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We booked our tickets AGES ago, as The Dates In My Listings noticed he was playing at London's Famous 12 Bar, which is TINY. This is someone who's sold out the Albert Hall, so we thought it'd PACK OUT immediately, but as it happened it was merely PLUMPLY FULL. I don't know if the 12 Bar limits the number of people to just those who'd fill up the back room, but for the whole night it was JUST RIGHT. It may also be because they have REFURBISHED a bit, mainly by taking out a couple of foot of the BALCONY - it used to be that if you were downstairs you could only see the lower legs of the person on stage, and if you were upstairs you were looking directly onto the performer's PATE, but with the shortening of the balcony it's a MUCH better view from all points.
Anyway, we arrived at the venue at about 9pn to find a queue... and standing politely IN that queue, Mr Otway himself! This, we agreed, was a mark of the all round LOVELINESS of The Great Man - he could have barged through or DEMANDED TREATMENT, but he simply stood and waited his turn. Once inside I noticed he was stood near the bar, and was seized with THE URGE TO BUY HIM A PINT. I felt i OWED him several, as years and years ago he gave me THE BEST ADVICE EVER: he was stood in the bar of the Princess Charlotte and I asked him why he wasn't hanging out in the dressing room. "If I come out the front before the gig", he said,"people buy me drinks and tell me I'm great." This is THE BEST ADVICE EVER, and any person TRADING in ROCK who doesn't follow it is a TWIT.
I got back from the bar to find The Chorus Of My Pop Hit in conversation with him, and so i joined in. I felt PRIVILEGED to be able to chat to one of my ALL TIME HEROES, but also found it a bit difficult, for another URGE had arisen, this time the URGE to say "I LOVE YOU! YOU CHANGED ME LIFE IMMEASURABLY! YOU ARE GRATE!" Happily for me i am not ALONE in this feeling, as on the way home we agreed we'd BOTH been fighting the urge to GRAB him and HUG him. Instead we tried our best to CURTAIL such urges, and just told him how much we loved his songs and gave EXAMPLES of how much some of them had meant to us. Otway was the epitomy of GRACE through all this and, to my GRATE EXCITEMENT, went on to inform us that he's writing a sequel to his BOOK! HOORAH!
It was still hard NOT to start HUGGING, but I didn't want to come across like one of those MAD STARING GIG LOONIES you sometimes see, so was sort of relieved when someone else GRABBED him and said "Mr Otway!" Unfortunately this person turned out to be a DRUNKEN GIT, ANOTHER of the TYPES you meet at gigs, and a TYPE that even one such as i meet occasionally. They're always blokes, always sweatily drunk, and think that it's HILARIOUS to tell you a) they think you're good but b) loads of other people think you're shit, and then to give examples. Don't get me wrong, pretty much ALL the people i meet at gigs are LOVELY, so when you DO meet someone like this it's a bit alarming/upsetting, but Mr Otway dealt with it in his usual CHARMING and PATIENT way, talking calmly to the chap for a while before making his excuses and leaving "to work out the setlist". I was just wondering whether i had perhaps MISJUDGED my fellow fan as just a bit over-enthusiastic, but then he was told to stop verbally abusing bar staff or be BARRED, so i felt LESS HARSH.
Soon it was time for the GIG ACTION itself, and it was rather a DIFFERENT affair - I've seen him at least TWENTY times and most of those times have featured a fairly uniform setlist, and indeed a fairly uniform set of GAGS. THIS time he'd been told it was a Singer Songwriter's night, so he'd decided to JUST do his own songs, and had been PRACTICING them during the day. THUS we got a rather unusual set, with him starting off a bit nervous and unsure of how it'd go.
This did not last for long, and it was BRILLIANT to watch him realise that, actually, it was going to go VERY WELL INDEED. He's got FANTASTIC songs, and it was lovely seeing him win people over with the funnier ones (and watching him work out NEW BITS there and then, and seeing the DELIGHT on his face as he got NEW LAUGHS) before SLAYING the room with his GORGEOUS love songs. MAN OH MAN I don't think there are many songs as touching as "Geneve" or "Poetry and Jazz" and he did WONDERFUL versions of both last night.
It was just AMAZING from start to finish - as always with an Otway gig, the room filled to the brim with LOVE pretty much from the start, and this time there was an extra slice of GLEE as the GAMBIT paid off. I'd seen on his setlist earlier that he was planning to do a couple of cover versions for his encore, so it was ACE to see him decide, when it came to it, NOT to do this, and do a couple more of his own songs instead. HOORAH!
Just before we left I nipped back in just to do THE THUMBS UP. When he saw me he GRINNED and said "It worked out didn't it?" He seemed SO happy, also RELIEVED, it was just fantastic to see someone who's meant SO much to me (and hundreds of other people) and been such an INSPIRATION, in ROCK and in LIFE, getting such a kick from realising exactly how GOOD he is at what he does.
We left VERY HAPPY INDEED. OTWAY! If you've never seen him, DO SO - if you HAVE seen him, you'll know what i mean!
posted 9/8/2007 by MJ Hibbett
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