Who: John Shuttleworth
What: A Wee Ken to Remember
Where: Bloomsbury Theatre, London
When: 1st December 2014
Few artists have had a book published of their collected lyrics. Bob Dylan has had three (don’t try lifting the most recent one, you’ll do yourself a mischief), Paul Simon has had one, Sting has one (his Mum might have bought a copy) and so has John Shuttleworth. The difference between the first three and Shuttleworth is that John’s is self-published.
John Shuttleworth is a great songwriter and pop star in the theatre of his own mind but that’s okay because Graham Fellows and the packed audience at the Bloomsbury Theatre are in on the joke. They punch the air and clap to the beat at the right moments. They even throw sweets (Revels appreciated, After Eights not so) and consequently, the book of lyrics “Honed Lyrics” is long sold out.
Tonight’s show is a “Wee Ken to Remember”. Once again, a victim of a foul-up at the printers, John’s attempt at remembering some of the most precious days of his life (A Weekend to Remember) must now become a homage to his manager and sole agent, Ken Worthington. However, problems begin when Ken and John’s wife, Mary, refuse to co-operate despite John ringing them both twice during the show. Ken will not be playing the clarinet solo that he used on “New Faces” tonight. Despite this devastating news the audience keeps their collective chins up and joins in with the art and the mirth.
Unlike John’s more recent tours tonight contains a large number of new songs and has less of a “Greatest Hits” feel. Those of you who didn’t know John Shuttleworth had any hits need to get with the programme and come to a show for this is the most fun you’ll have at a live (comedy-cum-music) show all year.
Amongst the new songs, the opener “A Wee Ken to Remember” and “Here Comes Midweek” are particularly memorable and the latter will soon pass into classic status.
The first set, made up of mostly new material, nevertheless closes with a medley of those classics, ending with the sublime “Pigeons in Flight”. The less-played “Unaccompanied Lady” is another highlight of the first set but it’s okay John, we won’t tell Mary.
The second set finds us in much more familiar territory – “Y-Reg”, “Serial Cereal Eater”, “The Man Who Lives on the M62”, “Do the Stars Remember?” – all the masterpieces were in place.
There were more bits and pieces including “Chase the Fox”, “The Christmas Orphan” and “Save the Whale”. “Eggs and Gammon (Poor Rhiannon)” was particularly well received and then John drew it all together with a masterful rendition of “I Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now” before dispensing a few more Revels (TM) to the front rows and disappearing into backstage and off into the night.
The audience were, suitably, in raptures – even the drunk croupier in the front row – and disappeared out of the auditorium doors, just hoping that there might be a few remaining tickets for John’s next show.