A good 40 years ago I bought one of my first singles, yes, a single on vinyl. It was at a second-hand shop, featuring Roger Daltrey’s ‘Giving it all away’.
And today I decided it was about time for me to catch the man on stage.
It was a bit of a long shot, the gig has been sold out for ages! Still, I posted onto Wilko Johnson’s page; maybe, just maybe someone has a spare standing ticket and is willing to sell at face value. On the actual day I received a message, a spare ticket, second tier……hmmmmm, it’s not what I usually do, but I got in touch with the guy, better than nothing.
After work I went straight into London, I had agreed to meet Alan at 6:30 -7pm at the venue. I got there in good time and I must say, the queues were unbelievable, and, 90 % of people in my age group, that makes a pleasant change…hehehehehe! I called Alan, no reply :-(, tried a few times, finally he answered. He was only just at Clapham Junction; gig won’t start till 9pm, so no rush. He so doesn’t know me! I told him that if I find a standing ticket I’ll be passing his, somehow I don’t think he was too bothered. I stood for a while to gauge the people, who looked like they were on their own? Maybe a mate had let them down. Walking up and down, the touts sticking stupid priced tickets under my nose…..no thanks, I’ll take my chances, there may be some returns at the box office once everyone has gone in. I passed a guy who was trying to take a photo of himself and the announcement banner above the entrance, I offered to take the photo for him and got chatting. Wow, he travelled here from Argentina and paid £145 for tonight’s ticket, mad fan! I explained my dilemma and he wished me luck as he needed to get back in the queue, which was growing by the minute. I saw another guy standing on his own, so I just asked him if he’s going to the gig tonight. He was a little reluctant to talk, but you know me, I don’t give up…lol! He told me he’d never been to the Shepherds Bush Empire before and when he said he had a standing ticket I explained where he had to queue, I also mentioned my disappointment about the spare ticket upstairs and Alan not turning up till later. He looked at me and said: I have a spare standing ticket, my mate couldn’t come!! WHATTTT????? Can I buy it for face value??? YES, I got my hands on a standing ticket! Amazing!! David, my saviour (lol) and I joined the long queue. Plenty of time to chat now! Apparently he followed Dr. Feelgood/ Wilko Johnson for many, many years, came all the way down from Huddersfield and will make his way back with the night bus.
He told me that when he got here around 4pmish there was already a queue forming, he went for a little walk around the back and actually managed to see Roger Daltrey arriving, loads of paparazzi and he had 3 bodyguards with him….so the man is in the house! The queue started moving, I caught Mr. Argentina’s eye, he smiled and said: You managed to find a ticket, enjoy!! Finally we were at the door; any hopes of the front row had already left me :-(. Once in the venue I made a beeline towards stage right as per usual, it was busy but not as busy as expected, we managed to position ourselves in the second row, not bad considering. Time went quickly, at some point I managed to find a tiny corner on the barrier for my coat, and yes, you guessed, as people shuffled along I got my barrier space. Chatting to David was a pleasure, he has been to a vast array of gigs in the past and even told me that he still has two unused tickets for The Rolling Stones Urban Jungle tour in 1990, he never made it to Wembley …..I’m glad to say I was there!!
Movement on the stage, the support band ‘Standard Lamps’ are getting ready to play. A new experience for me, but certainly not a disappointing one. They were a worthy support to the legends of Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey, the 3 man outfit delivered some great tunes with confidence and passion, connecting with the crowd and just the right mix of chat and banter. Certainly a group to look out for!
Nearly 9pm, the stage has been set and the Shepherds Bush Empire is packed out, every single space has been occupied, it is a more mature age group, long time followers like David or doing the gig scene the second time round like myself. What I do notice the most is that there is no shuffling or pushing, we all have breathing space and no monkeys on our backs!! Bliss. Looking down the front row I see a familiar face, Irish Brian, we do seem to share a similar music taste, must catch him after the show.
Finally Wilko Johnson walks onto the stage with his fellow musicians, Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe, the room erupts into a roar of shouts and clapping, starting the evening with the song ‘All right’, wow, there is no need to warm up the crowd, everybody is on board from the first note played. What an atmosphere, totally electric!! Wilko, looking in good shape considering he was supposed to die last October, maybe the music and the fans keep him going! He moves backwards and forwards, left to right, it’s quite hard to get a decent photo, he is too fast…lol! Wilko and bassist Norman are a good team, very much in tune with each other, not just musically it seems. Wilko kept the stage to himself for the first few songs, playing Dr. Feelgood songs like ‘The More You Give’ and ‘Roxette’.
Smiling at the crowed, stepping back, Wilko announces Roger Daltrey, Roger bounces onto the stage to yet more screams and whistles. Wow, few years older like all of us, but unmistakably Roger Daltrey, suddenly I’m a young girl seeing a much loved idol finally on stage…..awesome!
The engery on that stage (stage) is being thrown into the audience who are not hesitating in taking it on, smiles, dancing, head banging (well gently..hehehehe), singing, everybody seems emerged in this time warp. Songs like ‘Going Back Home’ or ‘Keep On Loving You’ keep us entertained, I’m loving the Bob Dylan cover ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ harmonica and everything!!
Half way through Daltrey bends down to pick up some pieces of paper, he laughs and shouts out “…this is a lot to remember at my age…”, there are a couple of occasions when Wilko or Roger have to check what’s next, but it only adds to the uniqueness of the evening. Considering Roger Daltrey is 70 in a few days and Wilko terminally ill, one can only stand in awe seeing the joy and energy these two rockstars are displaying on stage, how happy am I to have made the effort on the off chance tonight!!!!
Finishing the set with the Who cover ‘I Can’t Explain’ makes me feel great and sad because the magic is coming to an end. The band poses and thanks the fans, wander off the stage just to rush back seconds later for a final song, ‘I Keep It To Myself’………….and that is it 😦
Nobody is moving in the hope for a second encore, no luck, the show is over the lights come up.
David has to rush off to catch the night bus back home, a hug, a goodbye and a maybe another time and he is gone, and I make my way to the centre of the barrier. Brian is still there, more hugs and he makes room on the barrier as he knows what I’m after, the set list..lol! It took quite some effort, but I managed to get that precious piece of paper, now I’m ready to make my way home!
Walking to Shepherds Bush Tube station I can’t help but smile, I feel alive!!