3 gigs in 4 days: Prince, Graham Parker… and Grape Juice!

One of those weeks when live music came to the fore. Absolutely love it.

Started on Wednesday with Prince at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. Absolutely magnificent and I’ve blogged about the concert already. You can read it here.

On Friday, a whole load of us went to see Graham Parker and the Rumour at the Shepherd’s Bush O2 Empire. GP was a big favourite at university, back in the late 70s. His blend of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, a bit of soul and a lot of rock’n’roll worked perfectly and made him part of the UK new wave movement.

The concert didn’t disappoint in terms of the music  Like Prince, GP gave the audience a lot of the favourites they had come for. And he had managed to reassemble his Rumours band. So they opened with “Fools Gold”, and over the course of the evening we had “White Honey”, “Howling Wind”, “Don’t Ask Me Questions”, “Hotel Chambermaid”, “Lady Doctor” “Love Gets You Twisted” and “Soul Shoes”, amongst others. A choice selection.


The only thing I’d say is that it all felt a bit sedate. These are guys in their sixties. Bruce Springsteen is still amazingly energetic at the age, but he’s the exception. GP and the Rumour were not in-yer-face. The old Parker snarl was a bit of a whimper. And that’s fair enough. But it meant that I didn’t get the buzz from the concert that I’d hoped for. I was still coming down from Prince, who was still out there rocking, I guess.

Then, on Saturday, I went down to a pub in Brentford called The Brewery Tap. In all my years living nearby, I’d never heard of it, even though it is a Fullers pub. It was on a road leading down to the river, amid garages and disused warehouses. The pub has live music most nights, mostly jazz, and today was the turn of Grape Juice. They are a bunch of young lads in their last year of A-levels. The saxophonist is the son of a friend of my friend Jon.


They were good! Playing not exactly jazz funk, but jazz with a bit of funk.  They covered Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and ” Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and the standard “Caravan”, amongst others. At the end of their second set they played an encore of “Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band. All with a lot of improvisation on sax and guitar around the basic melodies.

I was impressed by their musicianship and the fact that they were playing jazz at their age, given all the other influences these days. I asked them afterwards how they had got into it. And guess what. Kyle, the saxophonist, had learnt clarinet at school and his teacher was a jazz fan.

How important are teachers?

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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6 Responses to 3 gigs in 4 days: Prince, Graham Parker… and Grape Juice!

  1. Anyone who can pick up the pieces in “Pick Up The Pieces” is a great student, musician or teacher! _Resa

  2. Dood says:

    Agreed there, Resa. Quite a complex piece if I remember…….

    John, having seen the first two, though missing Grape Juice, I broadly concur – and in fact you let Graham Parker off a little more lightly than your post-gig mutterings suggested.

    I agree that they were a bit sedate, but (a) the average age of the band was about 92, (b) Parker himself was very knowing about all that (I loved his invocation to the crowd to “work through that arthritis”) and (c) I thought the band were far tighter, slicker and generally more exuberant than I had feared they might be. And unlike some of the great voices of yesteryear that have lost what they once had – I’m thinking about that old croaker McCartney – Parker’s still seemed as powerful and plangent as I remembered back in the middle of the last century.

    And it’s not the fault of Parker’s drummer that he doesn’t look like Prince’s drummer.

    Is plangent a word?

    • John S says:

      Yeah, plangent is a word and GP isn’t as plangent as he used to be. I guess the fact is that Prince made me feel young and GP made me feel old. When I saw Macca a while back I really liked it. But what a back catalogue we are talking about there.

  3. Dood says:

    I’m with you on the Macca back catalogue. I just wish he could have bowed out a little sooner. But I realise that thinking that is almost a capital offence in some quarters.

    And I have to suggest an alternative reading of the two gigs: Prince made me feel old, and Parker made me feel young!

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