Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson
It’s a good twenty years ago since Richard Thompson suggested to Clive Gregson that he and Christine Collister should spend some time working as a duo in the folk clubs up and down the country, whilst the band was having a break. It was a wise decision, as the pair provided the folk scene with a bunch of memorable songs that had already been tried and tested in the Eighties cult band Any Trouble, but with a new emphasis on splendid harmonies and sex appeal. I reserve judgement on exactly how sexy Clive Gregson was in fedora and shades, but Christine Collister’s soulful voice and girly giggle did the trick for me. I was pleased to have been around during that time to catch Gregson and Collister on many occasions, as an excellent duo and of course as part of one of the classic Richard Thompson Band line-ups. Tonight at The Regent, gone was the hat and shades, gone also was the female sidekick, but what remained intact was the fine and accomplished songs. The first set of the night was taken up with newish songs, either from more recent solo albums, or songs that he’s been writing for others, including one of which had its very first outing tonight, “Back Where I Belong”, which the audience agreed should be a ‘keeper’. Currently living in Nashville, Gregson has found himself in very good company, working with the likes of Nanci Griffith and Buddy Holly’s old band The Crickets. “I Think I’m Falling in Love” is Gregson’s attempt at writing a love song in the old Buddy Holly style and it would be easy to imagine the bespectacled Strat-wielding Texan singing it, had he still been around. Gregson has a very matter-of-fact approach to between-song patter, with stories of travelling the world and name-dropping without actually coming over as boastful or arrogant. I’m still shocked at how casually he informed us all that his former wife was recently abducted in Ecuador and murdered, or was I hearing things? It makes sense that Gregson should team up with fellow songwriter Boo Hewerdine as they are so similar in their sense of melody. Listening to Clive Gregson these days is not unlike listening to Hewerdine, especially on songs like “All My Stories” and obviously “Footstep’s Fall”, which they wrote together. Both share that distinctly melodic style of song writing. “Fingerless Glove” closed the first set with some astonishingly versatile guitar playing, which looks so easy in the hands of Gregson. You tend to forget just how experienced Gregson is as a guitarist whilst concentrating on the songs. The second set got off to a good start with three songs lifted from the first Gregson Collister album Home and Away, “It’s All Just Talk”, “When My Ship Comes In” and the evocative “Northern Soul”, still one of Gregson’s finest songs, which was also part of the Any Trouble repertoire. Last year saw the long awaited reunion of Any Trouble, giving those who missed out on the band another opportunity to find out what all the fuss was about. There are no short memories in the Regent audience and “Trouble with Love” from the Wheels in Motion period was requested and performed on the spot. Other highlights of the set was audience favourite “Fred Astaire”, memorably recorded by Norma Waterson, and believe it or not, fellow Mancs’ Barlow, Donald, Orange and Owen’s “Wooden Boats” from Take That’s last album. It’s a good song, and when stripped down to one man and his guitar, it comes across as a perfectly reasonable choice for a Gregson set. Gregson finished off with a tribute to the first Any Trouble singer Tom Jackson, who unexpectedly died last week, with one of his favourite songs, George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun”, which he chose to sing front of stage and unplugged. It sort of required that sort of intimacy. Twenty-one songs were performed by Gregson tonight and each one was special in its own way. Testament to one of this countries’ finest writers and one whose songs should be celebrated.