Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald headed up to The Florrie to join the Mick Head army, for a night of sheer Scouse class, in one of the city’s most beautiful and iconic, if somewhat under-appreciated buildings.
In the aftermath of Mick Head‘s triumphant St George’s Hall gig last year, the talk amongst his loyal and committed army of fans begin to veer towards the possibility of a gig at The Florrie. After a £6.4 million refurbishment, this fine Victorian building is currently struggling as the Heritage Lottery funding begins to dry up. Seeking new ways to maintain the existence of such a valuable social asset is the job of Chief Executive, Anne Lundon, a friend of Mick, who agreed to play in support of this worthy project.
Predictably, the gig sold out in minutes. On the night they came in their hundreds, keen and excitable to see the next stage, the next chapter in the ongoing renaissance of Mick Head. And he’d brought some great mates as support. First up was Timo Tierney of the Tea Street Band, who played a solo set just accompanying himself on guitar. Hearing songs like the magnificent Disco Lights in such a raw state was an interesting twist, and, despite some slight sound problems (which became something of a theme for the night), Timo pulled it off with ease. But then, we knew he would.
Professor Yaffle are not what you’d call a regular on the live circuit, choosing to use YouTube as the venue for their mostly infrequent appearances. The songs are deftly woven intricate psyc-pop pieces, influenced by, well, just about everything from 1960s Laurel Canyon to French folk to Everton FC. A truly disturbing moment for the reds in the crowd came with Put It Out, and its use of a mandolin version of the Z Cars theme. Their set of warm and pretty pop sensibilities required proper listening, which on all too many occasions, was impossible due to the sound of the crowd talking. UNESCO announced Liverpool as a City Of Music just last week. All too often, it feels like the status should be renamed City Of Talking Over The Music. It is a recurring theme these days, sadly. STFU.
When a nervy and humble Mick Head took to the Florrie stage, a warm welcome cheer spread through the room in waves. He looked healthy and happy to be there. After a brief intro, in which he declared anyone who says it is good to be nervous “a fucking liar”, he adopted his most comfortable and natural position, that of standing in front of a crowd of eager and appreciative supporters. Guitar in hand, and he’s off.
The dreamy lilting nursery rhyme of Walter’s Song, with its melody cleverly developed from the opening credits of Night Of The Hunter (one of Head‘s favourite films), made a perfect opener for a lengthy set of his classic songs. Buzzing from the nervous energy, it was a set of old and new, and included a couple of new ideas. Backing came from the incredible Martin Smith on trumpet, lending that all essential Bacharach/Herb Alpert sound, and the warm cello of the RLPO‘s Rod Skipp, who enchanced Head‘s superb rhythm and picking, bringing the Arthur Lee and Love vibes.
From the simple and intricate beauty of love songs like Cadiz and the spellbinding songwriting masterstroke that is Something Like You, to the stories told so brilliantly in As Long As I’ve Got You and the desperate and painful depictions of addiction to be found in Streets Of Kenny, Head‘s writing was shown to be exactly what the crowd have always thought it to be. Peerless. Utterly. The answer was always a yes even before the NME famously asked ‘Is This Britain’s Greatest Songwriter?’ Head has a soul to bare, a soul that’s seen a fair bit of action, it has to be said. He’s turned some of his most difficult experiences, his most painful, into stunning vignettes of incredible beauty and depth. Hear The Magical World Of The Strands LP. It’s there, in all its guttural glory.
He kneeled down to play as his sister Joanne joined him onstage for the dark, emotional overload of Daniella, reducing at least one member of the audience to tears, such was its heavy beauty. It was a moment where the very rawest of his emotions were allowed to shine through. Simple and magical.
Again, there were a few sound problems, something The Florrie are going to have to look at if the hall can be made to work as a live music venue, but Head pulled through and kept going. As ever, Meant To Be, the Shack classic, was a true highlight, with Smith‘s Tijuana brass trumpet solo being the singalong moment these most devoted and enthusiastic of fans turned to for sheer wide-eyed, hands in the air, bliss. Voices were raised, moods lifted. A real moment. As ever.
The Prize, a song written about his ‘harshest critic’, daughter Alice, was interrupted midway as he announced “I’ve got an idea, why don’t you shut the fuck up and listen?”. People have been doing just that for the best part of 35 years, and Michael Head, despite all he’s been through, remains as vital, as relevant, and as important as he always has been. Our greatest songwriter. Yes. He is.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters