GIG REVIEWS: Manchester Apollo Liverpool Royal Court
Let me start by saying that I got into the Sprouts in 1985 after hearing Tom Dolby's "The Flat Earth" and falling in love with "When Love Breaks Down". "Steve McQueen" was not just a casual affair and "Swoon", "Langley Park" and "Protest Songs" bought the necessary variety to enhance the spice in my life.
I've never been so into one group and yet never seen them live before so Manchester was, I thought, going to put the cherry on the cake for me.
As the light came down "Michael" sneaked on stage, leading straight into "Appetite". I couldn't help noticing a slightly nervous Paddy, who, with Wendy, looked "dapper" in their trendy togs. There was a small "rush" to the stage but the crowd never really got pushed together at the front, as many prefered to stand still and not worry too much about getting close up.
All the classics were performed tonight from "Cars and Girls" to "Cruel" and "Faron Young" to "Hey Manhattan". They played a few tracks from "Langley Park", which amazed me, managing to recreate some of the "orchestral" sounds with the help of the three added session musicians, who were absolutely brilliant!
Three well deserved encores after saw the band take their final bow and "Jessie James Bolero" played over the sound system as the fans filed out.
Verdict? Had I raised my expectations too high? Was it the venue that left me unsure? Why was I not dancing on moonbeams?
Anyway, in two days time it was to be the Liverpool Royal Court. Now THAT was a different kettle of fish!
A stand up affair, we pushed right to the front. The crowd, well warmed up by the support act, were really superb tonight.
This crowd carried the Sprouts on their shoulders tonight and the band thrived on it.
Playing the same set, Paddy mentioned that when the tapes had been made for the new album, Martin took a copy to play to a friend who said that he really liked the lyric "End of the road I'm travelling / I will see joy in Birkenhead". In "Nightingales" Paddy sang "If we sing are we liver birds / shine are we stars" and commented that Stevie Wonder was too busy to join them on the tour.
Martin shared his jokes with the percussionist Karlos Edwards, jumping on the line "hot dog, jumping frog" and ending some lines with a Beatlest-type "oooh" with a shake of the head. By the way, what an excellent "God" it was what Karlos played!
High points of the evening were "We Let The Stars Go", "Faron Young" and "When Love Breaks Down". It's hard to choose a favourite song among the many that were skilfully performed with such precission tonight.
Let's not forget the superb support band The Trash Can Sinatras who played different slices of "Cake" at each gig. At Manchester "Funny" and "Obscurity Knocks" earned the most applause, while at Liverpool "Circling The Circumference" (their latest single) and "Maybe I Should Drive" went down best.
The best support band I've seen since Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes supported Graham Parker well over ten years ago. And I must admit, I'm playing "Cake" as much as "Jordan" nowadays!
It was such a nice touch, too, that all the fans who'd waited back, around twenty of them, got to meet the band, who didn't seem in a rush to get away. Here's to a great tour, album and single but for the meantime we'll just have to let the stars go, until next time ???