The Verge - Kentish Town

Solo At The Verge - January 2002

Two Things! Firstly, Billy said it was my turn to do this review as it was the first time I'd seen John Solo. Secondly, Billy asked me not to mention his dancing.

THE VERGE. A strange place. From the outside it looked like an old pub that had been boarded up like a condemned building. Only the large green neon sign gave any indication that there could be life inside. So, having first imbibed some Dutch courage at 'Aunt Annies' across the road, I gingerly pushed the door open and cautiously went in. The girl in the kiosk relieved me of a fiver saying "You're all right. There's one other customer gone in before you."

Inside, in a small room, at the bar, sat the one other customer, and further down John was talking to roadie John and another bloke I didn't recognise. It was dark. In fact, it looked like there was an electrician behind the bar trying to fix the lights, but without much success. What little light we had was just about sufficient for me to pull up a stool and order a drink. There were three barmaids, so we customers were outnumbered again. The 'other customer' was a local, who told me that he'd seen John before at a couple of beer festivals and at the Edinburgh Festival. He'd also booked for Abbey Road.

In time, the place filled up, Billy and Catherine arrived, and shortly after that John got up on the stage. He then got down again to walk to the back of the room to turn the stage lights on.

Back on stage, he opened with 'I Am A Lion', which I hadn't heard live before. Also new to me was his recitation of 'Bunsen Burner' - still without a tune. A lot of the inter-song patter was different, as well, which got a good response from the crowd, to the extent that I was laughing out loud - even to some of the jokes I'd heard before. It's the way he tells them! After we had been treated to 'The Hit' and the 'B Side' the crowd was more than happy to yell "Hit" or "B Side" after every song.

During the interval, the two Johnnies came over and chatted about the Abbey Road arrangements. Apparently, the 'choir' now comprises about 1000 people, and will have to be recorded in three separate sessions. He was excited, too, that 'The Hit' plans were all now "falling into place".

Part 2 saw out the remainder of mostly the usual set, but without either the theremin (which John said was broken) or the pogo-stick (which, as we saw in Southend, has been repaired). Other stuff I hadn't seen live before included 'God's Camera', 'I Will Survive' (Dylan style), and a shortened version of the Yorkshire 'Space Oddity', and Billy's favourite '21 Days', featuring a hilarious Elvis impression.

A good number of the crowd knew the responses for 'House Of The Rising Sun', and when they didn't, Billy was on hand to remind everyone - right in my ear. 'Headbutts' was interspersed with several "Oh, shit"s as blood was transferred from forehead to a formerly pristine shirtsleeve. During 'Du Hast Noch Nichts Gesehen' we saw the guitar being thrown off stage for John to perform his usual somersaults off the stack of beer crates (but no stepladder), and it suddenly struck me that this must have been the first time I'd ever seen a solo artiste using a roadie.  John also treated us to his special version of 'Honey' - far better than the original two fingers down the throat version. Aah. Yeah, bloody aaah! 

All in all, another good night. Catherine got a goodnight kiss from John, whilst Billy and I had to make do with a handshake. If I went home with one impression it was that John was a better guitarist than I remember from my Aylesbury days. Another (That's two impressions!) was that Billy is no dancer.

Billy adds: I said NOT to mention my dancing!!! Great review. This was the first time I'd seen John solo for ages (about 2 months!) and it was good to be reminded just how good, and funny he is when on his own. The only thing I think you forgot to mention, was a great rendition of 'House Is Burning' dedicated to all of us whose houses had burned down lately.

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