Blog 16: The Encores
Time permitting, we generally include three songs in our encores but if we get a sense that we will be pushing it to do all three, we will omit a song from the main part of the set just so that we can get these three gems in.
First up is Under Pressure and it is one song that we will never tire of playing – unfortunately for Mel as she takes co-lead vocals on this one and boy, is that a challenge! Around the time of the band’s formation, Andrew was helping with guitar duties for a production of We Will Rock You at his daughter’s school and with it being such a well-known song by all of us, we ran through it a few times in rehearsals and debuted it at the Jam Café in Nottingham just before Christmas 2018. Even when we felt we had rehearsed it enough, we just kept going through it, we love it so much.
Heroes is an absolute must-have as far as we’re concerned. It starts relatively softly but we just keep building the tempo as we go along. Heroes sees the return of the ebow, which you can see Andrew using in New Killer Star but this time, this little hand held device is in Mel’s capables. It’s an iconic song and we hope we do it justice.
There’s a fair few versions of this song varying in length and the lyrics used, with the single version being relatively short and starting with “the dolphins”, and the longer album version that starts with “I will be King” and includes all the lyrics, with this bit featuring twice. When we were learning this and first performing it, it took us some time to work out which version suited us best, the album version is a tad too long really for an encore set position but the single version misses out on the brilliant lyrics of the “You can be mean” part…and doesn’t have as much opportunity to build in stages. So we watched a lot of Bowie live versions and came up with a lyrical sequence and length that suits us, which we think really work. The live version at Isle of Wight and this one https://youtu.be/bsYp9q3QNaQ, live in Berlin in 2002 really inspired us (and wow Bowie in that suit, what a man!). We love the “you can be mean” start which lends itself to a quiet start (before Allan is allowed to let rip with the drums in our version. We recorded a version of this in a “no overdubs” mic recording at Psyrex Studios last year and you can take a look at that here: https://youtu.be/kws3jbJ9vAY
We round the evening off with Moonage Daydream and we seem to throw everything into the mix with this one (especially now that Mel’s E chord has been found). Guitar solos abound and we also thought it would make an interesting contrast to pull the tempo down a bit after Andrew’s 58th (second) solo and to have a short bluesy mid-section with a solo from Mel, ably supported by Messrs Mckie and Hughes aka The Rhythm Section. At this point in the evening Jane has generally gone mad and is either on or off the stage but she does use this song as an opportunity to introduce the band. Rather fittingly and given that Allan was the founder member, he gets the last introduction whilst hammering out something climactic on the drums but we always make sure we wrap it up quickly as a 20 minute drum solo is enough to test the hardiest of individuals.
Since the arrival of Alex on sax (and since the original writing of the piece above – Jane being lazy with the blogs!), we’ve actually reworked this song a bit, using the sax to replicate the rhythms found in the original album version. It’s shorter on the old solo and doesn’t have the same space for band introduction, but interestingly, the song has started to move around in the set a bit too, often used now in the main set along with a relatively new arrival Soul Love, and as we speak, our next gig in the garden will feature the shorter version of Moonage with the good old album order lean in!
At this point, we must mention a small cohort of individuals who since our appearance in Paris have become known as “The Chickens”. These are our wives, partners and parents and can generally be seen at most gigs tucking into the bands’ free food and drink whilst they lug amps, drum, and speakers, and generally look cross. They know who they are and we thank them for their support and we’re really looking forward to seeing them for the garden gig!