I visited London yesterday; caught the 5.58am train from Preston and arrived at Euston for 8.16.
At Tapas Brindisa restaurant I was served Spanish food by Spanish people. At Boggi Milano I bought Italian clothes from Italian people and at The French Comte I bought French cheese and pork from French people.
In the evening I returned to my small town in Lancashire where the people voted by the majority for Brexit. It had been Lytham Club Day where local people displayed their civic pride by trundling through the streets on slow driven floats celebrating this boys’ club or that church group. It was a million times remove from the cosmopolitan vibrancy of the capital city. The locals in Lancashire may feel that their way of life is threatened by the EU and the freedom of movement of people, the people of London have embraced it and it is a greater city for it.
Brexit might mean I can no longer buy outstanding Italian clothes, taste exotic French cheeses and eat Jamon Iberico for breakfast in my own country but as long as the floats still trundle then we shall forever have our England.
I’d never heard of Grillstock before I read an article in the June edition of Lonely Planet magazine advertising it as one of the ‘must attend’ events during the month. Having never knowingly attended a ‘must attend’ event I entered it onto our radar and C duly bought tickets for us to attend the Manchester event on Saturday June 8th. The weather had been set fair all week and this weekend was no exception so it was lightly garbed that we set off on a walk to St Annes-On-The-Sea station to catch the train to Manchester Oxford Road via Preston. The train was running about 20 minutes late but we arrived in a very sunny Manchester at around 1.45pm before walking in the direction of Albert Square for the BBQ event of the year. C looked great in her new Italian silk frock from T K Maxx, I was in a Ralph Lauren shirt, Armani 3/4 length shorts and Keen sandals (for those who care about such things!).
We could smell Grillstock before we could see it as the aroma of barbecued meat wafted breezily towards us to herald the pleasures which awaited us. C had bought E tickets for the event which worked fairly efficiently but within a minute of queuing we were in amongst what was clearly a well attended local event.
We both experienced an immediate sensation of information overload as our visual, hearing and smelling senses were bombarded by a smoregasbord of sound, smells and sights with people milling around, drinking booze, chomping on meat and the aroma of succulent meats tantalizing our senses. After a walk round we both queued up at a tent run by a group of friendly South Africans and we definitely chose the right line to join as they kept us tempted by feeding us pieces of just cooked rib and chicken as well as engaging us in friendly chat about what they were doing and how they were cooking. Just as we reached to head of the queue, I gave C my order for pulled pork and barbecued corn while I went off to a little wine outlet selling New Zealand winf from Marlborough and bought us a glass each (£4 per glass). We sat on the steps under the statue of one of Manchester’s founding fathers as I tucked into my pulled pork, corn and slaw. It was a reminder to me how superior overseas coleslaw is the tasteless creamed vegetable stuff we tolerate when you taste a slaw made up of subtle flavours and the tang of red wine vinegar. The pulled pork was amazing; tender and full of the flavours it had been marinated in and C’s ribs were tender and sweet. Great food, great wine and blazing sunshine with the soundtrack of sweet soul music playing live in the background; what could be better?
After the wine and food it was off to the beer tent for a pint of
Brooklyn lager and a glass of Chardonnay for C as we lay back against the plinth if the statue and drank in the atmosphere. After another drink we decided to go for a bit of a wander around Manchester City centre; the city was abuzz with people many in attendance for the Rod Stewart and Bon Jovi concerts also taking place in the city tonight and the ParkLife event at Heaton Park just outside the centre. We had a pee in House of Fraser and a mosey around Harvey Nics and Selfridges – C tried on some blue lipstick much to our amusement and another drink at The Mitre. We then had a walk down to Canal Street in Manchester’s Gay Village which always has a great vibe about it and we had a couple more drinks, sitting outside, manoeuvering ourselves to catch the last glimpses of the sun peering between the buildings.
We walked back to Albert Square, stopping on the way at a Tesco Express to purchase a bottle of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc which I stuffed into my deepest pocket before flashing our ‘pass out’ stamps to the stewards and returning to Grillstock. We found a position under our statue again, the barbeques and stalls were still going strong and the music had changed to reggae. C found some plastic glasses and we slowly drank our bottle of sav blanc. There is nothing quite like being with the person you love, totally relaxed, drinking good wine with music, food and happy people all around. Perhaps it could only have been bettered had we been on a beach instead!? The next question was what food to try next as we wandered round the stalls some tempting us with their cooking smells, others with the site of their food. I chose a spicy sausage sandwich which I smothered in the spiciest chilli sauce I could which probably wasn’t a great idea and C had one herself. We had another drink each before fatigue and satiation got the better of us and with the last band still playing we made our way back to Piccadilly station. We still have time for another glass of Peroni before catching the train back to St Annes via Preston at the end of a quite fantastic day.
UFO were the first band I ever went to see live as a callow long haired 15 year old rocker back in July 1978 at the Nottingham Playhouse theatre. The line up that day included 3 of the line up at tonight’s gig at 53 degrees in Preston, namely singer Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and guitarist/keyboards Paul Raymond as well as other founder member Pete Way on bass and the mercurial Michael Schenker on lead guitar. Michael Schenker is long gone and tonight’s line up included American Vinnie Moore on lead guitar plus A N Other bassist for hire. I have no idea who was playing bass as he was never introduced but he was a bit younger that the other band members (about 40) but had the skinny black tea-shirted look of a bit of a rock n roll survivor and the sucked in cheek-bones to match – and bad tattoos.
This was my first time to 53 Degrees which is on the edge of the relatively new UCLAN the expansion of which has gone some way into reviving Preston from a decaying Northern town into a slightly more vibrant city and appeared to be a modern, purpose built venue with good eye-lines and decent facilities (bar). Ticket availability on the door suggested the 1,500 capacity venue wasn’t quite sold out but there was a decent sized crowd there to see the band now in their 44th year!
We got there in good time to buy a drink and find a spot to stand before the band came on to open with perennial classic Lights Out. The one thing that immediately struck me was the pace of the song seemed slower than the original album version and other recorded live versions. Perhaps it was no wonder, Phil Mogg (who I recently discovered I share a birthday with) is approaching 65 while Raymond is only two and a half years off his 70th birthday! Lights Out was immediately followed by (think I’ve got this right) Mother Mary and Let It Roll and you suddenly realised you were watching a class act with a brilliant back catalogue of top rock songs. The classics were followed by a couple of new songs from the new album Seven Deadly but bar a track from The Visitor album ‘Hell Driver’ the rest of the set was made up of songs from the classic ‘Schenker’ years all appearing on the magnificent Strangers In The Night love album.
The last time I saw UFO when they reunited with Schenker to tour in about 1995 when Schenker and Pete Way appeared to take centre stage and Mogg very much remained ‘stage rear’ and appeared at times to hold the microphone some distance from his mouth which I felt was to avoid us hearing his struggling vocal. But tonight he was in great form (for his age) definitely leading the band with a great rapport with American guitarist Vinnie More and loud and clear on the vocals. Whereas he’s gone from skinny jeaned chanteur in his older age he’s become camper and grumpy who wouldn’t look out of place doing stand-up in a local comedy club! But it was a nice touch when he remembered a local musician now departed. UFO have had great guitarists in the path so it’s impossible not to compare Moore with his predecessors, especially Schenker and his successor Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman. Chapman gave UFO a sometimes darker feel and also a pop-rock feel especially on the brilliant Wild The Willing And The Innocent album following Schenker’s melodic and thrilling riffs and soloing. Moore appears less fluid that especially Schenker and his CV suggests he’s played at the highest level with, amongst others, Alice Cooper, but never really played in a band at the top table. Not that I know much about guitar playing but I thought he might be a bit of a classicist at heart rather than natural born rocker but there were shades of Schenker when he held his guitar behind his neck and continued with a ripping solo, which it was great to see the mystery bassist joining in with. Perhaps a bit too much reverb on his solo during Rock Bottom and he certainly looked more comfortable playing his own compositions rather than from the UFO back catalogue. Raymond, in spite of his highlights and un-changing hair style looked his age at times and Andy Parker kept a steady beat at the back but there was no reason to fault them musically as they kept faith to the classics.
A great gig, much appreciated by us ageing rockers which also appeared genuinely received by the band members. Long may UFO continue to knock out the classic songs, here is what I remember to be the set list (not necessarily in order):
Let It Roll
Only You Can Rock Me
Love To Love
Too Hot To Handle
Burn Your House Down
Encore: Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot