The Met, Bury
What is it with gigs and start times?. I scoured social media but the only message from Bury Met was ‘8pm’ which seems early but sure enough – the lights go down and it turns out China Crisis are going to be their own support so we get two sets. The first being a run through some deeper cuts, album tracks and some new stuff saving the big tunes for the 2nd half. It’s a pared down version of the band, Gary and Eddie are joined by an excellent Sax and Keyboard player with everything else sequenced, but as we’re reminded this is a more authentic recreation of their synthpop roots.
Gary Daly makes sure that nobody gets restless waiting for the hits by walking us through each song with probably the funniest and warmest between-song banter I’ve ever heard at a gig. He has the audience in stitches, describing the early days of the band from their humble beginnings in Kirkby Merseyside to their appearances on Top of the Pops and of course Pebble Mill at One. There are some priceless anecdotes – the one about Marc Almond and the Prawn Cocktail being my favourite and some gentle ribbing at the expense of their contemporaries The Human Leage and OMD. There’s also a heartfelt tribute to the late Walter Becker. It all feels very relaxed and informal and the band break down the barrier between themselves and the audience which is a great way to introduce the less familiar material. A couple of new tracks from the excellent new LP ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ are particularly striking, the title track in particular as good as anything they’ve ever done and goes down a storm. There’s something quite delicious about having someone telling hoary old anecdotes in a Kirkby accent, and then playing all these immaculate, beautifully crafted songs.
The audience are now nicely warmed up for the 2nd half, where they effortlessly blast through the hits and it’s one of those lovely, celebratory shows with much community singing and overhead handclapping. (it was being filmed – I really hope I’m not on camera).
The set closes with a majestic ‘Christian’ (which reminds me of that TOTP repeat recently where they look like schoolboys who’ve bunked off for the afternoon and somehow blagged their way in). They encore with a sublime ‘Here Comes a Raincloud’, a song sadly as prescient today as it was in the Thatcher era, and also a promise they’ll be back next year with a full band playing ‘Flaunt’ and ‘Working with Fire and Steel’ in full. Count me in. I go to a lot of gigs, and I’m accustomed to Indie bands mumbling apologetically through their set but sometimes it’s nice to hear a proper Pop band just having fun and going out of their way to engage and entertain. An absolutely joy from start to finish.
I’ve not been inside the Met since my college band played on this very same stage in 1990 and wow they’ve really spruced it up. It’s now a top notch Arts centre, great sound, really nice space, really impressive and all medium sized towns need a place like this. Perfect. The audience are mostly, unsurprisingly, of the 80s vintage but not all – and everyone seems to be into it and enjoying themselves.
It made me think..
I’ve been doing a lot of catching up with China Crisis. I’d previously not got much further than the singles, but some of posts and discussion on this site led me to investigate the first 3 LPs via those excellent 2CD reissues. The Walter Becker assisted ‘Flaunt the Imperfection’ in particular was a total revelation and I now see the band in a whole new light. This is quality songwriting up there with the best, sophisticated pop like Prefab Sprout, Scritti, Blue Nile, Danny Wilson etc.