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Hammersmith Apollo: Delirious – the final gig

Hammersmith Apollo: Delirious (+ The Cutting Edge Band)

Part of the spectacular lights and backdrop show

It’s hard to overestimate the impact that Littlehampton band Delirious have had on at least a couple of generations of young Christians.

From the early days of The Cutting Edge Band, excitedly heading up a growing youth event in a sleepy Sussex coastal town, to the days of high profile, high impact gigs at Wembley, Willow Creek, Greenbelt, top UK venues and packed stadiums around the world, the band have always had hearts for God, and a strong sense of community.

So it was fitting that the final gig at the Hammersmith Apollo last night felt like a family gathering. Albeit with a storming lights show and a crowd of 5000 packed in.

Kicking off as The Cutting Edge Band, it was the early to mid Nineties incarnate as the d: boys revisited their early back catalogue, bassist Jon Thatcher sporting what looked like a Beatles moptop wig. It was great to hear classics I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, Did You Hear The Mountains Tremble?, I’m Not Ashamed (of the Gospel), I’ve Found Jesus and Thank You For Saving Me again, with a number long established as standards in many churches.

There was even an exhilirating outing for perennial Cutting Edge Band favourite The Happy Song, a country stomp that the band had apparently sworn they’d never play live again. It had the whole place bouncing.

For the second part of the show, as Delirious, the band hopped from album to album, plundering classic live tracks along with memorable singles, and several changes of stage attire.

It was a reminder of the sheer quantity of memorable songs the band have delivered over the years, from modern worship songs like Majesty, My Glorious and Jesus’ Blood to indie anthems Rain Down, Solid Rock and Paint the Town Red. Rock gig or passionate worship gathering? As ever with Delirious, it was both.

It was great to hear King of Fools again, with Stu G delivering the bluesy refrain on a guitar “as old as my mum – and it’s great to have them both here tonight”. Martin Smith delivered a heart-stopping version of It’s OK, another reminder of a man who combines a great voice with real songwriter’s craft.

While drummer Paul Evans, keyboard maestro Tim Jupp and bassist Jon Thatcher kept a bit more in the background and let Martin and Stu G get on with the showmanship, they put in fantastic performances – testament to what a tight and punchy live band Delirious have become with the years of touring.

Much loved former drummer Stew Smith also put in a guest appearance to team up with Paul Evans on a blistering version of Investigate. Other highlights included cracking takes on Deeper and Historymakers, Martin in white cape and crown for a timely reminder of the spiritual poverty of materialism with King of Comfort, and a straight voiced rendition of the Lord’s Prayer – not a regular chorus for the Apollo, one suspects.

Thank yous were effusive, the Delirious daughters appeared on stage a couple of times for energetic dance workouts and all the families came on at the end of the final encore, a heartfelt My Soul Sings (“this is what we do when we run out of words” said Martin).

Video clips reminded us of the band’s history, and on screen goodbyes came from each band member. Martin’s reminded the audience “it’s over to you now” backing up his words from the stage: “it’s always been about you rather than us”.

Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life boomed cheerily out from the PA as we filed out.

An end of an era – but what a legacy. The dancers who dance upon injustice have only just begun …

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Review: Oli Brown Band, Worthing Assembly Hall

Oli Brown Band – Worthing Assembly Hall

It’s an irony that in a genre where artists get better the older they are, blues newcomer Oli Brown is turning heads while still in his teens.

Oli’s power-packed three piece – the Oli Brown Band – delivered a powerful set at Worthing Assembly Hall last night, although it was really the wrong kind of venue for this stage in his career.

Oli Brown Band on stage in Worthing

A crowd of less than 150, spread thinly around the auditorium at tables, mustered plenty of enthusiasm, but what you really wanted was a smaller, intimate club atmosphere with sweat running down the walls.

Much of material the centred around the band’s highly acclaimed 2008 debut album Open Road, with a few blues classics such as Every Day I Have The Blues and Black Betty thrown in for good measure.

Inevitably it was Oli’s blend of powerful, mature vocals and guitar heroics that dominated. Tall, thin and with a shock of shoulder-length black hair, he was a charismatic focal point, strolling around the stage playing with the casual insouciance of a veteran. Astonishing, considering he’s only been playing the instrument for seven years.

Style-wise, there were shades of Stevie Ray Vaughan in his fluid, melodic runs, and other blues masters such as BB King and Buddy Guy (the band delivered a blistering version of his Steppin’ Out, Steppin’ In), as he cranked up the tone and the drama. At times on the slower numbers his jazz-inflected tones even touched on the likes of Joe Pass and a guitar version of Oscar Peterson.

Freddie Hollis on 6-string bass was a rock solid rhythm unit with quality drummer Simon Dring, and the pair added welcome harmony vocal back-up at times, as well as having their own solo slot to show off their virtuosity.

Standouts included album opener Psycho, the rocking title track Open Road and an impassioned Stone Cold (Roxanne) which had Oli yelling his vocal refrain sans mic to the back of the hall.

When during the encore the young guitarist sauntered out among the crowd to solo at length and up close, it was just a reminder of how blues can connect at gut level. The future’s bright for this power trio. They’re great now – give them time (and they’ve got plenty) and their potential is frightening …

Further dates lined up in the south east:

4 Dec – The West Coast Live, Margate
5 – Wingspan Club, Crawley
9 – Plaza Suite, Sevenoaks
10 – The Maltings, Farnham
15 – The Brook, Southampton
16 – The Jazz Cafe, London

More at www.oliselectricblues.co.uk

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