I added another day to my UK visit and went to see No Stiletto Shoes, Gary Brooker's 'other' band in Southend-on-Sea, The Riga Music Bar. According to the Riga Bar website, this show would certainly sell out, so I queued early for my ticket. All went well, and I was even able to get to the front row. What struck me first was the warm welcome by the lovely doorman, who wished everybody a great evening. I noticed lots of people who seemed to know each other: certainly a Procol Harum/Gary Brooker 'in-crowd' from all over the country and abroad.
Before the show started a DJ played good-time music from the Sixties: everybody sang along and was in good mood. Albert Lee & Hogan's Heroes had played this venue earlier, and meanwhile the Riga people have installed a new PA system which provided a better sound.
|Gary Brooker, lead vocal, piano and occasional organ and percussion|
The band was introduced by Mick Brownlee, former drummer with The Paramounts (The Paramounts were an English beat group, based in Southend-on-Sea. They had one hit single with their cover version of Poison Ivy, which reached #35 on the UK Singles Chart in 1964, but are primarily known as the forerunner to Procol Harum [source Wikipedia]).
Thanks to the BtP people for putting up the setlist – I wouldn't have recalled all the songs. The band played two sets with a short interval (where Gary went out for a smoke, others enjoyed a drink). Among the set list were many songs I've heard before by Andy Fairweather Low's band The Low Riders or the Rhythm Kings. It was good to see Frank Mead again, member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, who was awesome on various instruments and also on vocals! He got much attention and stepped forward to the centre of the stage many times, which he obviously enjoyed.
|Andy Fairweather Low, guitars and vocal|
Andy Fairweather Low was in great shape: his excellent guitar work should be mentioned; also good to see Dave Bronze and Paul Beavis again. who are members of Andy's Low Riders.
|Dave Bronze, bass guitar and backing voice|
Gary Brooker enjoyed the show, the spark jumped over immediately when they started with Tequila – the audience acted as a great vocal section on more than one song and some people even enjoyed a dance. To my pleasure, the first song of the encore was Goodnight Irene which is one of my all-time favourites, done by different artists. I had heard it last time by Gary Brooker, guesting at the 'Chiddingfold Show-Down' Gig with Albert Lee & Hogan's Heroes some years back.
The last song was of course A Whiter Shade of Pale, an absolute MUST, a great tune and a fantastic way to end the show.
|Frank Mead (here shown with his soprano) on all kinds of saxophones, harmonicas, tambourine, jaw's harp, bones, and one lead vocal|
Later Gary kindly signed me a CD cover. I also had the opportunity to have a few words with Frank who asked me if I enjoyed the show with these great musicians. Frank will play with the Rhythm Kings in January again so I will see him again before too long. Finally, we exchanged Christmas wishes, I said good night to him and his wife and made my way back to the hotel.
The ticket fee was twenty pounds and worth every penny for such great musicians!