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The Latest Review: David Essex, The Broadway Peterborough, 15/11/2001

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Maybe it's the flecks of grey in his hair like snow scattered on a distant hill, maybe it's the mixture of tiredness and revelry in his voice, or maybe it's memories of him singing 'Only A Winter's Tale' on Pebble Mill At One, but somehow the very idea of David Essex makes me feel a bit Christmassy.

That's certainly how I felt on the night of this particular gig as me my friend Mileage left the pub and headed off to a gig we'd been looking forward to for months. Back in September a large group of us had staggered around Peterborough on his stag do and everywhere we went we saw posters for David Essex At The Broadway. At the end of the evening the whole party enthusiastically agreed to go en masse to what would surely be the rock gig of the decade (in Peterborough anyway) but somehow, when it came to actually paying for tickets, only Mileage and I were still able to make it.

'Their loss!' we agreed as we wandered through the tinsel-strung lobby and into the auditorium where we found ourselves to be the youngest people there by a good ten years. And also the most male. We got to our seats, sipped our drinks, and as the lights finally dimmed whispered an excited discussion about what he'd start with. 'Rock On '? 'Gonna Make You A Star'? 'Brave New World'?

'Hello everybody' he said, eyes a-twinkle, 'Here's one from my new album.'

Oh dear. As the song began we noticed that he'd brought with him a Session Band that even the Casting Agent of an ITV1 Two-Part Detective Drama Serial would have rejected as too ludicrously stereotypical. Pony tails, waistcoats, humorous ties and guitar straps adjusted much too high were the order of the day as they plodded earnestly through three over-long tune-free slices of new material before finally Mr Essex decided it was time for one of the hits, and announced 'Silver Dream Machine'.

'Silver Dream Machine'! I'd loved that song as a child, and had been desperate to go and see the film for my 10th Birthday present. I still remember the look of horror on my Mum's face when she rang the cinema and discovered that I wouldn't be allowed in, because it was an AA Certificate (over 14 only). It had been one of the big disappointments of my young life but now David Essex himself was here to make everything all right!

Except he didn't. If the 10 year old me had felt let down then it was nothing to how the 31 year old me felt having to sit through this dismal, perfunctory version of one of my favourite songs. If they'd had neon signs put up saying 'We hate this crap, it's back to jazz in a minute' then it would hardly have been less obvious.

'A Winter's Tale' and 'Oh What A Circus' went by in a similarly desultory way and when they embarked on another one from the new album ('not available in the shops') we decided it was time to pop out and get a beer. Or two.

When we finally ventured back in, drinks in hand, we decided to stand at the back rather than bother the people sitting in our row as, to be honest, some of them had needed help getting up when we'd come out the first time. As we stood enduring a pitilessly ghastly version of 'Hold Me Close' an usher approached us. 'Excuse me sirs', he said, 'I'm afraid you can't stand there with those drinks. It's a fire hazard.'

The last I checked beer was a) a liquid and b) distinctly inflammable, but rather than remonstrate (well, rather than remonstrate a lot anyway, we were feeling pretty 'festive' by this point) we decided to take this as a sign from The Gods Of ROCK that we should take our beers outside, drink them, and leave.

So that's what we did, and as we left the building we noticed that we were being tailed by both members of the Security Staff. Suddenly the evening turned round - we were no longer disgruntled customers asked to leave, we were rock and roll rebels storming out of the building in disgust at the travesty of music being perpetrated within.

Yes, we were leaving a David Essex gig because he'd not done 'Silver Dream Machine' properly - has anything ever been MORE Punk?
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