Atkin: Plenty Left to Say
Atkin played at the Islington Folk Club, London on 3rd December
1998. Sammy Spudball gives his verdict.
| news | discography
| gigs | gallery
| links | acknowledgments
| Beautiful Changers | IC
& The Jokers
Thursday, 3rd December 1998, a sizeable group of Midnight Voices
(MVs) - the Internet group dedicated to Pete Atkin and his
music - congregated in the bar alongside the regulars at the Empress
of Russia pub in Islington prior to Pete Atkin's latest gig,
hosted by the Islington Folk Club (IFC). There was much speculation
as to what we were going to hear - would our own particular favourites
be played? Would he take note of any requests we had sent in to
the Midnight Voices discussion forum? Would there be any new songs?
Or would he stick to the tried and tested songs; the old favourites
which he had delighted the crowds (yes, crowds - not necessarily
large ones, but crowds they were) in the past?
answer to all these questions would be found out shortly. Arming
themselves with the necessary supplies of refreshment, a long queue
formed at the end of the bar for the upstairs room used by the IFC
for their weekly get-togethers. As we slowly trailed into the room,
those in the know sat down in the seats nearest the stairs, not
only to make quick trips to the bar easier, but to get a better
view of the performance. Those not so familiar with the club, or
late arrivals, sat in the area round the corner. However, it's a
fairly small room altogether so everyone could hear clearly, even
if the view was restricted.
everyone was settling into their seats, Pete Atkin arrived and set
up his gear, having had a terrible four and a half hour drive up
from Bristol that evening - not calculated to leave him in
the best frame of mind for the performance.
The regular club artists began in their usual style and warmed up
the audience, starting with the band which played some lively dance
music. The other artists provided more entertainment, including
a noteworthy unaccompanied performance of "McCaffery" by Martin
Nail, both a member of the IFC committee and a Midnight Voice.
Atkin stepped up for his first set and began with a surprise choice
- The Prince of Aquitaine. Pete's performance, self-accompanied
on guitar was polished and went down well with the audience, who
somehow were already beginning to sense that a good evening was
in store. The next number, also on guitar, was also somewhat unexpected
- Pete's bluesy rendering of Don't Bother Me Now, which last
appeared on Julie Covington's "Beautiful Changes" album back in
Pete's introduction to the third song "A bit of history..." was
interrupted by a sotto voce cry of "Yesss!" from a Midnight Voice
who hadn't spotted Pete's use of the lower-case "h" [that's a Midnight
Voices in-joke! - Ed.] and was no doubt expecting to hear "...and
Geography". But I don't think he or anyone else present was disappointed
when Pete sang instead Tenderfoot, another song not heard
for a long while. Pete's keyboard accompaniment was slower than
that on the album, but perhaps that was a good thing. Your reviewer
has occasionally wondered whether studio time pressures could have
occasionally resulted in songs being recorded at a higher tempo
than would otherwise have been the case.
Hot on the heels (or should that be hooves?) of Tenderfoot, Pete
stayed with the keyboard for one of my favourites, and judging by
the reaction, that of many of the audience too: Rain-Wheels.
Again, this was a polished and immaculate performance which really
enlivened the crowd - and there certainly was a crowd by this time,
as the late arrivals had filled up all the available standing room.
the first three numbers had been unexpected but welcome choices,
the next was a real surprise and something of a scoop for those
present. A brand new song, described by Pete as "work in progress",
called I Feel Like Midnight. Pete explained that the title
came from a line in a film, a favourite of his and of his collaborator
and lyricist Clive James. It transpired that Clive had only
sent the words to Pete by fax a mere two weeks earlier. In spite
of any reservations Pete himself had as to the state of the song,
it went down well as it is. Perhaps no further work is needed after
Next up was a number that had been requested by email by a Midnight
Voice - Carnations On The Roof. This beautiful and somewhat
sad song (which deals movingly with the subject of a working man's
death) was again performed - this time on guitar - perfectly. Again
this was greeted by rapturous applause from the audience, both MVs
and IFC regulars alike.
As if the surprises so far weren't enough, Pete ended this fairly
short set with another song which many present were perhaps not
familiar with - an unrecorded song, Over The High Side, from
Pete's early days. I confess I didn't twig at first that this was
an old song, as I assumed it was called "What Can I Say To You Now?",
from the chorus. However it's a good song with a catchy tune and
effective words that deserves to be given more of a hearing in future
- let's hope it becomes as well known as some of the others. Again
Pete sang and played guitar and it was a very professional performance.
This song is now among your reviewer's favourites, based on this
a short interval and some more entertainment from the IFC regulars,
Pete stepped up for the second half, kicking off with another unusual
choice Apparition in Las Vegas. Pete apologised to those
sitting "round the corner" for standing behind the keyboard while
he accompanied himself on guitar, but explained that the only copy
of the words he had were those printed on the album insert! The
spectacle of Pete delivering a faultless performance of this song,
which I never imagined he would be able to do so well live, whilst
bending down and peering at the tiny print was unforgettable. I
must remember to print out a copy of the words from the Smash
Flops website in at least 14pt font and have them ready to hand
to Pete next time he sings it!
next song was one which Pete has sung on many occasions and was
none the worse for that - in fact this song was another highlight
of the evening: Senior Citizens. Again a perfect performance
on guitar which left the audience (MV and non-MV alike) spellbound.
This was followed by a real-time request Search and Destroy,
which Pete obligingly sang in response to a call from the audience
- how many artists would do that, huh? - followed by The Hollow
and the Fluted Night, and then another request, Canoe.
This was another highlight and not a sound came from the audience
during Pete's flawless rendering of the song.
unusual song followed: Sudden Arrivals, although this was
played at Pete's Eastbourne 1997 gig. Next up was another old favourite
Beware of the Beautiful Stranger. This caused much amusement
to those who hadn't heard it before, not just because of the humour
in the lyrics, but also because many of the MVs could be heard singing
along with it! I never thought I'd hear audience participation at
a Pete Atkin gig - the sound of lines such as "That ball needs a
regun I said, shelling out" or "Your shadow burnt white by invisible
fire" sung by a roomful of people has to be heard to be believed!
the MV who wanted History and Geography was at last satisfied.
Pete was amused at the ripple of applause which went round after
the first few bars. Another excellent performance of this song which
is very popular with Pete's fans and deserves to be more popular
still. Following this was a song which summed up the evening for
those present - Perfect Moments. This was another highlight
(there were so many, weren't there?!) and featured yet another perfect
performance from Pete of this favourite song.
We were getting near the end now, as in time-honoured tradition,
the IFC were due to be chucked out at 11pm. Pete chose to end the
set with Touch Has a Memory which again went down well. As
an encore he chose Thief in the Night, which I found particularly
gratifying as I had first heard this song when Pete performed it
at the Islington Folk Club in 1971 (at the Fox on Islington Green).
another memorable gig, different in character from the Buxton event,
but every bit as enjoyable. And all those MV questions in the bar
at the beginning were answered - with a resounding "Yesss!".
the official reviews of Pete's Islington gig on the Smash Flops
website, by Midnight Voices
Gerry Smith and
Pete Atkin's first two albums Beware of the Beautiful Stranger
and Driving Through Mythical America are available on a
2-on-1 CD from See For Miles records (C5HCD 664). See the
Smash Flops: Pete Atkin
website for track details, audio clips and more.
top of this page
please visit our sponsors