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Black and The Christians live in Camberley

14 April 2007

Last night I went to see the 20th anniversary tour of The Christians and Black, at Camberley Theatre.

Black, and Colin Vearncombe in his solo guise, I've seen many times before. For the last fifteen years, his shows have been acoustic and stripped down. So it was a treat to see him fronting a raw electric four piece last night, with three singers, two guitars, a bass guitar player and a drummer (it does add up, the guitarists all sing). He kicked off the show with 'Everything's Coming up Roses', and despite gremlins in his amp for the first couple of songs, seemed to be enjoying rocking out. "They've let me out to make some noise again," he told the audience. Although this was a full band show, the mix was perfectly balanced and you could hear every word, something of a rarity today.

The setlist predictably included 'Sweetest Smile' and 'Wonderful Life', but many of the highlights were in the new material. Last year, Colin released the first album under the Black name for over a decade, and some of its tracks are among the best songs Colin's written. The title of 'Her Coat and No Knickers' got some laughs when announced, but the vulnerable ballad kept the audience rapt as it unfolded, a natural bedfellow for 'Let me watch you make love' from the second Black album. Colin got the acoustic guitars out and banished bass and drums for a delicate performance of 'Charlemagne'. 'Quinn's Old Flame', from Colin's experimental acoustic double album 'Smoke up close', was reinvented with a new electric arrangement. The show closed with a stunning performance of 'Water on Snow', perhaps Colin's best song out of the hundred or so he's released.

In a tour being promoted (and for many, attended) as a nostalgia trip it would have been easy to churn through the hits from the 80s and ignore the less commercially successful material. But Colin's continued to develop as an artist and if anything this short set proved that his new songs can easily stand against the hits that made his name.

The Christians I hadn't seen before. I remember listening to their early singles on the radio and I have a couple of their albums. With many bands, it's difficult to get into songs you don't know and this was the case for me here, although I enjoyed the oldies, in particular 'Sad Songs' and the encore 'Hooverville'. The lead singer was good at getting the audience to stand up and sing some 'nah nahs', but he didn't get people on their feet until near the end of the set. If the audience had been as into it nearer the start as they were at the end, it would have been a better gig. The highlight was a Bob Dylan cover, mostly played out with a picked electric guitar and Garry Christian's vocals. I don't really 'get' Bob Dylan, although I like a handful of his songs, so this was a surprise. Like Black's songs, the Christians' songs still stand up after 20 years.

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Can't believe you dragged yourself out to Camberley! Did you know that I'm from Camberley? I lived there 18 years - it's where I grew up. In fact, my parents live just round the corner from the theatre - you could have popped in for tea and crumpet! Julie x
Hi Julie. I didn't know that was your hometown. Perhaps your parents were in the audience. It looked like a lot of the town had come out to play. If I go there again, I'll be sure to claim my crumpet!
It wouldn't surprise me, my mother definitely knows of The Christians. About 20 years ago, I got some free tickets to see them do a special recording for TOTP. Alas, I had no way to get to the studio so was forced to let the tickets go...

:: I'll be sure to claim my crumpet!

You won't be disappointed!
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