8pm 22 February 2019
Lower Richmond Road
(And a cheeky review of Montserrat on the side)
Tickets available direct
You need to grab Otway while you can. John Otway is a genius, as is his mate Wild Willy Barrett. Their refusal to be pigeonholed then as now is the secret of their success. The self-deprecating humour in Really Free hides the fact that especially live Otway’s songs are immaculate creations. Just spend five minutes watching the amazing Old Grey Whistle Test session on YouTube.
I’m not sure when he moved from his own take on proto-punk into cabaret, but it’s been well-trailed in this internet-age by his version of The House of the Rising Sun on YouTube, a hilarious audience call and response. I worry slightly that the genius is too self-deprecating, but his humour and charming anecdotes sit well alongside the classic signature pieces, with Really Free perhaps providing the artistic bridge.
We’re told never to meet our heroes, but John Otway in person is every bit as marvellous now as he was as the beautiful androgynous rock-god of forty years ago. I last saw him a couple of years back. He came to his final song and he was good-natured enough to be “a sucker for a positive heckle” from me. I wept tears of joy and for God-knows-what heartache as he extemporised a perfect acoustic rendition of Genève.
I remember him saying he’d been working on a new collection. You can’t help loving Otway in person, and I’ve worshipped the rock-star for almost half a century, so I feel a bit guilty that I’m only now turning to Montserrat, which turns out to be a most worthy addition to the Otway catalogue.
No Otway album would be complete without the humorous wash, but the seriousness of purpose is announced quietly with the collection’s availability on vinyl. Montserrat has earned that honour, and someone has backed Otway’s vision with a substantial investment in the variety of formats.
You’ll have your own favourites and as ever the range of referencing satisfies every taste from the calypso on Jenny to the punk of Five Kisses. The Conductor’s Waltz is pure Otway, while Toronto’s psychedelic wash owes (perhaps unintentionally) something to Lambchop. Track of the album … oh who knows, but you won’t think Seagulls on Speed is a controversial candidate.
Well done John, I’ll see you on the night and I can’t wait.
John Otway & The Big Band
2017 CD only Box Set: CD, DVD & Book or Vinyl
© James Douglas