Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rock and Roll Failure Extraordinaire: John Otway in Sheffield

The ebullient Mr Otway

The Greystones Pub Music Venue Sheffield
Scanning the listings of the Sheffield Mail, last  weekend, there was an impressive range to choose from. Dawn French was launching her one woman show tour in the Yorkshire city. Pianist, Benjamin Frith was delivering an Emporer with a local orchestra. An impressive schedule of documentaries with live Q&A's were lined up in a documentary  festival at City Hall. So you can understand my son's bafflement when I suggested  an evening in the backroom of a   pub with a performer who  claims to be Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure.  'Eh OK so - If you are quite sure'. he said somewhat dutifully.  So we made our way to The Greystones pub in a Sheffield suburb to  join the  notoriously ardent fans of  John  Otway and his band..

 How best to describe this performer.?  If you could imagine equal parts of Bill Nighy crossed with an extremely hyperactive child and large measure of a Victorian Music Hall MC, that would sort of do it, I think. The ebullient Mr Otway arrived on stage and  surveyed the backroom venue as gleefully as if it had been the Royal Albert Hall. The sixty something gaunt 'popstar'  lifted the art of self deprecation to a new level in a  show that referenced disco, pop, heavy metal, stadium rock, punk  and included all two of his hits and his theremin 'virtuoso' skills. Don't be fooled by the 'failure' tag. The band, a foil for much of the humour were a super, accomplished  outfit. with Richard Holgarth - guitar, Murray Torkildsen - guitar, Seymour - bass & Adam Batterbee - drums giving great support and allowed space to shine throughout the set.

He has made a film, Otway the Movie'  that charts the  ups and downs  of an eccentric rock and roll career, which is currently travelling around the festival cinema circuit. I haven't seen it but on the basis of tonight's performance, .I suggest it would make a good addition to a film component of an Arts  Fest line up. Details here  and a Guardian review here  Catch him at Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festivals later this Summer.

The audience participation came not so much in singing along with the songs  as in a chanting of a well honed responses in a 'Good Old Days' fashion to theatrical questions posed by Otway. 
It was an  evening  delivered with charm, good hunour,  and  excellent showmanship.  A great gig, definitely one for end of year picks.

One of Otway's two hits Burn Baby Burn

Pulp members gather on City Hall steps 

Pulp Heroes: Earlier in the afternoon while walking around seeing the sights, we happened across Jarvis Cocker and his entourage on their way to a sold out documentary screening on the band at City Hall.  Famously from Sheffield, Cocker and his fellow Pulp members with critic Paul Morley  paused in front of the steps posing for cameras and answering reporters questions while a local ladies choral group sang acapella version of their hit Common People. The scene gave us a sense of just  how important these local heroes were to this town.

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