The Stables, Milton Keynes

Set list (as I recall, correct me if I am wrong anyone) 2 halves by the way:
Glorious Fool, Man in the Station, Carmine, New song (Knew when I met you?), Lookin’ On, She’s a lover/Solid Air, (acoustic set => Easy Blues, May you never, I don’t want to know/My Creator, Suzanne), Big Muff, Glory Box, Rock Salt & Nails, Never Let me go.

John was, as always at The Stables, warmly and politely received. (John Hillarby tells me that the show was indeed sold out tonight.) It is an intimate venue. I still think it remarkable that the man has decided to tour as he clearly was uncomfortable sat on whatever he was sat on and adjusting to life with a prosthetic limb. Like I shouted out, “Good to have you back man, its been a long time.”

I felt he used the first set as something of a rehearsal, although by no means unrehearsed. It was just very laid back and I felt that John’s guitar and John Giblin’s bass were a little low in the mix. Still this may have something to do with the venue or wanting to conserve energies for the main set. It is a minor criticism and in any case John was in good voice. I have always felt that Glorious Fool is an overlooked song and one that carries particular relevance in light of the current political climate as John rightly observed “nothings changed”.  The new song was delivered superbly both musically and vocally. Carmine had some slight lyric changes in the verses.

After the break, a reinvigorated John (no, still sober) and band took to the stage for the second half. The highlight for me during this part was I don’t want to know and My Creator. The latter was particularly strong with some innovative jazz piano from Spencer Cozens and John pulling off some wonderful percussive runs. I always feel even after the number of times I have seen John, there is still an element of surprise in the performance even in an old song like I don’t want to know that I have heard several times before. Suzanne was also good, acoustically. The electric was back on after and a welcome return for Big Muff. I just love the riff on this. After Glory Box and Never let me go, it was time, to…well go. But not after giving John a standing ovation, justly deserved.

Anybody thinking about going should go. It was a good night, he is in good voice although naturally he doesn’t have the energy he once did. No matter, we should be grateful he is playing for us at all.

Stephen Williams