a) I had other posts on the go at the time, or
b) I couldn't quite be arsed!
Having now left it too long, much of the detail has now drifted away from my decaying noggin, leaving me with just a general overview of the event - but I'd like to log a few of 'em for posterity, and the delay might give a different slant on my usual style of review... So I'm going to try and drop a few of them in over the next few weeks. I'll start with the oldest one...
Hugh Cornwell Live at Basfest, 4th July 2009
I'll level with you, Basfest is no Glastonbury... hell, it's not even a Reading a Latitude or Guilfest. There is less of the on-site new age hippery and chilled atmosphere you have come to expect, and more undertones of violence and an unhealthy array of sexually transmitted disease tents (I actually did send a text to a mate saying "meet you by the chlamydia stall"). But Basfest is free, and very occasionally they will book an act worth turning out for. In 2008 we popped along to see the Bootleg Beatles (I didn't blog that one either!), which was officially Piley Jr's first ever gig. Basfest 2009 had the usual dire line up of tribute acts and talent show losers, but completely out of character with the rest of the acts was Mr Cornwell.
For all its faults, Basfest is very well run. Not interested in anything other than this one act we arrived around 5.15pm, drove straight on site and was directed by a helpful steward to a (free) parking space very close to the entrance. By the time we'd walked in a found a spot to sit it was about 5.40, and Hugh walked on 5 minutes later! Perfect!
What wasn't perfect though was the steady drift of people disappearing from the site from the moment he came on. Y'see 'ol Hugh has done it all wrong... He couldn't be bothered to apply for the X-Factor or some other reality TV show, and to me (and hundreds of other Basildon-ites by the looks of it) this shows his lack of ambition and lazy tendencies. Instead he took the easy route and cut corners via a 30+ year solid gold career consisting of no less that 26 album releases (incredibly 16 of those from his solo career). If you're not a singing dustman or a bunch of page 3 'stunnas' turned girlband, then frankly, Basildon is going to give you short thrift.
The exodus continued at an alarming rate, and after 3 songs I thought I'd try my luck at getting nearer to the stage to take some photos... and on doing so I walked straight to the barrier at the front of the stage! Scandalous! But those bare-chested red-faced locals heading for the kebab shop missed a real treat, as I have to say this performance was blinding. What a great performer Hugh Cornwell continues to be. His vocals and guitar playing were amazing and his between song banter was spot on. oh and the songs wern't bad either! Close your eyes and it could have been a 1977 Hugh up there... come to think of it, open your eyes (maybe squint just a little!) and it could have been a 1977 Hugh up there... The man can't have put an ounce on in the last 30 years. He's also been canny enough to build a rockin little outfit to support him. Caz Campbell (bass), and Chris Bell (drums) provide a powerful garage noise to complete the sound.
This was by no means a 'cashing in on the past' set either. Sure there were plenty of Stranglers classics on display, but there was just as much new material too. And I have to say the new songs were great. You could really see that Hugh believes in his latest work, as the intensity and passion of the performance of these tracks was very evident. He seemed genuinely excited about what he was doing.
I expected to come away from this gig pleased to have heard some classic Stranglers tunes... I did that, but my lasting memory was actually that I'd seen an artist with some bloody great new material. On returning home I fired up his official website and downloaded his new album (Hooverdam) for free, just as he had told us we could (and you can STILL get it for free there now). It may well have been free, but believe it or not this album is up there with some of the best of his career work.
So, not as good as Jedward or Olly Murs obviously, but if he sticks at it, I think Hugh Cornwell could make a go of this lark...
PS - since this gig took place I've read the excellent book "77 Sulphate Strip" by Barry Cain. The extensive 2007 interview with Hugh therein was a joy to read, and he comes over as a genuinely nice guy who remains every bit as passionate about his music as ever.
If you fancy listening to Hoverdam for yourself, why not pop over to the Official Hugh Cornwell Website, where you can download it for free.