The Pete Williams Band
Live at Corks
There was a moment in the middle of the Pete Williams Band's sparkling set at Corks, as the music swirled around us, where Warren the Shoe smiled at the exceptional proceedings unfolding onstage and said "There's nowhere else in the world I'd rather be right now." If I ended here I think you'd understand just what the Pete Williams Holiday Shindig, a homecoming of sorts in Bearwood, meant to the audience and as was so obvious from the performance, meant to Pete Williams.
Playing songs drawn mainly from 2015s consistently great, blue-eyed-soul-inflected, Roughnecks and Roustabouts (listen on spotify), the album with which Pete's captures his back pages in an achingly intimate, inimitable style. From a first job in Oldbury, setting you up for life, (First Real Job) and fumbling early loves... To the great escape that leads down La Cienega's restaurant row and beyond. For the rest of us who grew up in the Midlands, this can be an uncomfortable gaze back down a dim and dingy memory lane. Our Midlands has been all about the exhausting multi-generational assassination of hope and opportunity. Pete Williams songs are of escape, of the uncommon tolerance and decency of the working classes, and our lapses into casual indecency when given the chance (People). Roughnecks and Roustabouts was recorded in Sheffield and produced so deftly by Mike Timms (who also works with James and George Ezra) and Timms himself rolled up to handle the sound with aplomb at Corks. He was a battling man, battling a man on the mic with an onrushing cold.
Surely it can't be long before the Peaky Blinders taps some of these Roughnecks and Roustabouts songs to close their v tshow. A little authenticity. They will do worse.
The kitchen sink drama of the Roughnecks LP is brought to life by the atmospheric stage setting, there's something very lovely about the curved stage of Corks' way underutilized ballroom, with space for a Yoda sized Christmas tree. The audience arranged in a chicken in a basket formation, tables at the back - dancing at the front. Oh, and then the bands' the outfits are the show... Pete's stylist really hit the high spots tonight, with the archetypal bad day at the Brighton Rock bookies look, Pete himself, loose tie, stressed collar pulled out at one side over his waistcoat, you know, three quarter length demob baggy worsted pants and pristine Chuck Taylors.
The nights' Pete Williams Band was something of an all star line up with Pete on guitars and ukulele and featuring Dean Beresford on drums along with Shez Sheridan on guitar and lap steel, both members of Richard Hawley's band, there was Laurence Saywood on bass and long-time conspirator Andy Welllings played more amazing guitar... Although Andy hadn't seemed to have gotten the memo from the stylist, I guess when you play guitar with such economic beauty, you can wear whatever you like. The band was a joy. The songs soared. There was just a beautiful connection between musicians, music, songs, the crowd the time and space. As Warren the Shoe had said, in that moment, there was nowhere else in the world to be.
By the end, Pete Williams was visibly moved by the reception he received from the wildly enthusiastic Corks crowd. They'd taken to him like one of their own. Which, despite Pete taking the long way round, as the story songs on his albums tell, he assuredly is.
Let's hope this is the first of many Shindigs. See you next year?
The Review of the Year of Things #1: Jason Lewis surveys the years' great albums and noting so many, compartmentalized, as men do. So, here, albums by those so profoundly impacted by Death