I’ve been to a few rock music archive exhibitions over the years and thought I knew the score. A room or two of old programmes, concert posters and record covers, a few old stage costumes here and there, perhaps a guitar or two and then you’re ushered into a room to watch an video that you could probably have found at home doing a quick search on Youtube.
With Exhibitionism, however, The Stones have set the bar extremely high and in the process of taking over The Saatchi Gallery have utterly rewritten the template for what a successful rock memorabilia exhibition should look like. At £24 per ticket it’s not exactly cheap but for any Stones fan, or indeed any follower of rock history, it represents excellent value for money. Room after room after room is laid out with absolutely fascinating archives that go way beyond the old “concert posters and record sleeves in glasses cases” approach. It’s beautifully themed and gives a fascinating insight into the life of one of the world’s most iconic rock n roll bands over the past five and a bit decades. There’s a recreation of the Edith Grove flat that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones shared in the early days, gloriously capturing all the hideous squalor of sixties bedsit-land. There’s a recreation of the recording studio where they recorded some of their classics and there are huge and extensive displays of guitars and other instruments, meticulously archived original recording contracts and legal documentation and a fascinating display of stage costumes through the decades. I was struck by how pristine and smart the bands sixties suits still look compared to how bedraggled and tatty some of Mick Jagger’s nineties stage outfits now appear. Clearly, they don’t make em like they used to.
For me, however, one of the most poignant moments was walking into the room set out as an exact replica of the Stones backstage area: the admin, the technical gizmos, Mick Jagger’s make-up tent… For a minute it really felt like you had walked in on something very, very private that few get to see.
Allow at least ninety minutes to properly take in all of the exhibition. If you are so inclined you can then spend an exorbitant amount of money in the gift shop but I consoled myself with a £3.99 branded re-usable Exhibitionism shopping bag. A little souvenir of an exhibition that has set a new global standard in rock ‘n’ roll archives.
I’ve seen the mesmerising Gigspanner live on quite a few occasions now (nine times in the past four years) and described their utterly unique performances here and here and here!
Gigspanner are ex-Steeleye Span fiddle player, Peter Knight, guitarist, Roger Flack, and percussionist, Vincent Salzfaas. What is different about tonight though is that they are joined by folk duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin – for what’s been dubbed the Gigspanner Big Band. I was always hoping this would be something special. But at the same time I didn’t want to see Gigspanner lose the essence of what makes the band so utterly unique into some generic worldy, folky sort of jam session. I needn’t have worried. Henry & Martin do bring something extra to the stage in terms the former’s awe-inspiring slide guitar and the latter’s additional fiddle and beautiful vocals. Yet at the same time they absolutely work with the grain of what makes Gigspanner the act that it is and adding to that rather than simply muddying it up.
It was nice to some well-established Gigspanner favourites in the setlist tonight: Butterfly, Death and The Lady, Hard Times of Old England and King of the Fairies as well as a beautiful Banks of the Nile (which many will know from Sandy Denny’s back catalogue) sung by Martin.
Gigspanner has always been a complete melting pot of musical influences: English folk meets Cajun jigs meets French waltzes meets African drumming and much more besides. And the guest duo certainly bring in a bit more of the English folk influence – but also, with the slide guitar, they bring an American country blues feel and, at times, traditional Indian influences, too, (Philips studied Indian classical guitar in Calcutta) which all add to the already rich texture of Gigspanner sounds and influences.
It’s perhaps no surprise therefore that one of the biggest cheers of the evening comes when Peter Knight lets slip that the five of them are going to be making an album together.
The venue itself also played a part in making this a special evening. Built into the cliff face in the 19th century as a church, it fell into disuse and disrepair in the mid twentieth century but was saved, given an extensive refurbishment and re-opened as a quite magical arts venue in the late 90s. A magical trio meets up with a magical duo in a magical venue. What more could we have asked for.
Gigspanner at Whitstable 2014
Gigspanner at Hastings 2014
Gigspanner at Hastings 2015
Album review: Layers of Ages
Horsham’s Holbrook Club was transformed into a buzzing rock venue on Saturday 23rd April with appearances from The Stuart James Band and headliner, ex-Gillan guitarist, Bernie Tormé. Local trio, The Stuart James Band, opened proceedings with their brand of classic blues rock. With some well-chosen covers as well as original material they will have delighted existing fans and almost certainly gained some new ones on Saturday.
From one power trio to the next, punters didn’t have to wait long until Bernie Tormé and his band, Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums), took to the stage. Dublin-born Bernie Tormé first came to prominence in the late 70s/early 80s as the guitarist with the heavy rock outfit, Gillan. His distinctive riffing was as much an intrinsic part of that band’s sound as Ian Gillan’s famous vocals. And it’s all still very much on display for those watching Bernie Tormé and his band on Saturday. Fuzzed-up glam-punk, squealing Hendrix-style feedback and guitar wizardry galore, combined with great songs that span an illustrious recording career, Bernie and his band truly rocked the Holbrook Club.
Material from his post-Gillan solo career such as the storming Wild West, which kicked of proceedings, is combined with newer material from his two recent solo albums. The two albums Flowers & Dirt and Blackheart have proved to be something of renaissance for Bernie Tormé with excellent reviews and renewed interest from fans around the world. Songs from both albums are well received. There’s still room for a bit of nostalgia though and the main set ends with those two early rock n roll classics that were given a new lease of life by Gillan back in the early 80s: Trouble and New Orleans. The band are called back on stage for an encore and end the evening with an incendiary version of another Gillan classic: No Easy Way. Bernie Tormé is still rocking hard!
Blood Run Cold
Turn Out The Lights
No Easy Way
Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 2014
Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 2015