest of the song. I ought to say here that this gig was the best I'd
ever seen Mike play guitar. He had a nice agressive sound with great solos
and seemed really up for it. The musician of the evening!

Invisible Touch
Well enough played but better suited to PC's voice. Having said that it's
never been one of my favourites anyway so I'm biased!

Turn It On Again
Well played and again closer to the original. Brought the main set to a
rousing close.

Throwing It All Away
Singalong time with everyone enjoying themselves. The Phil-isms on this song
are such a part of it live that Ray can be forgiven for repeating some of them.

I Can't Dance
Very well suited to Ray's voice and his harmonica added a suitable R&B feel
to the song. Superior to the original. As Ray left the stage, about half a
minute after everyone else, he did a quick snatch of the silly dance. Also,
Tony seemed particularly pleased with the crowds' reaction.

Finally a few other observations.
The crowd seemed a bit unsure to begin with but gradually warmed to the band
and by the end it was situation normal.
I noticed two microphones at the sound desk pointing at the crowd.
Presumably they were recording the show although it may just be for the
archives (box set number 3 anybody?!)
They were selling Lamb Lies Down T-shirts at the official stalls!
Ray didn't involve the crowd as much as Phil between songs but this actually
meant that we probably got more music than before - two sides of the same coin.
The concert hall was as good as sold out - 10000 seats I think - there were
just a few left at the back.
The sound was quite good but the bass was a bit indistinct.
Overall I really enjoyed the concert- there's definitely life left in the old dog yet!