MMEB UK Tour 2002
All photo's - Thanks to Wil Lauwen
MMEB gigs in the UK for 2 years (you Germans don't know how lucky you are) and a chance to see the latest line-up over 4 nights (yes I was one of the sad souls who went to all 4 gigs). Months of planning,
hotels booked etc.. and then it was time to go.
Joined by friends from Germany, Holland and the far reaches of the UK over the 4 days a wonderful week was in prospect.
The Stables - Milton Keynes
The Stables at Milton Keynes was a new venue for
all of us. The Stables is a modern, purpose built theatre holding around 400 people built apparently by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. It's one of the most civilised venues I've ever seen EarthBand play and
for many of us (at least since their re-emergence in the 90's) the novelty was to watch MMEB while seated. An almost capacity audience were in for a treat.
The usual set was played (with Castles making a
welcome return - not having been played earlier in the summer apparently) but the band were playing with a new found vigour. The immediate impression was how loudly Geoff manages to hit those drums, I've
seen a few bands in my time and I can't recall any drummer making quite so much noise from what is quite a small drum set. He also seems to play a bit faster than say Pete or Richard, but that might be my
imagination. The thing is he does seem to drive the band on with the other members responding. The crowd were enthusiastic but also very polite and as Manfred spotted, perhaps a number had turned up
expecting to hear Pretty Flamingo or Do Wah Diddy Diddy. Teasing them they got a full 3 seconds just before Quinn.
Interestingly talking to a chap next to me who attends many concerts at The Stables, he
was absolutely amazed at how good MMEB were. Absolutely in the top ranks were his comments. I guess we've always known this - but its great to hear it from an independent source as well isn't it.
The Robin - Dudley
Next day, a familiar venue, the
Robin is one of EarthBand's 2 regular UK stops. For Reinhard, Erika, Wil, Ben and Uschi a new experience, a real English dump! Now don't get me wrong, as a music venue the hall has a great atmosphere and an
enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. But the pub part is like something out of the 1950's - maybe the last time it was decorated.
Prior to arriving at the Robin, we had taken in one of the Black
Country's most unusual tourist destinations, The Crooked House pub a few miles down the road. The great thing about the Crooked House is that you don't have to drink to get the effect, simply standing in one
of the pub's rooms is enough to make you feel dizzy. In one of the rooms you can even make a golf ball roll uphill (well OK its an optical illusion - but the effect is amazing).
Back to The Robin, the gig
was the 'usual' set but as ever with EarthBand no two performances are ever the same. Listening to Geoff's drums again they really fit with the band. Manfred's solos were definitely the best I've heard for a
while and the rest of the band were on form. The crowd as always at The Robin were very enthusiastic and loud.
There was a suggestion that this might be the last gig at The Robin (1) as a supermarket was
to be developed on the site - there was work going on while we were there in the car park. Does anyone know if this is true?
Chiddingfold Blues Club (Uschi's 100th)
Now Chiddingfold was somewhere new for me, not
really quite sure what to expect but someone had described it to me as a scout hut. In fact Chiddingfold (the place) is a very attractive little village about 15 miles
south of Guildford. The hall is well hidden, a handwritten sign being the only pointer to it. The best way to describe the hall is as a community centre (I don't know how that
translates in German) with a small stage at the end of the hall.
Now the Chiddingfold gig was a special occasion, our very good friend Uschi was celebrating her 100th MMEB
gig and we were hoping it was going to be special. Paul (The Pink Panther) had created some special badges (thanks Paul), Annette had designed a special commemorative T-Shirt and the band and crew signed a
small guitar for Uschi. The usual set ensued, and again the crowd were very enthusiastic. The band just rocked, really enjoying the atmosphere (which was rather on the
warm side). Definitely the best gig of the four with all the members of the band on form, but as always sadly over too soon.
The Brook - Southampton
The last gig was at that other stalwart venue of the MMEB UK tours, The Brook. Prior to going to
The Brook we had taken in the naval dockyard at Portsmouth and visited HMS Victory, Warrior and The Mary Rose plus the Christmas Fair which they had put on specially for us (honest).
The Brook is a lovely venue, again on the small side but unlike The Robin for instance, it is nicely maintained and the beer is wonderful. As always the same set but another fine performance. As at
The Stables, chatting to a couple afterwards who had been to every gig at the Brook that week were simply blown away by MMEB comparing them as a Premier Division band against the other
lower division bands they had seen both that week and previously.
So what sticks in the mind? Well the band are clearly playing at the top of their form, as Andy would
say, this is definitely my favourite line-up (for now anyway). Manfred has not played this well for some time and the moog has definitely returned stronger. Also its noticeable that Manfred is taking a
more leading role than say 2-3 years ago when Mick was more to the fore. Mick himself was playing as well as ever. Geoff as has already been noted elsewhere seems to have fitted in well
into the band and his style certainly adds something. Noel was also in fine form and singing as well as ever. Steve's playing in the engine room was as solid as ever, oh yes and Ian really has
mastered the keyboard for She Was.
The other thing is the chance to meet up with all the friends I've made through MMEB over the
years. In no particular order great to meet Graeme, Lois, Terry, Linda, Alan, Anne, Barry, Graeme (The Beaver), Graham, Andy, Carol, John, Reinhard, Erika, Wil, Ben, Uschi, Annette (cool bananas),
Helen, Steve, Bryan and Dave. Apologies if I've missed anyone, the memory is not what it was.
And 2003, well here's hoping that the band make it back to the UK for some more gigs. The reaction
of those people we spoke to who either hadn't seen the band before, or not for a number of years was that they would definitely be back and perhaps with some regular gigs a larger audience could
be built. Here's hoping.