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Living For Love and Liberation in London

Wednesday? What ever happens on a Wednesday? As usual there was a large blank in my social calendar, so a hop over to London from Ireland to see Andy Taylor’s first solo show for nearly 30 years wasn’t going to clash with anything else.

In the course of the duty to keep you informed, Cherry Lipstick had made contact with Seven Webster, Andy’s manager which led to a very special invitation to the soundcheck and meet with the great man – but more about that later.

We all gathered across the road in The Ship Inn ahead of the show. It was a joy as always to meet some fellow Duranies. We eagerly chatted about our individual Duran stories, the difficulty for Duran in catching the wave of musical trends, and, of course, the conflict between current day feminism and the more socially acceptable sexism of the 70’s and 80’s as exploited by both Duran and Power Station for marketing purposes. We are a lofty bunch!

We dragged ourselves out the pub and the 250 yards to the 100 Club on Oxford Street. Outside it was sort-of Christmas in central London, inside (and down the stairs) it was a wonderfully dingy 350-capacity legendary punk rock venue. the mood was buoyant and charged with anticipation and we can’t deny we felt #blessed (aka slightly smug) to be in attendance.

We were stood half-way back – that is about 5 or 6 people deep from the front. And then Andy led the band from the back of venue (where the backstage is situated) through the crowd to the stage that runs along the back wall.

It became clear that the pitch of the night wasn’t about promoting the new album - it was really more one of thanksgiving and fun. The setlist opened with the perfectly pitched belter Don’t Let Me Die Young. Who needs a warm-up act when that’s your first song? Staying on theme, and keeping the mood high octane, I Might Lie followed hot on its heels. I’ve listened back to recordings today, there was never a point I willed him to hit a note, he just bloody did it, end of. From there we were straight into Power Station’s Murderess – there was going to be a lot to cram into a blissfully blistering 75-minute set.

Love or Liberation, now on Spotify, was a welcome return to what can be that shocker - new material. It’s a triumphant anthem charged with raw energy uncompromising in tone, and one admittedly more suited to the primal vocals of Reef’s Gary Stringer than our beloved softly spoken Geordie. However, it didn’t create the semi-expected juncture at the gig to showcase more of the forthcoming album, which according to the afore-mentioned Mr Webster will be “quite Bowie-esque” and that AT will be on lead vocals for several of the tracks. Andy himself told us before the show that he’s been working on the album for a couple of years (ready for its May 2020 release date). There’s been a few shifts in personnel along the way to arrive at the current line up - a hybrid of English rockers: Reef provided Jesse Wood (son of Ronnie, incidentally) on guitar, Jack Bessant on bass and of course the fan-familiar Gary Stringer on guest vocals and guitar; and Welsh punk / metal / ska rockers Skindred comprising Arya Goggin, on drums.

Tremblin, minus the required keyboards, logically got some solo acoustic treatment and doubled as a break for the rest of his entourage. Its unadorned state was one of the more tender moments of a night that triumphantly punched its fist in the air. Yet despite what you may have seen on the stage setlist, he didn’t segue into Save a Prayer.

The rest of the setlist bounced between his solo album Thunder, Power Station, some well received cover versions and some Reef numbers. And some other band, you might have heard of.

There was an air of suspended disbelief followed by squeals of delight that rippled through the crowd upon hearing the opening bars of Hungry like the Wolf, which segued into Wild Boys. Both imaginative re-workings were far rockier versions than the Duran originals, sung mostly by Gary Stringer and capitalising on the punk sensibilities of the venue. It was an undeniable thrill to hear those guitar lines once again by the one who wrote and played them. Andy rocked back at the end, seeming to laugh at how naughty he’d been. “You didn’t think we would... but we did!” he said. Followed be “never again!” #blessed indeed.

Addicted to Love was rapturously received but also had a tinge of the bittersweet about it - the Duran family is so much bigger than who is playing guitar, and extends far beyond the boundaries of 5, 6, 7 musicians. Robert Palmer would indeed be considered one of our big dysfunctional family but sometimes we lose sight of that. Too poignant to be a closer perhaps, there was a brief encore for the celebratory Place Your Hands, with a blistering cover of Lola to conclude the show.

It was a celebratory night, as evidenced by the set list and people in attendance - Andy’s family, his Duranie family (us), the Berrows, Giovanni (Roger’s ex-wife) and one Gary Kemp who posted on Instagram “a couple of old 80’s enemies in peace talks or as Andy Taylor told me last night ”never enemies only rivals”..., the Duranies in the audience seemed to forgive my presence.”

And what of those other treasures of conversation before the show?

Andy was on sparkling form. I was only expecting a handshake and quick hello, but he very graciously took the time to have a bit of a chat with us. Having completed his soundcheck with a full version of Don’t Let Me Die Young, and part of Addicted to Love, I asked him, “Did I hear a snippet of Bringing Me Down?” (one of my favourite tracks from Thunder). “Yeah, that one's on the list for tonight”, he smiled

With the knowledge of his unreleased Burger Kingdom and Nobody’s Business projects in mind, I asked Andy what was the impetus to release an album now, and what could possibly pull him from the comfortable idyll of Ibiza? He discussed the compromise usually involved in being a veteran musician, but how on this occasion BMG approached him and therefore he was able to negotiate on his own terms and take his time. (I think we can safely say he did that – clearly, he didn’t surrender his Durantime Rolex).

There was also a nice tidbit of early Duran info. Andy laughed as he shared with us the fact there are some buried demos of him on lead vocals for early Duran Duran. He seemed thankful that they are lost in the annals of time, even though every fan would give their two front teeth to hear them.

We also now know how to get a free Cherry Lipstick. “I’m gonna read this!” he told our delighted editor on being given his copy of the latest paper edition. I honestly thought Adam would charge him the three quid!!.... but the official CL policy is members of world conquering bands are entitled to one free copy. That was a special moment. As fans, we really exist independently of the artists we follow, but occasionally there are those moments of connection akin to crossing the Rubicon, and buried within the ethos of Cherry Lipstick, there’s a little bit of all of us in that publication.

On being given a bottle of wine by some Hungarians who joined us, he said “I haven’t had a drink in two months, but I’m really looking forward to one after this gig”. Totally deserved Andy and I hope you had as much fun as we did. Thank you for last night and we are really looking forward to the musical journey ahead. Last night was a Thanksgiving of a different sort, and I like to think we all left with a little bit of that in our hearts. And that’s something we can definitely raise a glass to.

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