Saturday is Bax-ter Day

Now, if you’ve already read my article about New Order at Ally Pally on Friday night, you’re probably thinking that was as good as my weekend got.

You’d pretty much be right, but I gave my Saturday a bloody good go anyway.

I’d booked tickets for Jo and I to go and see Baxter Dury months ago, in April in fact. However, as I’ve already addressed here, chances to see New Order live don’t come around very often, so I was prepared to put my well being on the line for a weekend of banging tunes and sweaty men.

I’d been up for a couple of hours on Saturday, no Parkrun for me this weekend, when my mate Baxi offered me the opportunity to join him at QPR’s match against Brentford that afternoon. Like New Order, these opportunities don’t come around very often and the atmosphere at Rangers is always fun; more so, perhaps, when local rivals are in town.

Two thirty five, I leave White City tube station, complementing myself on my right on time arrival, and then I get a call from Baxi. He’s stuck in traffic. In Brentford. Even as someone who doesn’t drive, I know enough about West London geography (I should do, after all I grew up there) to know this is not good.

I say I’ll wait, but reasoning that he won’t make it till half time, Baxi tells me to go to the box office and tell them I’m him and that my friend has my season ticket but is stuck in traffic. A half truth I’m not entirely comfortable with, especially as I wasn’t born in 1962.

The onset of rain makes my decision for me, I head to the box office and tell them the truth. I am rewarded for my honesty with a freshly printed ticket, make my way through the turnstiles and head upstairs to Baxi’s seats just as the game kicks off. And, of course, all his mates want to know where he is, “He hasn’t fallen over again, has he?” asks the guy behind me.

Within minutes, Brentford’s former Gunner, Nico Yennaris is declaimed as he wanders over for a Brentford corner, “Wanker! Wanker! Wanker!” by the massed ranks of the P&Q blocks. I smile to myself, I’d forgotten how loud it could be here.

Rangers start brightly, but a well worked Brentford move sees the Bees take the lead midway through the first half. Brentford see out the half in reasonable comfort, the highlight comes when Baxi arrives about a minute into injury time.

“We’ll be alright now I’m here!” he tells everyone.

And within minutes, he is proved absolutely right. By the time the game has hit the hour mark, Rangers are 3-1 up and the game is on its head. Pigbag blaring out, Loftus Road is rocking and Baxi has some guy in the front row on his feet making “We’re not worthy” gestures at him.  The third goal by Nakhi Wells even sees me punching the sky.

“3-1 on your big day out!” sing the ecstatic Rangers fans. Bearing in mind the fact that the Bees have visited the mighty Arsenal’s Emirates stadium this season, I thought that one was a bit harsh.

Even a late Brentford goal can’t spoil the party and, knowing what Baxi has been through to get to this point, I’m delighted for him.

We head down the Uxbridge Road, being soaked by heavy rain but in good spirits, with his mate Irish – and then Baxi narrowly avoids being run over by a Dominos pizza guy. We manage to make it to the Defector’s Weld intact, dry off a little, and await Jo’s arrival for part two of our gig double header.

It’s just me and Jo now. We’ve waved Baxi home (only took him an hour), refueled in Wagamama’s and await Baxter Dury’s arrival on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. In our position stage left, we were quite comfortable but we’re now being surrounded by lots of men who aren’t just taller than Jo, they’re taller than me and they don’t really care, as men tend not to at gigs, that they’re invading your space and blocking your view. You’ve made the decision not to buy a seat, so it’s your own fault – you don’t own that space!

And, usually, I wouldn’t be that irritated, but I’m tired and the arsehole quota seems higher than usual, lots of men in hats. Hmmm, how can this have happened?

Of course! Baxter supported Noel Gallagher on a recent tour. Yes, it all makes sense now.

I should say at this point, I am very, very tired too and, perhaps spoiled by the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere at last night’s New Order gig.

Baxter takes the stage resplendent in white suit coat, flanked by two, similarly attired, backing singers/ keyboardists – one of whom is Madelaine Hart. The guitarist, bassman and drummer are in contrasting blacks and set slightly further back from the stage.

Opening with Isabel, from Happy Soup (my entry level Baxter Dury), Baxter’s vocals are much louder & harsher than I was expecting. It takes a while to adjust to, perhaps until the track Happy Soup, where I realise that Baxter has recast these tracks, formerly midnight confessionals, into the ravings of a seriously damaged, deranged man. It’s a performance and he makes this clear between songs by blowing repeated kisses down his microphone.

Trellic, with its jaunty, “All I know is we’re together now/ together now” refrain is welcome and then the arrival of Rose Elinor Dougall for a great rendition of Porcelain, all crawling bass, staccato guitar riffs and deadpan vocals, sees all the laaaaaads get their phones out to capture the singer moment.

At some point, Baxter pauses proceedings to reveal that his drummer ,”Always wait for me”, has just come out of prison, “No… don’t cheer” and that he was born “In a puddle of shit, just over there. True”, but also, “unnecessary”

Letter Bomb increases the shouty nature of the gig exponentially, but it’s all good fun. Then Oi and, the Madelaine Hart led, Wanna lend the whole evening a more reflective air. Even if, as on Oi, Baxter reflects on an old mate, hoping he didn’t turn into a “total cunt”. Meanwhile, Wanna sees Hart sighing, “I wanna say something nice to you/ but I don’t think I know how”. I know she feels (about all these people around me).

White Coats (see what they did there?), from his new collaboration with Etienne De Crecy and Delilah Holliday, and Pleasure up the tempo again. I haven’t listened to Pleasure that much, nor, come to think of it, White Coats, but the rising keys were pleasing enough to my ears.

Really, by then, though we were just holding on for Miami, Baxter Dury’s magnus opus and would be soundtrack to Nick Cave’s book The Death Of Bunny Munro. I say “would be” because, obviously, Nick’s already done a soundtrack for the audiobook. As it happened, by the time Miami arrived, both Jo and I were more than a little done in and the rolling bassline just seemed a fraction slower than on the record. Though it was great to watch Baxter scream “I’M MORGAN FUCKIN FREEMAN!” as the song approached climax, we’d seen enough.

The band left the stage to deserved applause and we headed towards the back of the Empire and waited for Baxter’s return.

He did, but by the time he did, Jo had made a decision, “Do you want to go?”

I looked at her, “Do you?”

One look from her is enough and, to be honest, I know I’ve had enough for one night. We head out, tell the doorman, no, we’re not smoking, we’re leaving and head out into a very damp west London night to do battle with a very argumentative London transport system.

Once we finally made it home, we slept well.

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