Dave Woodhall watches one of Britain’s finest musical exports going out in style.
Graham Parker & the Rumour
The Assembly could be a great venue. It’s got all the proper logistical stuff in place – easy to get to, plenty of parking, good sound – but it’s let down by some infuriating basics, such as not having a phone number or answering e mails, and doing the bare minimum of publicising their gigs. Minor details like that, which could be why the only Midlands date on the Rumour’s farewell tour was comfortably full rather than packed out.
As they’ve always done, the band saunter on stage without fanfare and launch into White Honey, fitting in the circumstances as it was the opening track of Parker’s debut album Howlin’ Wind, and this one was followed by what fans have come to expect from the reformed Rumour.
Well-crafted songs, an understated yet definitive frontman who honed his trade at a time when music was changing almost by the day, a band who know their craft backwards. Graham Parker has fronted them for forty years, if you ignore the thirty-odd when they were off doing other things, and it shows. Every member knows what he’s supposed to do, and does it without any unneccesary fuss. Anyone who wanted lengthy solos would always leave a Graham Parker show disappointed and that situation wasn’t going to change tonight. The other thing that wasn’t going to change was the strength of the set list.
The old stuff was as timeless as ever. New songs from 2013’s Three Chords Good and this year’s Mystery Glue sound far better than they did in the studio, the latter’s Railroad Spikes in particular having the hard-edged blues feel that could have come from one of the albums Parker released during his golden era.
Talking of which, it was always going to be those classics that got the audience moving. Howling Wind, Hotel Chambermaid and a string of lesser-known album tracks were lapped up by the diehard fans who had travelled from far and wide knowing that this was the last time they’d be watching a band whose influence far outweighed their commercial success.
The set proper finishes with Local Girls, backing vocals courtesy of the audience and there’s an encore that could have been labelled Graham Parker’s Greatest Hits, cuminating in Soul Shoes from that Howlin’ Wind debut of 1976.
There was no particular outpouring of emotion as the band left the stage, leaving them with one more gig before calling it a day. Maybe, this was one band who had achieved a proper closure, leaving neither thoughts of what might have been nor regrets that they’d gone on for too long.
Fans who long dreamed of Parker fronting the Rumour one last time had three years of memorable gigs and two well-received albums to enjoy and they knew this was the right time to end it all. Graham Parker and the Rumour came back, did what they set out to do, and left while they were still on top. Good luck to them all in what they do next.