31 March 2011

Morethanmusic with John Watts

John Watts is probably still best known in the UK as the front-man with Fischer-z who had several popular albums and singles between 1979-81. I was lucky enough to see them live in '79 and have been a fan ever since.

After Fischer-z, John's solo career has continued but mostly in Western Europe (NL, BE and DE). His UK appearances have been rare and the London appearances even rarer. The last time I saw John was in late 2007.

So when I heard about the UK launch of his latest album, Morethanmusic, it was an easy decision to get a ticket.

There were some logistical problems to overcome. It was on a working day when I would normally wear a suit and tie to the office but I could lapse in to smart casual if the evening demanded it. But I also had an event at the Slovak Embassy earlier that evening which suggested a better suit than usual as well as a late arrival to the gig.

In the end the dress code dispute resolved itself in favour of a good suite and clarification of the start time of John's set meant that I could attend both events that evening without too much hassle.

I got to the Borderline with about fifteen minutes to spare before John took the stage for a short solo set.

I didn't take notes for this but my recollection, and the copy of the much-amended set-list that I got, suggest that he played about half a dozen songs from across his career.

Most of these I knew and I was singing along to things like What a Time and Face to Remember.

And that is the essence of John Watts, songs that you want to sing along to.

John was then joined on stage by his band, a fairly typical combination of keyboards, bass and drums, to play the Morethanmusic album.

The songs were still very much John Watts, we would all have been disappointed if that were not the case, and the addition of the band made the sound rockier and bouncier. It reminded me a little of the way that Neil Young has acoustic and electric sections within his performances. The same songs with the same feel but with a different delivery.

For the encore we were thrown back joyfully to the Fischer-z era with a small selection of songs that included Pretty Paracetamol, Red Skies over Paradise and In England. All rumbustious crowd-pleasing stuff. Who could possibly stop themselves from singing along to the chorus of Red Skies (Down in their bunkers, under the sea, Men pressing buttons, don't care about me)?

As long as John Watts writes music like that then I'll keep buying it.

Hopefully the next album will be updated versions of Fischer-Z songs which fans can commission by buying exclusive items which will also help a kids' charity. You know this is a good idea.

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