I met up with Nigel Kemp this evening in The Library pub in Islington, ahead of our crossing the road to see a solo performance by Graham Parker in the Union Chapel, an artist we saw play live many times in the early 1980s.
It was great to catch up with Nigel after so long. We had become firm friends when we worked together for GRE in Chelmsford in 1981. We subsequently shared a house in Forest Gate, east London, during 1983 and into 1984 with another long-term friend of mine, Chris Lawson.
We could have spent the night in the pub catching up on everything that’s happened down the years, but the venue was calling. Although not before we had said hello to songwriter Gary Osborne, best known for his co-writes for Elton John, including Part time love and Blue eyes.
Nigel and I arrived in the Chapel just as support act Stephen Lawson was completing his set and so we went upstairs to the bar. After a quick beer, we took seats high up at the back of the church, a position which gave us a superb view of the building and the stage.
Graham was in good form and delivered an interesting set, including several classic songs from his best known album, Squeezing out sparks. Understandable as the tour is marking the fortieth anniversary of its original release.
The mid-set slow burner, Black honey, was the highlight for me, a track from his second superb album, Heat treatment. Great to hear so many memorable songs again: Fool’s gold, Discovering Japan, Nobody hurts you, Passion is no ordinary word, Howlin’ wind, Stick to me and White Honey. Graham was in fine voice and although we missed the support of the excellent Rumour, there was no mistaking why Parker is still held in high regard by so many.
Once he had served up his three song encore, we said a quick hello to ex-Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont and headed backstage at the invitation of promoter Neil O’Brien. I have known Neil since the 1980s, a time when he used to book me for forty minute solo sets in the Mean Fiddler Acoustic Room, Harlesden, on a regular basis.
The dressing room was a peaceful haven and Graham was relaxing on a settee, talking to friends and family. We greeted Neil and then had a pleasant chat with legendary Stiff label founder Dave Robinson. The real surprise of the evening was the appearance of Paul Weller and Mick Talbot and it was a pleasure to shake hands with the Modfather.
Nigel and I spoke briefly to Graham and thanked him a very enjoyable gig, before we headed out into the London autumnal air. I said goodbye to Nigel, promising to meet up once more very soon, before offering Neil a lift home to Battersea. This gave us time to discuss all things promoter-related and the imminent threat to touring across Europe presented by Brexit.
I made it home around midnight and could look back on a special evening.