#2write: A Review of Graeme Clark and Dean Johnson’s Gig at Thornton Hough Village Hall, Wirral.

My regular blog readers will know that I’m a huge Wet Wet Wet fan and have loved the band right from the beginning back in 1987 as a 15 year old! I don’t want to repeat myself from what I’ve written from previous reviews but their music is a very big part of my life.   Music is always on at home, whether it’s on in the kitchen when I’m cooking or baking. It helps me get through the ironing or the cleaning. I also have music on in the background when working at my sewing machine. Music is always on my iPod when I go out running or in my car driving to work. A lot of the time it’s a Wet Wet Wet album or one of Graeme Clark’s solo CDs.  Of course I do listen to other music but it’s always the Wets’ music which I go back to. It cheers me up if I’ve had a long day, helps me to relax or even listening to a song just calls up a special memory in life. More recently I have been listening to Graeme Clark’s latest album The Thought Collector a lot.  Just after it was released I had it on my Ipad when we went on holiday to Canada. I woke up in the middle of the night jet lagged but I put the music on through my headphones to drown out Mr SmartCookieSam’s loud snoring and the soothing music soon relaxed me and got me back to sleep again!

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I went to see Graeme Clark (also known as Wet Wet Wet’s bass player) play in a solo gig in Siempre Bicycle Cafe in Glasgow’s West End. This gig was on a beautiful sunny  Sunday evening last June and was a runaway success. More about that night here:

https://theyorkshirebakery.com/2016/06/17/graeme-clarks-gig-at-siempre-bicycle-cafe-glasgow-a-review

We were absolutely over the moon last month when Graeme announced on his Facebook page that he was going to play a unique and special gig  with his friend Dean Johnson who he has collaborated with in the past.

So, last Saturday myself and my three lovely friends Julie, Dot and Cindy (AKA the Yorkshire Wetties) headed over the Pennines) to the Wirral. We had met up only a few weeks ago for a girlie weekend in York and were saying it would be fantastic to get together again soon. Graeme must have been eavesdropping as we now had a perfect excuse to get together a few weeks later over in Cheshire! 

We set off at midday, heading first to collect Cindy after Dot and Julie met up at my house. I was still seething as Mr SmartCookieSam had let me drive his car but was watching me like a hawk reversing out of our drive. He’s the one who crashed into our neighbours’ van when he wasn’t looking! I shouted at him out of the window to stop looking at me! Anyway, once Dot, Julie and I were on our way!  The traffic on the M62 around Manchester was a nightmare and we got stuck in a huge jam. Don’t tell Mr SmartCookieSam that someone nearly cut me up trying to get in front Fortunately once we’d refuelled ourselves we weren’t that far away from the Wirral and the pretty village of Thornton Hough. I don’t really know this part of the UK very well, although I went to a wedding at the church in Port Sunlight many years ago followed by the reception at a hotel near Bebington. Thornton Hough was a beautiful picture postcard village with half timbered style houses. We chose to go and find the venue first in the light before we checked into our hotel. Luckily it was easy to find in the village and was next door to a pub with a car park.

When we got parked up and found the Village Hall the manager of the Village Hall, a great friendly guy called Neil came out and chatted to us. He very kindly took a photo of the four of us in front of the Village Hall although the poor man nearly got run over trying to cross the road to get a decent shot on Dot’s phone camera!  Thank you, Neil and you made us feel most welcome.

Later on we got to the Village Hall which was a real gem of a building.  Inside it had high ceilings and original wooden beams with another room and a bar attached to it.  A perfect place for an intimate gig. The seating was arranged around tables and it looked like a full house once everyone was in and sat down. We got our table organised and eagerly waited for the evening to start.  It didn’t disappoint us.  We first were entertained by Steve   with his acoustic guitar. His music warmed up the show, which we really enjoyed.  Then it was time for Graeme and Dean.  Dean started off their part of the show with a couple of songs of his own.  Graeme appeared from behind a large curtain at the side of the stage to join Dean playing one of his songs.  Dean then left the stage so that Graeme could perform some of his own songs.  He started off with his “Kiss Of Life” a song I’ve always loved from his Mr Understanding album, closely followed by “Heart Of Stone”  Heart of Stone also had an excerpt of “A Hard Day’s Night” with it. Graeme then followed this with a newbie from the fabulous “Thought Collector” album: “Summer Rain” which we first heard him perform back in June in Glasgow.

Then it was time for the part of the show which made this into the unique experience it was. Dean and Graeme had been thinking of some themes for the song which they were going to write together live in front of us with possible contributions from us, the audience! I had been wondering what the theme for the song would be about. Would it be a love song? Or about the cities which both Graeme and Dean both grew up in?  Or would it be a political song or about musical heroes of theirs? It was going to be an intriguing experience.  In the end both Graeme and Dean came up with the idea of “The Politician and The Poet” as Donald Trump had just been elected President of the USA and Leonard Cohen had sadly died. 

 We were also invited to contribute some lyrics. I didn’t offer any suggestions as I am totally the opposite of Dean.  If I have to write something it takes me ages to do with constant drafting and redrafting. Thinking of something off the top of my head is a real struggle for me even though it happens a lot in my job. Now if I’d been asked to go away and come back 1/2 hour later with some ideas, I would have been fine. I was happy to sit back and watch it unfold.  Anyway they had worked out the guitar chord progression they wanted to use and it was amazing to see Dean scribbling away all the lyrics in his notebook.  He got it all to fit in and a song began to emerge in front of our eyes.  Even Marti Pellow got in on the act and had recorded a voice message with a line for the song. This appeared on Graeme’s phone which was a funny moment in the show. 

 It wasn’t long before the song was finished and it was going to be videoed for Dean’s website and YouTube. Graeme asked the audience if anyone would like to come up and be backing dancers!  I don’t know what came over me but I stood up and walked behind Graeme on the stage.  It was an amazing feeling to be stood behind someone I’ve admired for nearly 30 years but I enjoyed every minute.  After the song was complete, Graeme performed Goodnight Girl and Love Is All Around for us. Finally, we were invited to get up and dance along to Roll Over Beethoven followed by Status Quo’s Sweet Caroline! I love a good dance so any excuse to get up and strut my stuff is fine by me. 

All too soon an incredible evening was over and we all said what a fantastic show it was. Thankyou so much to Graeme and Dean for putting it on, what an original and unique idea to write a song on stage in front of an audience.  As Graeme explained when he first met Dean that Dean said he was “a twenty a day man,” which Graeme thought meant how many ciggies he smoked but really meant how many songs he could write!  What a unique talent. I hope that Graeme and Dean put on another show like this in the future, it was a massive success.  To hear the song and see the video I have seen it on Facebook but am not sure how to share it here.

For us Yorkshire Wetties the night was still young.  We walked into the Village Hall bar to have another drink before we went back to the hotel and heard there was a Wet Wet Wet Greatest Hits CD playing on the stereo. We were on a real high after the gig and started singing along to the songs, our impromptu Wets karaoke session.  Unfortunately I had taken full advantage of not being the designated driver for once and had had far too much Prosecco. I don’t normally drink much on nights out but I wasn’t the only one, though! By this time I was drinking fizzy water and diet coke  but it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves, including me completely forgetting I was hopeless at playing the violin and trying to play along to the string section in Angeleyes without a bow! I played for a year at secondary school and I sounded like a cat being strangled. Thank God there wasn’t a bow with the violin, we would have been barred for life!

  Finally it was time for us to go back to the hotel but we were full of what amazing night it had been.  Thankyou once again to Graeme and to Dean.

For more information about Graeme:

Graeme’s Website: www.graemeclark.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GraemeClarkOfficial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/graemeclark1

For more information about Dean:

http://www.deanjohnsonmusic.co.uk/index.html

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