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STAN WEBB'S CHICKEN SHACK
Southport Arts Centre, 24 September 2005
I picked up a copy of the Autumn Brochure off the ticket counter and therein I found a little black & white photo of Stan with these few words alongside - "Stan Webb's 40 years in the business are testament to a great talent and an unrivalled commitment to his dedicated fans." with the words "Classic British Blues-Rock at it's very best" written beneath.
If the first quote needed backing up, there weren't any empty seats and a quick check on the audience revealed a considerable amount of wrinkles, silver and baldness where long hair and acne would have been 40 years ago. The intent of that statement was meant to say that Stan's commitment is reciprocated by his followers.
The 2nd programme quote can be simply backed up with the band's line-up.
There's a genius on the Drums - all the way from Shropshire International Airport - Mick Jones. On 5(five!)-string Bass, Jim Rudge. On Fender Strat, Gary Davies and on vocals and playing Gibson Les Paul, Stan. The instrument line up is one thing , add experience, quality and time spent together then you've got the best.
The show opened with Mick, Jim and Gary playing a very extended rolling intro to 'So Tell Me'. Eventually, Stan arrived, guitar over the shoulder and he took up position behind his mike stand. He then stooped to pick up the power lead, threading it through a couple of belt loops on his jeans before plugging it in his guitar. "Tell Me",he wails and then strikes guitar, "What in the world have I done ?" .
The needles on the volume dials passed through that arc from "10 through to 2 o'clock" and must have carried on full circle a couple of times before coming to rest at about 5-ish. The speaker diaphragms were in shreds, and our rib cages were rattling, but we didn't care !
Stan's guitar playing alone deserves to be mentioned alongside the Claptons, Knopflers and Hendrixs of this world. He also has a dry sense of humour and his voice is tremendous. Loud singing and the occasional ciggy should have wrecked his vocal chords years ago. But he can hold a note longer than most people half his age can hold their breath.
We didn't wait long to sample his wit. Stan was about to introduce the next song we suddenly became aware how close we were to the roof of this building as the wooshes and bangs from the Southport Fireworks Festival could be clearly heard above. In a perfect Tony Hancock voice Stan muttered, "Stone me, what a life !" Another bang was heard. "Oh, it's only a pigeon" exclaimed a member of the audience.
Time for some more music. "This song is especially for my 4 ex-wives.....it's called The Thrill Has Gone". A little banter ensued before Stan's guitar cried it's way through a wonderful melancholy laden intro. Mick Jones feathering the cymbals in accompaniment for a couple of minutes until the "1.....2" , the crash of drums and Stan's opening vocals.
I could laud the instrument work and vocal exploits ad inifinitum for each song on the setlist and fall well short of bringing you the full flavour. So before I give you the list I shall pick out a couple of highlights.
My favourite Chicken Shack track, CS Opera, lasted for around 20 minutes. And whilst remaining in my state of rapture over Stan and Gary's guitar repertoire, (They were so amped up that the plucked strings sounded like they were made from girders.), my attention was drawn to Mick Jones on drums. His stamina was amazing. I was worn out just watching him belt out such an intense rhythmn for so long.
Almost forgot - half-way through this melody Stan unplugged his guitar and cleared off for a couple minutes. He returned with a pint (didn't get me one) and then casually plugged himself back in and carried on from where he left off.
Textually, the setlist looks small. But from an 8:30 start, it was around 10:00 when we heard the intro to I'd Rather Go Blind. On this particular occasion Stan decided to have a little meander through the collection of cabaret tables which were placed in 4 rows between us and the stage.
So after the first verse, off came the guitar, and Stan was on the move. He unravelled the mike lead and off he went. He shook the hands of the boys and ran his fingers through the hair of the girls until, suddenly he had come to the end of his mike lead.
He put the mike down and he homed in, unexpectedly, on the oldest couple in the house. Two strides later he was right next to the poor chap's dear lady and put his arm around her chair....only to find that she had nodded off.
Upon return to the stage Stan was so taken aback that he had to take a quick breather before continuing. Surely no-one could have slept through this.
Needless to say the encore, Daughter of the Hillside, was played so loud that it could have awoken the dead.
1)So Tell Me
2)The Thrill Has Gone
4)(You are) The Sweetest Little Thing (featuring a tribute to Johnny Cash)
5)I Know, You Know
6) CS Opera ..... (guess what CS stands for)
7) (Oh Please) Doctor Brown
8) I'd Rather Go Blind
Encore (first time I've witnessed hem do one of these)
9) Daughter of the Hillside
Review: Graham Ashmore