So here I was once more, the Black Horse in Lacey Green, Sunday night. The snow was not going to stop me getting along to see another acoustic set from John Dexter Jones And The Steven Twins (aka those guys out of that Jump band) – still on a high after the brilliant gig with Panic Room at The Peel the night before and even more so after 2 Fernando Torres goals had seen off Chelsea, with the added bonus of fat Frank seeing red. They were using this as a warm up for their gig next Saturday supporting Midge Ure at Cheltenham before 750 people – so if you are going and do not want to spoil the anticipation of the setlist, look away now. Tonight they were facing 10 people, plus the lovely barmaid, who may not have been there by choice.
They opened with Man At The Window, “the slowest song in the world”, and just as they got to “in my mind’s eye I knew that I was leaving” 3 of the audience got up and left. Carry that percentage forward to Saturday and that’ll be a 200 people exodus… Anyway, they picked that song up from “leaving”, and followed it up with A Man Was Made – both excellent songs. And then a lovely treat, Bethesda, for “a fellow Liverpool fan” – that’s me, and I’m chuffed, and I really do love the song. There was a bit of repetition so that Steve ‘Ronnie’ Rundle could perfect his part – as John said, “that’s why we do these rehearsals”, and “you wouldn’t have wanted to play those notes in Cheltenham” – but it is amazing the depth of sound they create from two acoustic guitars and a voice. John suggests we come there to see the band for what they are…”buskers”, says Ronnie. The Freedom Train includes percussion as John taps on Ronnie’s guitar, and the crowd is swelled by 10% as another person enters the bar. Bonnie Raitt’s Angel From Montgomery promised to be a race against time, some dixieland thrash, as John decided to try to ignore the calls of natureand keep his performance urgent, saying that “this won’t happen at Cheltenham, but then I probably won’t have four pints of Stella beforehand”, and another person enters to keep those audience figures climbing (almost back to the starting level). John points to Ronnie as he sings “when I was a young girl, had me a cowboy”, and Ronnie is oblivious til he looks up and sees the smirks on everyone’s faces, they get to the solo, John exits, and with precise timing returns to the stage just in time to pick up the next line. Very impressive – maybe it should feature at Cheltenham after all. There is a real country ending to the song – marvellous. They finish the Midge set with Free At Last, which the sound engineer at The Peel had said was the best last song he had heard. He’s not wrong.
And they continued…with a track which had had its debut when they had played it for the first time with the full band the night before at The Peel and would now in the Black Horse be playing it acoustically for the only ever time. And When The Grinders Fire Again had a real folk feel to it, a very powerful sound. Graham had brought 10% of the original audience with him, so that percentage had probably risen by now, so they felt it only right to play again a track they had played for him at the last Black Horse session. “This is a Pink Floyd song, God help us” takes us into Wish You Were Here, this time with percussion from a set of keys, and, yes, I think we all wished Dave Gilmour was here. A quick detour into some Fleetwood Mac was stopped before it went too far, and instead we received a quick lesson into the dark arts of the guitarist. The track they were about to play has a different tuning from when it is played electronically, and if you drop one string down, it makes it sadder. Maybe that would have stopped people laughing at John’s intro to Down Three Times the night before… It’s a wonderful song, very enjoyable, poignant lyrics. The Pressed Man was next, John telling us “I read a book to write this song…how sad is that”, but the suggestion from the audience that it had been a Ladybird book was denied. And the education continued, as we received what seemed like a blow by blow account of the English Civil War, before we finally got to the music – worth the wait, though, for what strikes me as a quintessential folk song. Lennard’s Blues was being performed for the first time in an acoustic setting, and the first time in a pub, a real bluesy foot tapper, upbeat, and John’s recounting that he wanted to produce something permanent so that Gordon Lennard would forever live on went down very well. They had not played it for about 3 years, but the version of Marillion’s Sugar Mice was glorious, with excellent guitar work from Steve Hayes. Thank you for that one ! And just before they finish there is enough time for a hyper version of Dancing Queen, with the set closing on Sweet Home Alabama, featuring a slowed down looping section, an a cappella ending with Steve Hayes asking, “do you want me to join you ?” “yes !”, and a final “thank you.Â It’s been an absolutely fantastic rehearsal”.
You would pay a lot to get entertainment like that. Here, it’s free. And the evening continues with football banter, discussion of Robbie Keane and how he was never going to fit within the current Liverpool sysytem, and the Steelers have taken the lead in the Superbowl and that is my cue to leave, navigate the snowy backroads, and get home in time to enjoy the second half of the gridiron.