Tom Robinson – Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, 11th January 2024
Due to a worthy cause we met up outside the box office of the Hall and not in the Farriers Arms. Dry January is a revolution which, increasingly, many subscribe to and the seductive allure of the bar is to be tactically avoided.
You couldn’t avoid the ebullient opening to the night’s intoxicating performance. Tom Robinson was primed and with his “glass half- full approach,” we knew he was out to make amends – following a fulsome apology the Post Office could learn from – he acknowledged the unavoidable delay for tonight’s gig. Then throwing and holding shapes which Simonon and Hooky would be proud of, the gallant bassist, in his 74th year offered up his own form of musical compensation.
Winter of 79 was a mission statement from the outset. Part social commentary and part social history the song captures the inequalities of a bygone era that sadly are just as poignant today. The sound system at the Hall knew its role and the end result really did “push the envelope.” The song is as powerful now as the Far-right wanted to be in ‘79.
Before the performance we had been discussing the plight of the nation’s teeth and the dire provision of dentistry in our country. Still if you can afford to pay privately you should be alright.
The Mighty Sword of Injustice was written as a protest song against the removal of legal aid for those that could not afford to access justice in this country. As the line articulates – “One law for the rich and another for the poor” – capturing what our collective society is becoming increasingly aware of…but what has protest ever achieved? At this stage the audience started to sing along involuntarily.
Robinson’s collective band was happy to collude with their musicianship and capitalise on hours of rehearsal and playing live. Tighter than the receptionist’s grip on your dentist’s diary the band impressed all with a “scale and a polish” that brought a contented smile to the room.
There was only one word to describe the night accurately: warm. The warmth that emanated from the stage was reflected back. The bonhomie of the night was aided and abetted by Robinson’s ability to recount a story and time the punchline like toothache can at 3am in the morning. Any anecdote that ends with the payoff – “I’m Eddy Grant!” – deserves to convulse a church Hall into laughter. The warm tone of Adam Phillip’s guitars and Simmon’s keyboards added to the night’s agreeable temperature.
Glad to Be Gay is a genuine anthem of protest and a rollicking song of defiance. Two Ladies with arms aloft, their glasses of wine refracting the light causing a rainbow effect, sang as if the song was written just for them. The wife and husband sat opposite sang along with the sentiment and all with a knowing smile. The accompanying Sunday People introduction complemented the song in a way the Editors could never imagine.
Only the Now, Robinson’s favourite song is tied- down to the reality that the past is just that and the future is unknown – so we need to celebrate the now. Tom Robinson was visibly struggling with a chest infection, his vocal cords protesting incessantly but clearly fighting the cause for us, delivered a defiant performance. The moment was not lost on those in pews. The ensuing standing ovation nearly matched the outpouring when Vennells handed back her CBE.
I could not have been the only one thinking the night’s gig was worth waiting for? Seven months is not a great deal of time and, of course, the wait was worthwhile. What Alan Bates and 549 others have gone through for over 20 odd years would have caused most to hit the bottle!
By: Nicholas David Burford
Photo by: Simon Cross @ Maverick Photography