Last week Essentially Pop went down to the Islington Assembly Hall for a live recording of the Vintage TV Sessions. This particular episode was hosted by TV and radio presenter, Terry Christian, and featured Norwegian band, Katzenjammer, Irish singer Camille O’Sullivan, 60s legends, The Troggs, and the inimitable Midge Ure.
First on stage were Katzenjammer, multi-instrumentalist English-language band from Oslo, Norway. Formed after attending a private music school in Oslo, the four members, Anne Marit Bergheim, Marianne Sveen, Solveig Heilo and Turid Jørgensen, were brought together by a common feeling of being “the outcasts at the school.” Katzenjammer felt that their music school didn’t encourage originality, but “only wanted to teach what had been done.”
Far from “caterwauling”, the music of Katzenjammer (named for the Katzenjammer Kids, the oldest comic still in syndication), had rousing, happy vocals, and played an enormous array of instruments – from the enormous 3-stringed cat-faced bass, as well as both electric and acoustic guitars and ukuleles, drums and trumpet. All four members of the band were quite at ease at any and all of the instruments, changing them between songs. When Solveig Heilo picked up the trumpet, we weren’t expecting her to also be able to sing as well – but sing she did, with the trumpet providing an incredibly rousing accompaniment.
Next on stage was Camille O’Sullivan. An Irish singer, musician and actress, this is reflected in her style, which is both dramatic and commanding. Camille sang Nick Cave’s ‘Ship Song’, Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’, and ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ – all three were very moving renditions – particularly ‘Hurt’, where Camille sat and held the audience in the palm of her hand. Her style is evocative of the cabaret artists she studied when she first started singing – and it is very easy to imagine her singing in a smokey bar in Berlin.
Camille’s long-time collaborator Feargal Murray, with whom she’s been working since 1997, ably accompanied her on both piano and trumpet – at one point playing both at the same time! The duo clearly work well together, and their ease with each other was quite evident on stage.
The third act to grace the stage were The Troggs. Not quite the same band as that in their 1960s heyday – in fact, guitarist Chris Britton is the only surviving member from the original lineup, but nonetheless they put on a brilliant show, with Chris notable not only for his awesome guitar licks, but also for his wicked sense of humour! The Troggs played three of their hits, ‘Girl Like You’, ‘Feels Like a Woman’ and of course, the song that is synonymous with the band, ‘Wild Thing’. Everyone in the audience nodded their heads, tapped their feet, clapped and sang along as The Troggs opened up with ‘A Girl Like You’. The guitar-led, ‘Feels Like a Woman’ showed that Chris still has it after all these years!
The Troggs are your ubiquitous touring band – totally professional, they know exactly how to get the audience going, and clearly had a lot of supporters in the audience who were there only for them. ‘Wild Thing’ had everyone going as Chris Allen on lead vocals showed how well he had been able to step into the shoes of original vocalist Reg Presley.
Last, but by no means least, Midge Ure performed a magnificent acoustic set. We were sitting with Kimberley Pearson and Tanith Hicks, both of whom had travelled a great distance to see Midge perform, with Kimberley coming from Newcastle and Tanith (who quite incidentally is in the video for Godley and Creme’s song, ‘Cry’) from the Isle of Wight. Such is the draw of this man – they’ve seen him perform on a number of occasions and already have their tickets for the 80s Invasion Tour, of which he is a part, next March.
Midge opened with a magnificent rendition of Visage’s ‘Fade To Grey’ – heartfelt and moving, the perfect homage to the late Steve Strange, the song sounded like it should always be played acoustically. Just one man and his guitar on stage, Midge pulled the audience in with his strong vocals – the guitar singing as much as he was.
‘Vienna’ is another song to which a whole other layer is added when played acoustically. With the smoke machine pouring ambience behind his head, reminiscent of the Russell Mulcahy video from the 80s, we were transfixed as it seemed Midge used his entire body to sing – pulling his head back away from the microphone to lessen the impact of his powerful voice. He could quite easily have performed un-miked if it were not for the fact that it was being recorded for television.
‘If I Was’, poignant and emotional, stirred us all, even bringing tears to our eyes at one point. The song clearly means a lot to Midge, at least he made us feel that way.
Midge’s vocals and guitar were on point from start to finish, and it’s safe to say that nobody in the audience wanted it to end.
Currently on tour, you can find details of Midge Ure’s tour dates on his website, including details of The 80s Invasion Tour. You can also find Midge online on Twitter and Facebook. You can preorder Midge’s new album, ‘Breathe Again (Special Edition)’, which was recorded in Scotland earlier this year on his Breathe Again Tour, via his webshop.
This edition of The Vintage TV Sessions will be broadcast on 24 September. For further details, check out their website. Vintage TV is broadcast in the UK on Sky 369, Freeview 242, Virgin 343 and Freesat 505.