- Flying Sorcery
- Rumours of War
- Sirens of Titan / House of Clocks
- Samuel Oh How You’ve Changed
- On the Border
- Life in Dark Water
- Almost Lucy
- The Times They Are A-changin’ (stukje)
- 50s, 60s and 70s parodieën
- SoHo (Needless to Say)
- Time Passages
- Palace of Versailles
- Quiz: Stringalongs
- Clifton in the Rain / Small Fruit Song
- Ana Ng (They Might Be Giants) (stukje)
- Arnold Layne (Pink Floyd)
- Running Man
- Jailhouse Rock (stukje)
- Timeless Sky
- Broadway Hotel
- Year of the Cat
- Laughing into 1939
- The Candidate
- vocals, guitar: Al Stewart
Last Monday, Karel and I went to the Al Stewart concert in Eindhoven. I had just heard that morning that my grandmother had passed away (at the respectable age of 101 and a half), so I wasn’t having a particularly good day. I decided to go to the concert nonetheless, to try to get my mind off of things, which worked very well. It was a very amusing concert.
Waiting for the concert to begin, we saw a wall with black-and-white pictures of artists that had performed at the Frits Philips Muziekcentrum in the past. There was a very nice picture of a guitar playing Alan Parsons among them! Also Gerard van Maasakkers, a Dutch favourite of mine, was present among the pictures.
Talking about pictures, I had managed to smuggle in my camera, although it was officially forbidden. I decided to wait and see if anybody else would take pictures as well and if not, I wouldn’t either.
Karel and I had seats on the side of the eighth row, the first one to be higher than the ones before, so we could easily see the stage over the people in front of us. When Al came on stage he started with something from his Year of the Cat album. When the song was over, he noticed that there were a lot of empty seats in the front rows and he invited the audience to come a little closer. In the mean time he would play us a movie theme, which I recognised though I don’t know what from. Karel and I managed to capture some seats in the middle of the second row, after which Al continued with his regular setlist.
At one point, he mentioned that he would play us a song from the one album he assumed we all knew, or else we probably wouldn’t be here. He then added, in a twisted voice: “I just stepped in to get out of the rain. Didn’t know there was playing… Thought it was Rod.” This got him a big applause, after which he did an excellent performance of On the Border.
A few songs later, he invited a girl on the stage to play the tambourine. He said that he met her somewhere in the Netherlands and had asked her if she wanted to play the tambourine on stage with him. He had also found a guitar player, but he turned out not to be able to play as well as he claimed, so he had to let him go. I assume the guitar that remained unused at the back of the stage during the entire show was intended to be used by that guy.
After that, according to my notes, he played a bit of The Times They Are A-changin’, though I can’t remember how or why he did that :). He continued with telling that, being from the generation of the sixties, he used a lot of lyrics in his songs, unlike those from the fifties and the seventies, which he continued to demonstrate. He started playing and singing with an Elvis voice a song that indeed resembeled those of the 50s a lot, with lyrics like Darling, I love you. In total, he used less than ten words and only four chords, which Al said was typical of the time. After that he demonstrated what the sixties were like by singing very fast and monotonously with simple guitar playing, à la Bob Dylan. Then he gave an example of the seventies by parodying the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive – ten chords, but less than five words :). This gave the audience a good laugh. Then he started singing SoHo (Needless to Say), a song with, indeed, an awful lot of lyrics.
During the break we walked to the stand where they sold the Al Stewart merchandise. I wanted to buy an album, because I knew Al would be signing after the show and I had forgotten my copy of Year of the Cat at home. All the cds cost 20 euros, but if you bought the book for 25, you got a cd for free. In other words: if you bought a cd, you would get the book for only 5 euro :).
Anyway, after about fifteen minutes we went back to our seats for the second half. Just after the first song, Al asked the audience where Hengelo is. He probably had a show there the next day. The audience started shouting answers to the stage, “Far away from here”, “To the north”, etc., until someone said “Never go there!” Al laughed and as nobody could top that, Al continued the show, with a song he said he has never been able to play ‘right’. Sometimes it’s a reggae song, sometimes it’s something completely different. Every time, he would play it differently, hoping he would finally find a version that pleases him, sort of an eternal quest. He started playing a few notes, told us that it wasn’t going to be reggae this time, and started singing Time Passages.
After that he played Palace of Versailles, which he said was like his favourite child. He’d play it again, but didn’t think we wanted him to, so he didn’t :). He continued with a little quiz: he would play a little tune and we had to guess who it was from. The tune sounded vaguely familiar, but no one guessed it right, just like in previous shows. It turned out to be a 50s group ‘the Stringalongs’ or something like that. He admitted that he knew just about every group and artist that ever charted in the fifties.
A bit later Al interrupted himself again to say that every tour, he wanted to play something that people wouldn’t expect of him. Last year he played a song by a group called They Might Be Giants. He started playing that song, but stopped halfway saying “But I’m not going to do that this time.” Laughter. Last year, he said, he played it but nobody recognised it and therefore nobody cared, which he thought was a shame since he thinks They Might Be Giants are just about the best lyricists around these days. So he started telling another story which involved meeting Yoko Ono in a bar where, in those days, Pink Floyd were the house band. They always played a certain song which he heard about every day for about a year and which he would play for us tonight: Arnold Layne. He did it very well indeed. After the song, he told us that later on, two significant things happened: Pink Floyd got big, and Yoko Ono met another guitar player…
A bit later on Al took some requests. Someone wanted Jailhouse Rock, which he promptly started to play. After a few verses, he stopped and settled on another request called Timeless Sky.
He then continued with Broadway Hotel followed by Year of the Cat, for which he tried to find a new beginning. And a new ending as well; it ended in the James Bond tune :).
That was the end of the show. After a minute or two of standing ovation, he came back for two encores, the latter being a favourite of his that nobody else seems to like, called The Candidate. That was also the first and only time I dared take a picture (with flash), because a few minutes before I saw a couple of flashes coming from behind me. And then the show was really over.
Karel and I went to the stand where I bought the book and Al’s latest album Down in the Cellar. We then moved on to the queue that had formed in front of the table where Al would be signing a little later. Removing the plastic from the case to make signing easier, I noticed that it was the American Miramar release. Apparently, with Miramar out of business, they needed to get rid of them :). Karel in the mean time asked the guy behind us if he would take a picture of us with Al, which the man was willing to do.
When it was our turn, I gave him the book and the cd and Karel complimented him with his great performance. “Thank you,” he said, “I thought it got better as it went along.” I told him that we were the kind of people that only know Year of the Cat, so we didn’t notice anything going wrong. “I like that, that way it doesn’t matter if I make mistakes.”
We made room for the next in line (who kindly returned my camera, having taken two pictures) and then went on home after a great ending of an otherwise not so great day.