Last night myself and The Synapses In My BRANE met at Great Portland Street to go and see John Otway and Jilted John. The gig had originally been at Koko, but then the venue was closed down for some reason and the show was moved to 229, which was MUCH better for us. Koko is one of those old Victorian theatre venues that always feel too dark, MUCH too cramped and, for some reason, too expensive, and is also in stinky CAMDEN. 229 was much handier (and right next door to a Pizza Express doing their ACE vegan pizzas too) and actually dead nice. We'd been there a couple of times before, and remembered it as a long thin basement, but I think it must have moved next door, as we went through a different entrance and the room we found ourselves in felt like a Hotel Ballroom. It was under a hotel, so it might well have been!
You can always tell if you haven't seen Otway for a while by the presence of NEW JOKES. We guessed we hadn't seen him for at least a couple of years, which meant there were about THREE new gags! I've been going to see him for thirty years now, and the set/act has not changed that much in all that time - it develops much like a GLACIER - so it was a bit of a shock to be laughing at gags I hadn't heard before, especially when some of them were actually Quite Good!
He was, as ever, GRATE, and it's lovely now to hear him tell his stories and realise that we were a (tiny, but still) part of some of them. I'm always amazed, when I see him playing non-headlining gigs, to realise that there are still people going to gigs who somehow have never SEEN Otway before! Especially at a show like this, where everyone else was at LEAST our age and had clearly been to at least SOME gigs before, yet many of them were laughing in SURPRISE (rather than everyone else's comfortable DELIGHT and RECOGNITION) at some of the jokes. I can only surmise that they must have been doing it on purpose, saving their first Otway gig for a special occasion.
He was supporting Jilted John, who was dead good, but it did make for a bit of a strange combination. Here was John Otway - an ACTUAL Punk Legend with TWO hits - doing the support for a PRETEND Punk Legend with ONE hit, which was a PRETEND Punk song even at the time! I guess maybe the fact that Jilted John hasn't done around 2,000 actual gigs since the 70s means it's a bit more special to see him!
As the second half of the gig went on it slowly dawned on me that this was a SHOW - the songs were linked together, and told chronological stories. Was the set based on a MUSICAL maybe? I don't know, he didn't make a big thing of it or anything, but it felt as if there was more to it than met the EAR. I was, I must admit, a bit disappointed that John Shuttleworth didn't come on for the encore, but John Otway DID, and it was hilarious watching everybody realise that he only knew the "Gordon Is A Moron" bit for the main song (which, wonderfully traditionally, they did a second time at the end).
It was dead good but, as I say, a bit confusing. Did I see a Punk Rock show? A pastiche, tribute, or recreation of same? Or something ELSE?!?!?