It’s the middle of a hot and sunny four day Easter weekend and I’m heading down the road to the Grey Horse in Kingston to see John Otway. Who? John Otway. Who’s he? What do you mean who is he? He had a hit. Where’s he been? Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test. Who’s a pratt? I am. Ok, if you’re not a John Otway fan you might not get that but see here for an explanation:
John Otway’s playing tonight with Wild Willy Barrett, the guitarist he had his hit with in 1977. It made number 27 in the charts! He’s been touring and recording furiously ever since and I think he’d be the first to admit he hasn’t got much better. He has learnt to play some instruments though and we’re treated to a selection of them tonight, from violin and guitar to theramin. In fact, the theramin even kicks off the opening of duelling banjos with Wild Willy on banjo, which ends up as a cover of Two Little Boys!
We get all the ‘hit’ tonight (Cor Baby That’s Really Free) and even more from opener Louisa On A Horse to Cheryl’s Going Home. It’s great to hear the brilliant Beware Of The Flowers too which was voted as having the 7th greatest song lyrics in history in a BBC poll for the millennium, coming just behind Yesterday by The Beatles and beating every song that Bob Dylan has ever written. This is testament to the loyalty and dedication of his huge, almost cult following.
Watching these two play is like watching some sort of crazy comedy show, with Wild Willy Barret the straight man to Otway’s eccentric shenanigans. Otway’s like an excited kid throughout, jumping up and down and waving his arms around. For Body Talk he places drum pads in each of his four pockets and proceeds to sing and play theramin to the song while simultaneously pounding out the drums by hitting his pockets, jumping, squatting and anything else he can think of. You really have to see this – it’s impossible to describe how fun it is to watch.
Wild Willy’s not just there to keep Otway in check though. He provides a lot of the comedy himself. There was a wheely bin on stage throughout the set, and during the hit we discovered why. The bin contained Wild Willy’s electric guitar amp. As his screaming guitar solo kicked in, Wild Willy opened the bin lid so that the sol played out as loud as possible. He then proceeded to use the lid to control the volume of the guitar throughout the song.
At one point towards the end of the set, Wild Willy starts playing the bagpipes and electric guitar at the same time. During one of the last songs of the night, he’s playing an acoustic that John Otway has damaged. Halfway through the song he pulls a saw out of the wheely bin and starts sawing through the guitar, while still playing it. He leaves the saw embedded in the guitar. A minute later he pulls a hammer out of the bin, and starts hammering holes in the guitar, then leaves the hammer lodged in the guitar too, all the time continuing to play!
If you haven’t seen John Otway perform live yet, find out where his tour schedule is taking him next and get down to one of his shows. Tickets will be dead cheap and it will be one of the best nights you have. Part music, part comedy, total fun.