Wales Institute, Wrexham
UK July 2 2003
All photos copyright by Elly Roberts.
King Arthur is alive and well. Not the mythical character of course. I'm
referring to Rock bad boy and sixties icon, Arthur Lee.
After last weekend's Glastonbury festival he brought his hugely successful 35th
anniversary Forever Changes show to NEWI, Wrexham. He's back on the road after a
six year jail sentence with his current Love, made- up of LA band Baby Lemonade
members Mike Randle on lead guitar, Rusty Squeexebox on rhythm guitar, Dave
Green on drums and Dave Chapple on bass. Unlike the gig I saw at Academy
Liverpool in January, they played without the magnificent Swedish string and
horn ensemble. Greeted with a rousing standing ovation , and a rush to the
stage, before the band hit a note, Lee swaggered on stage in his inimitable cool
manner. From that moment he simply couldn't go wrong, as he held the die hard
fans in the palm of his hands for an exhilarating 90 minutes. Looking lean, mean
and fit at 58, the darling of the West Coast looked a cross between cowboy,
undertaker and alien black outfit, black hat, black bandeau and shades. They
hadn't come so see techno wizardry or pop choreography, they'd come to see the
past master of eclectic rock play some of the most influential music of the 20
century. Commerically, they never made it, simply because the music was too
complex and clever, but the respect that Lee gained with his penchant for
experimentation: fusing Folk, Symphonic Pop, Electric Blues and Jazz tinged
balladry, it turned him into a legend. With six attempts at the UK charts, the
song Alone Again Or failed miserably, however The Damned made it known all over
again in 1978. Albums didn't make much progress either, but bizarrely it
registered with that generation, and a new wave of interest right now. Robert
Plant may hold the key, doing some covers on his tours in the past couple of
years. Bad press may also be a contributory factor an alleged shotgun incident
is always interesting reading. Both generations have found it irresistible and
the genius that goes with it.
Kicking off with My Little Red Book, an observation of America's 60's turmoil
portrayed in a Dylanesque style, it was delivered in a much beefier rendition,
and lost it's jangliness in the process. Orange Skies opened up memories of the
gentle Flower - Power era in remarkable fashion, with Lee strolling through the
chords, leaving Randle to hit the solos. In a flash they were into THE song of
the night Alone Again Or, with a hysterical roar from all quarters. They made up
for the absent ensemble with some deft improvisation. Buy now the Lee was
sweating profusely, but regular audience chats and mouthfuls of water chilled
him briefly. He built up a great rapport with the audience who were hanging on
his every word. By now he was delving into the bulk of the album, as House Is
Not A Hotel, a pacey track that Lee supported with tambourine, and Randle posing
with some nifty skills on the stage front. The set continued through the exact
album tracklisting, Andmoreagain brought a gentle if brief respite, with its
plodding ease. Daily Planet a storming up beat Pop song, arguably his most
commercial song ever, sent the crowd ballistic. The tone went down beat with
Brian MacLean's airy ballad Old Man, possibly the most touching song of the
night. Lee defined the sixties sound perfectly with Red Telephone, a wistful
monster full of cynicism. Back in a groove they went headlong into the pulsating
staccato brass with Between Clark and Hilldale, giving Randle a chance to show
his prowess once again. The dreamy Good Humour Man provided four hundred fans to
become backing singers for the undulating classic. John Lennon was given a
tribute with a two pronged attack on Everybody's Gotta Live and Instant Karma.
Appropriately, he rounded off with the Singing Cowboy as he swiveled his hips
and shook his maracas, sending the crowd nuts all over again.
Closing the night he said, Goodbye Wrexham, it's been a real pleasure playing in
Wales. We'll bring the orchestra next time.
He can't come back soon enough.
Freelance Music / Arts Reviewer
Arthur Lee says " Goodbye Wrexham, it's been a real pleasure
playing in Wales, we'll bring the orchestra next time ! "