Pictures and words by Paul Wilkinson
|The Golden Afternoon gig was eagerly awaited
by Martin Newell fans for at least two reasons. Mainly because it was
a very special event anyway, Martin rarely plays his songs live anymore,
although he has picked up the guitar at poetry gigs on the odd occasion
over the last couple of years. The other reason is Martin has become ever
more nervous about these things and has more or less decided not to do
them anymore. We take this with a pinch of salt, but lets face it, it
is unlikely we'll get another two-hour music gig from him again.
The gig came in the middle of a creative burst from Martin in which he was cranking out new songs almost daily. He had to stop himself in order to practice, and indeed learn, how to play some of the songs again. As soon as the gig was over he got straight back to writing songs again. Some of these will be for himself and some for acclaimed actor/singer Richard Shelton who has been asking Martin to write songs for an album he looks set to make very soon.
So it was with much excitement that I set off to Wivenhoe on June the 14th 2003. I was excited about the gig and very excited to be meeting up with lots of friends I've made over the last four or so years of running the website. I knew for a fact that Agnes (the hedgehog) was coming over from Holland. Ashley Powell was coming down from Sheffield and that many contributors to my ReNewell tribute project were due to be there. I sought out the guesthouse in Wivenhoe where I was to be sleeping that night and then set off across the fields to Martin's place with my party kit for Martin's aftershow shindig.
A short train ride into Colchester later, I tramped the streets in search of the Arts Centre. It was a very hot and sunny day and I was beginning to flag a little by the time I realised I'd walked past it about four times. When I finally entered I got a big European greeting from Agnes, and Martin and Nel were on the stage soundchecking, sounding absolutely fantastic. I became even more excited when I realised what a great venue the Arts Centre is. It is an old church that has been modified to house intimate gigs like this. The acoustics were absolutely wonderful and the friendly staff made the atmosphere even better. We repaired to a nearby pub to meet up with more friends and to get out of the way while the room was prepared for the proceedings.
A couple of beers later our group entered to find the centre had filled up, which was very pleasing. Over the Tannoy the Dambusters March was playing, to get us in the mood. A few minutes after taking our seats Martin appeared wearing a Breton shirt and told us it was going to be rubbish. Then he and his band, which comprised of Nelson on bass, Grahame Andrew and Paul Rutterford on guitars, vocals and percussiony things, launched into Julie Profumo one of the best Cleaners From Venus songs and it was anything but rubbish. We then got a bit of a 'greatest hits' set from either Martin on his own or with help frrom the various guys. They even did Living With Victoria Grey to the delight of the Cleaners fans in the audience. Martin said he hadn't done that one for years.The set ended with a great track which I've liked since Big Al Davies introduced me to it a few years back. Martin told how he'd liked Pinball by Brian Protheroe back in the very early seventies and he'd waited for years with a casette trying to catch it and tape it off the radio so he could work out the chords and learn the lyrics. It really was one of the highlights of the gig for me.
The first break came and I got a chance to grab a beer and talk to long lost friends and to force people to buy me cakes and more beer.
The set I've called Set B began with a new song called The Golden Afternoon which Martin said was a song he'd written trying to write a song like a Cleaners From Venus song. It is, but it was played solo with just an acoustic guitar so wasn't instantly reminiscent of the Cleaners. After a rendition of, the catchy as herpes, Wake Up And Smell The Offy Martin went and sat at the grand piano. He stayed there for a few songs, all new ones, intimate smoky jazz tinged numbers that perhaps weren't quite what we wanted on a hot sunny afternoon, until he rose to play Better Than Anything which is a fun up tempo guitar number. He finished the set with recent release The Ghost Parade. He sounded in great voice and very confident throughout.
The last set (the one I've cunningly called Set C) began with a cover of Mat Monro's Walk Away. Martin told us he was doing it for his mum. He then explained rather sadly that his parents never come to his gigs. We then got another 'greatest hits' set the highlight of which was a magical version of Miss Van Houten's Coffee Shop with perfect harmonies from Grahame and Paul, 'the Flo and Eddie of Colchester'. The gig finished with The Beer Elves which reminded us it was time to party, so we did.
The following is the setlist. It was broken into 3 parts by tea and cake breaks.
Set A. Julie Profumo (Cleaners From Venus) / Clarendon Lane (from the New Europeans EP)/ Sugar Cane (The Spirit Cage)/ The Wicked Witch (Radio Autumn Attic)/ Drowning Butterflies (Cleaners From Venus) / The World Strikes One (Brotherhood Of Lizards)/ Straight To You Boy (The Greatest Living Englishman)/ Victoria Grey (Cleaners From Venus) / A Woman & Some Whiskey (Radio Autumn Attic)/ Pinball (Brian Protheroe cover)
Set B. The Golden Afternoon new/ Wake Up & Smell the Offy (The Spirit Cage)/ Rosebay Railway new/ Jacqui new/ Grenadine and Blue new/ My Lost Weekend new/ Sparkletown new /Better Than Anything new/ You Made It Rain new/ The Ghost Parade (Songs From The Staion Hotel)
Set C. Walk Away (Mat Monro cover)/Before The Hurricane (The Greatest Living Englishman)/ Home Counties Boy (The Greatest Living Englishman)/ Miss Van Houtens' Coffee Shop (The Off White Album)/ When We Were A Thing (Radio Autumn Attic) / Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (Smiths cover as done on The Off White Album)/ Carmosine (Brotherhood Of Lizards)/ Christmas In Suburbia (The Greatest Living Englishman)/ The Green Gold Girl Of The Summer (The Greatest Living Englishman)/ Encore:- The Beer Elves (Radio Autumn Attic).
Martin in the evening after the show, showing us his topiary cat, which is in a neighbouring garden in Wivenhoe.
See some postcards written by
a slightly 'tired and emotional' even later that evening.