McAlmont & Butler
Union Chapel, Islington
Being on social media has it perks, which involves finding out about the latest record releases and live gigs. So when David McAlmont announced on his social media page that he was reforming with the fabulous Bernard Butler for a one special gig in aid of Butler’s charity choice for his London Marathon attempt, then I along with many others knew this was a gig not to be missed!! It was stipulated it would be a one off event, so on the morning when the tickets went live many people were left disappointed as they couldn’t get their hands on these most wanted tickets! They sold out within around 5-10 minutes, much to David’s and Bernard’s surprise, so this taken into account David announced later that day that there would be another gig due to demand. This again sold out within record time.!
Looking at these two as a double act they did evolve out of the Britpop era, Butler from Suede and McAlmont had been with the band Thieves in the early 90s. Not sure myself whether I would place them in the Britpop pot along with others, but of course the sounds from Butler’s guitars had the Britpop edge. Initially they were more of a collaboration act, and were also involved with other projects and other artists. Early in 2001 they were signed by EMI and brought out an album Bring It Back in 2002. They have also collaborated over the years again together and with other artists, and have made a dynamic duo, with lots of fans across the globe.
Their last live gig though was many years ago, so this one was a long wait for most of their fans, and in one of the most stunning of venues the Union Chapel. On entering this stunning building there was a highly charged buzz of people who couldn’t wait to hear this set. Chatting to lots of people some of whom had made long journeys to see these 2 in concert again, it shows the dedication of people out there who love stunning music still (thank goodness!)
But lets not forget the main reason for this gig initially though was a fund raiser for Butler’s London Marathon attempt to raise monies for the fantastic charity Bobath Centre, who provide specialist therapy of independence ,health and wellbeing for children and people living with cerebral palsy. Butler completed it of course and raised an incredible amount of money for the charity, he even carried on when his hamstring went, now that’s dedication for you!
Arriving first on stage, last night was the incredible and gorgeous Nerina Pallot, who was hauntily stunning with an acoustic and piano set and she then was joined by Bernard Butler who previously was involved with producing some of her records, she performed tracks also from ‘Free As you Wanna Be’ her new CD.
A short interval followed with a mad frenzy of fans scrambling for good seats left in the pews upstairs, and then the gig was born.
Coming onto the set backed by strings, piano, sax, backing singers and a string ensemble, along with McAlmont and Butler. McAlmont’s smile said it all on stage and his voice is highly stunning, along with Butler’s riffs. Opening with a burst of ‘Can We Make It’ the audience were mesmerised.
The Magic Numbers’ lead guitar and vocalist, Romeo Stodart, joined M&B on stage, along with Michele (Romeo’s sister) and Angela Gannon (also from the band), as backing vocals. The wonderful Mako Sakamoto also joined them on drums and percussion, along with Sean Read on keyboards, piano, organ and sax.
All of these artists had performed for free, for this cause, which accounts for a hell of a lot, in my view, particularly when a lot of the mainstream artists of today are too high maintenance and full of too much self importance to offer their services for free.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed playing, and McAlmont’s voice became stronger, and his vocal range was absolutely amazing and exquisite. M&B truly sparkled and were fully conversant with one another throughout the whole set, which was highly warming to see.
McAlmont sang ‘Blue’ which was simply amazing with Butler alone backing on his guitar, everyone I could see was mesmerised.
A fabulous version of Fat Larry’s Band ‘Zoom’ had most people singing and dancing away, which was quite unexpected. The string orchestra were classy, superb and highly complemented the whole set.
When David appeared in the pulpit with Bernard playing on the church organ, this reminded me of a “Dearly beloved we are gathered here” moment which was legendary.
“You Do” was simply wonderful, with a rather young Charlie Butler on stage playing guitar with his father.
As expected the end of the whole set was captivated with the stunning ‘Yes!’ the fans sang in unison and this evening ended on such a high! It sounded so new and fresh that I was lost for a moment back in the 90s.
Lets hope at some point they collaborate again, as this gig was simply spectacular!
Can We Make It
What’s the Excuse This Time
How About You?
Don’t Call it Soul
Bring It Back
Where R U Now?
You’ll Lose A Good Thing
Anyone who wishes still to donate to Bernard’s fundraising page click here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=bernardbutler