|Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich (UK), 24 January 2015|
Iíll be honest, Caravan are not a band Iíve had many dealings with over the years. Until I got the Outline gig to review this show I really hadnít spent much time on them, despite loving many similar bands. Three weeks of intensive research later though I arrive at a sold out Arts Centre filled with fans who clearly love this band. The hall was packed, more full than Iíve seen it for years, and the bar was empty when the band were on stage, just as it should be of course; all too often people drift off while the bands are on.
Iíd expected high quality musicianship played by talented musicians and that is exactly what we got throughout the course of this two hour show. What I hadnít necessarily expected though was how nimble the sound would be, how fluid and alive the music was. Nothing remotely old fashioned about how they approached their sound. Their newish drummer Mark Walker can certainly take his share of credit for this, propelling the band along brilliantly. Star of the night for me though was Geoffrey Richardson, multi instrumentalist and one of the most gifted musicians I have ever had the privilege of watching perform. Viola, violin, flute, penny whistle, guitar, mandolin, occasional lead vocal and even the bloody spoons, this man had it all. He clearly loved performing to such an enthusiastic audience. Credit to Caravanís main man Pye Hastings too for allowing another musician to be the main focus of the band. Be in no doubt, though, that Caravan are Pyeís band Ė he is the guitarist, lead singer and songwriter and he played with an assured confidence.
The set was filled with recognised classics from the bandís 70ís heyday, but also leaned heavily on their most recent album from 2013, Paradise Filter. If ever some of the newer songs veered towards the middle of the road, there was no need to worry because at some point Geoffrey was going to sprinkle his magic over it with whichever instrument he had to hand. ĎGolf Girlí and ĎNightmareí were my picks of the set before they ended with the twenty minute epic track ĎNine Feet Undergroundí, during which bass player (playing the same instrument heís had since 1964!) Jim Leverton revealed he had an amazing voice, probably the best in the band - superb! A final encore and it was off to the bar to meet their incredibly passionate fan base who snapped up armfuls of merch and got to meet their heroes.
This is not the first time in recent years that Iíve been fortunate to go and see a classic band whose work Iím only just discovering, and once again have had my expectations hugely exceeded. I will be very surprised if this isnít in my top five gigs of the year come December.
Review by Stuart Preston