John Foxx and The Maths turned on the style to produce an excellent show in York last week. The set included classic tracks from the Ultravox days, a large slice of Metamatic and, of course, a showcase of the finest numbers from Interplay.
This was my second trip to The Duchess. Earlier in the year I saw Cara Dillon there. That sums up the diversity of music on offer at The Duchess; they really do cater for all tastes.
The Duchess doesn't look much like a music venue from the outside. The main door looks like an afterthought to a line of shops. On entering, one descends the steps to a darkened, cavernous room. This time, it was 'standing only' and as the stage is comparatively small it made sense to head to the front as soon as possible.
Tara Busch provided the support (more on Tara in a forthcoming post) and then it was time for the main event. The darkness of the venue was thrown into contrast by the explosion of colour lights from the stage and suddenly John Foxx and The Maths launched into Shatterproof.
For a man who doesn't move very much on stage, John Foxx packs a lot of energy into his performances. Paradoxical? Perhaps...but seeing him attack the lyrics with a defiant snarl tells a different story.
Who are The Maths? All bar one of the current line-up were already present at the fabulous Roundhouse gig last year. For this tour, Benge and Serafina Steer were joined by Hannah Peel on backing vocals, keyboards and violin.
Benge kept himself very much in the background and it was difficult to get a decent photo of him. Standing behind John and usually in the dark, he can be seen merely as a shadow man on the following photo.
Serafina Steer: Bass, keyboards and vocals
He's a Liquid
The Running Man
The Shadow Of His Former Self
Hiroshima Mon Amour
A New Kind of Man
Watching A Building On Fire
Just For A Moment
The Good Shadow
The set list reveals an excellent selection of material from various stages of John's career. This was not an exercise on crowd-pleasing nostalgia; for example, the tracks from Metamatic, dealing with urban decay, identity and isolation sound more potent now than ever.
Benge - spotted at last!
The music of John Foxx continues to evolve. Interplay is a fine piece of work, suitable for long-term fans and those who are looking for a handy jumping-on point.
A new, double CD was on sale during the tour, called The Shape of Things. CD1 is all new material and CD2 focuses on remixes of Interplay tracks.
'I remember your face...'
Dancing during 'Catwalk'
From my angle, it was an impossible task to capture the entire group in one shot. I could only manage three.
The show ended with John Foxx and The Maths posing like statues. However, they won't be standing still for long. As John Foxx and The Maths evolves further, we can look forward to a lot more music and hopefully more frequent tour dates.
It was a very impressive and enjoyable show. For me, it was one of the highlights of a very busy year.
From the floor, everything sounded great, although this review on 'Brigid's Blog' mentions sound issues on stage. By the way, Brigid has covered all of the tour dates in depth on her excellent blog, so it's well worth spending some time there reading about the differences between the gigs.
As previously mentioned here, there is currently an exhibition at Middlesbrough Central Library on the subject of 'South Asians Making Britain, 1858-1950'. Last night brought the accompanying lecture by Dr. Rehana Ahmed.
The talk focused partly on the genesis of the project which produced the exhibition and partly on the impact of South Asians on British culture. The specific areas of South Asia in question are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Things changed at the height of The British Empire but some of the changes have been left somewhat obscure by accepted history. For example, a lot has been written about the British presence in India at the time but there's comparatively little information about the Indian involvement in Britain during the same period.
Yet one of the effects of the colonial occupation was the influx of Indian people to Britain; after all, as British subjects, such migration was natural.
Dr. Ahmed highlighted several significant groups who made the journey from South Asia, including students (educated at British universities) lascars (Indian seamen) involved in exporting goods between Britain and India (and other parts of the world) and Ayahs, who were employed as nannies but who often ended up destitute once their services were no longer required (following a sea journey, for example).
Popular opinion may hold that major immigration started after WW2, with the Caribbean influx of 1948 on HMS Windrush, when post-war manpower was required, but the lecture and exhibition both made it clear that there is a lot more to the story. Indeed, one of the direct targets of the project is to increase the historical depth of South Asian contribution to British life, which certainly pre-dates the 1940s.
There were numerous eye-opening details revealed throughout the evening, such as the level of spying that went on by the British as they kept the new residents under suspicion; records of which survive at the British Library and were used as research for the project.
I was also unaware of the level of Asian involvement in the suffragette movement and, later, the segregation in the military hospitals of WW2, fuelled by the paranoia surrounding the prospect of English nurses coming into contact with Asian soldiers.
Another surprise was the Asian involvement and influence on the literary world. This is a big subject and plans are afoot to revisit the area in a future lecture.
Our trip to Westminster to take part in the Chess in Schools and Communities first birthday celebrations had taken a lot of planning and everyone was very excited at the prospect of enjoying a fantastic day.
Our party of 10 had a very early start to the day but nobody minded that. From the moment we boarded the train at just after 7.30 a.m. to the minute we arrive back on Teesside - 14 hours later - every second was packed with fun and excitement.
Most of our children were visiting London for the first time. 'Will we see the building with the big clock?' one asked; 'Indeed we will - that's exactly where we are heading!'
At the train station, very early in the morning.
The start of a long day
The chess games started early
Teesside comes to the big city
Once in London, we took a route on foot through Green Park and St. James's Park, passing Buckingam Palace, Horse Guards Parade, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey and various other famous bits and pieces before arriving at The Palace of Westminster.
One of the famous pelicans of St. James's Park
Horse Guards Parade
Another famous place
Even we couldn't advance beyond the gates and armed guards
The 'building with the big clock'!
Westminster security took a little while to get through. A scan of our faces was concerted to a pass and all bags and coats had to be passed through an X-Ray machine.
Once inside, it was time for chess, of course. Our children couldn't wait to start playing games against each other, taking the opportunity to sharpen their skills before facing the mighty Grandmaster Short, who was set to play the juniors in a simultaneous display.
Chloe and Jack are ready.
Bring on the Grandmasters!
Teesside were the first to arrive
GM Kasparov has entered the building
IM Malcolm Pein - manager of the CSC - making the opening speech
The great former World Champion was happy to be here
Three former British Champions: Grandmasters Ray Keene, Jon Speelman and Nigel Short
It takes Short AND Kasparov to match Chloe and Jack
Caitlin's game went on longer than most
Nigel went on to win all of his games over the course of the afternoon, but he did have help from a variety of people, including MP Rachel Reeves, IM Malcolm Pein, GM Jonathan Rowson and even GM Garry Kasparov!
Former British Champion Jonathan Rowson in action.
Frankie moves while Leah rests
Frankie and Leah are still on the go.
This time, Sabrina Chevannes tries to break their defences
GM Speelman keeps the score of the blitz match between
Rachel Reeves and Guardian journalist Stephen Moss
We met our local MPs in addition to a gallery of chess stars and fellow students.
Hartlepool's Iain Wright MP supporting Throston's Caitlin and Victoria
A group photo with Grandmaster Kasparov was a particular highlight.
Victoria was even interviewed for 'Newsround'.
In the Palace of Westminster
The chess celebration had been a great success. After a quick look upstairs in the House of Commons it was time to head back to King's Cross (stopping only at McDonald's).
On the tube - next stop, MacDonald's!
Our children still hadn't had enough chess. While the adults in our party would rather have had a sleep, we watched instead as the children played game after game on their portable sets. And then, after four trains, four tubes and a fair bit of shoe leather, the day's journeys were at an end (well, not quite for the Throston party, who still had a taxi trip to come). What a fabulous day!
Thank you to all of the organisers who made it possible and thank you too to the wonderful people in my group (June, Andrea, Neil, Chloe, Jack, Leah, Frankie, Victoria and Caitlin). Same again next year...!?
A further selection of photos from the day is available on the website of Ray Morris-Hill, the official photographer for the day.
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In the other half of my life, I have been a professional chess coach since 1988 and I have also served time as a school librarian and Teaching Assistant.