La Sala Republicca,Valencia
Spain May 31. 2002

Last Update: 13. november 2003


¿Qué Vida? Love in Valencia.

Some people call him the space cowboy, some people call him a gangster…of love.
On the dot, like Mussolini’s trains, the band arrive at 2 p.m. in Valencia station, Spain.
With Stetson hat and the finest cowboy boots on the coast, Arthur touches down and is already charming a Spanish babe in shades who makes her exit, not knowing who or where this guy is at.
The band are a down-to-earth , friendly bunch . Mike the guitarist chats about putting a bit of Metallica in the mix, and I shoot the shit with the others mentioning Dave Housden of the Castle and Tolben Skott( 2 righteous pilgrims of the legend that is Arthur Lee)
Standing outside the station and facing the bullring I turn to Arthur. “ Hello Mr Lee. It’s been ten years.” A peaceful smile and a nod when reminded of being backstage at Shack at the T&C 2 in 1992 is mentioned. I feel like saying “if you take your shades off , I’ll put mine on” but meeting the man is enough. He signs Da Capo, Forever Changes and Out Here, we shake, hesitate for a moment and I wish him well. They head off for the hotel. Muggy skies but good vibes.
Republicca is the venue- an out of town venue that ain’t gonna keep the neighbours up . The Mislata barrio is not exactly the tourist hot spot of a city with a beautiful, winding centro historico like something out of a Da Capo photo session.What the hell, once your inside ,what counts is whether the joint is rocking.
The support band Bondage sound ,on paper, like they are going to be some sadistic, tuneless punk band but they turn out to be a tuneful , four -piece with bite. The singer has got the Steve Marriot hair and moves down to pat and their crunchy, melodic songs rock with an obvious debt to riffier side of the Beatles. A cover of Savoy Truffle wins the crowd and you soon forget you are waiting for Arthur and the band.
The crowd is filling up and by the time Love hit the stage it is full but you can still breathe (a marijuana –filled air). With tambourine and crystal clear sound , Arthur kicks in to ‘ My little Red Book.’Straight from the off, it is clear that the band know the songs inside out but in the best of ways. ‘Love’ love Love and they play with feeling throughout. If Chuck Berry had had the same attitude , his live act would not have become a parody.
Sure , Arthur looks older -not the edgy, very stoned but immaculate rocker of a decade ago. He is still lithe and confident but he doesn’t prowl the stage, he works it by delivering some of the most original compositions of the last century.With a scarf around his head and a kind of a black trilby, he has the timeless, lived in face of an old sage. He’s the old blues man and he’s been singing ever since the world began…
The black soul singer in him comes out on his trills on Orange Skies. He always had it over so many singers who became more famous , less naturally talented but more driven . At source, despite his psychedelic eclecticism, he could sing a blues, gospel or soul song that would leave the rest behind..if he felt like it . Mike’s clear jazz touches add beauty to a cotton candy of a composition.Bryan would have approved.
Someone takes a photo during Signed D.C. and Arthur improvises, looking at the perpetrator “ I got one foot in the graveyard-and so do you too.” Da Capo numbers get a good airing with Mike masterful on chorus guitar that cover the sax and flute parts. Arthur mumbles a propos of nothing that he “can’t understand how polite I am being in Valencia, it must be because I’m pissed.” He doesn’t move around like the Black Panther of Shack days but his voice is powerful and clear throughout. As the set grows, it dawns on you just how many ‘ hits’ Love had that only their fans know about. Alone Again or is moving for those poignant words and the trumpet part becoming a vocal that fills the room as audience and band join into what is introduced as a ‘ Spanish influenced song.’ The latins dig those latin grooves and ‘ Between Clark and Hilldale’ is a stormer.
‘AndMoreAgain’ is the real jewel in the crown. A strange song that came out of nowhere and belongs to neither the sixties or now- it is a timeless, very human piece about the flaws, the hopes and regrets. I’m almost certain Arthur sings ‘ Ann Morgan’ in one of the verses( and old girlfriend that some claim it was really about) A fellow Love fan feels this is better that the original. Lee sings with no affectation and pure feeling. Giving his heart even though it’s been broken so many times.
The older you get , the more poignant some of the songs become but for Arthur “ locking them up today..throwing away the key…served my time , served it well, you made my soul a cell” -it is a catharsis. He seems a man at peace rather than bitter. When you really have been to hell and back it has become a case of be thankful for what you’ve got.
He ain’t lost his sense of humour either. On the Red Telephone as the guitarists are weaving in and out of the trippy choruses and Sha-La-Las, Arthur tells the Spanish crowd to “ Paint.. me…charcoal.” At the end of the gig he ponders aloud about “ The last time I was in Valencia it was Valencia, California and I was looking for a girl named Daphne.” He then promptly walks off the stage.
The set is long but they last the course with only the ¿Que Vida? mid-tempo number not really keeping the full attention of the crowd. Given that the set is about twenty songs , it is a masterful demonstration of socking it to them and keeping them coming back for more. He introduces ‘Everybody’s Gotta Live /Instant Karma’ as dedicated “ to my friend John Lennon” and you can imagine the fun they got upto in L.A. with the likes of Keith Moon and Harry Nielsen during the ex-Beatles lost weekend that turned out to be a year. It is obvious that not many people have got ‘ Vindicator’ but the sentiment is so universal and the tune catchy that everyone knows it by the end.
‘ My Flash in you’ goes into the fifth gear and the crowd go wild. Love were punks years before the fashion. As Joey Ramone acknowledged: “ That driving rhythm guitar thing came from Love.”
He declares surprise at how many of the Spanish seem to know the words to so many of his songs and with a wry smile adds “ I don’t understand, you ain’t English…but then again, I speak it and I ain’t either.”
Like a wise old native American chief, Arthur looks at his most legendary when the lights go out and he is a silhouette in smoke. The man and his music are timeless .