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Concert Review by Nick Morgan


Half Moon, Putney, London, February 19th 2011

Paul Young’s career began, you may remember, with a food obsession (‘Toast’) and the burgeoning pub-rock scene that earned his ‘Q-Tips’ the reputation of being one of the UK’s best live performing bands.  What followed was a spectacular chart-topping career, his soulful vocals carving out worldwide hits for covers of songs such as ‘Wherever I lay my hat is my home’ and ‘Love of the common people’.

Famously, Young was the first and last voice on the Live Aid record ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ and he sang his biggest hit ‘Every time you go away’ at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium.  This despite recurrent problems with his voice which led to extended periods of absence from the music scene.  He eventually lost his major recording contract in the 1990s, along with a huge amount of quids unwisely invested in the property market.  Since then, ably demonstrating that what goes around comes around, he has spent much of his time pursuing his passion for food and cooking (celebrity TV cooking programmes, planned cookery books, working in restaurants and even as a chef for a ‘Rod Stewart Live with Dinner By Paul Young’ promotion), and playing with Tex Mex pub-rock band Los Pacaminos.

I should add that ‘pub-rock’ hardly does the band’s accomplishments justice and although they are short-handed (pedal steel guitarist Melvin Duffy, and sometime Shortlist keyboard player, accordionist and chartered psychologist Matt Irving are absent through illness) they are a prodigiously proficient bunch.  Young’s voice may not be the thing of beauty it once was but he can still turn out a good tune, and, it turns out, is a pretty handy guitarist with a lovely Gretsch 6121 (the second in less than a week).  On guitar and vocals is Drew Barfield, a seventies new-wave survivor and song writer, who on the night is easily as sweet-voiced as Young.  Lead guitarist Jamie Moses, whose list of credits is a bit of a who’s who of British rock and roll, spends the evening playing with effortless virtuosity, throwing off licks as other people might sweet wrappers.  Moses and Young front the show, exchanging banter remorselessly (we could have had a couple more songs and a little less chat), in a fashion that wasn’t much  short of  Richard Keys and Andy Gray.  The evening’s aim  is light-hearted (rounds of ‘tequila’ are served to the band at regular intervals) but the songs are played with serious intent.  And just to amplify the effect,  the new kitchen of the Half Moon (installed as part of a plan to avoid closure last year) infused the once smoke-filled back room with unmistakable aromas of the best of south-western American cuisine.   Or was that the bloke standing next to me?


Which reminds me.  The musical fare was indeed Tex Mex.  A combination of some of the band’s self-penned and lovingly-crafted songs such as ‘Belle’ (beautifully sung by Barfield), ‘Mañana’, and ‘Do we want the same things?’  and carefully-selected covers.  Junior Brown’s ‘Highway Patrol’, Ry Cooder’s version of the Elvis classic ‘Little sister’, an ace version of a song I only knew through the once marvellous Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, Merles Travis and Tex Williams’ ‘Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette’ and ‘Wooly bully’ completed as the curfew drew nigh.  All played with much respect and gusto and all much enjoyed by the packed and pleasantly beery Saturday night Half Moon house.  If only we could all end our careers with such gastronomic gusto. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

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