The first at Fibbers could, in hindsight, be regarded as a taster. Fibbers is a cafe bar small music venue in the centre of historic York. Unknown to most JS fans it is heavily camouflaged by the tower block of which it forms part. Amongst the familiar faces there were tales of passing the venue two or three times before realising this really was the venue.
It being Sunday with a strict curfew, John gave an excellent performance, previewing the new songs - 'Waiting for Castro To Die' really is a killer and 'Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams', wow! - but one sensed that this was a prelude to the big one.
We joined up again the following night on more familiar territory - The Winning Post. Could it match the performance of two years ago to the day?
First in the queue, chatting with Helen, the young English lady who supplied the set list for the Monsoon's June 12 1997 review posted to the Cellar, were a couple from Holland who had come across just for the concert. Not far behind were Bloodliners Olivia, Dan and Terry.
By 9pm, when John took the stage(there was no dressing room, its never been the same since Otto the dog died!) the place was heaving. No Buffy or Dave - just John, solo acoustic but with The Winning Post Choir waiting for the right moments to fill out the chorus and moments there were in plenty. Who could have guessed that John would open with 'Get Rhythm', following which John remarked that, after being told by so many people that he resembles Johnny Cash or Garry Shandling, he felt compelled to remark to Johnny Cash on his first introduction - "tell me, do people say to you that you resemble Garry Shandling?"
Looking out at the audience John could see young and old alike. Sat enthralled on the floor in front of the stage was 11 years old Laura, who confessed to being a fan of the Spice Girls when John asked-but knew all John's songs 'because my Daddy plays them all the time.' In deferrence to Laura, John resisted the frequent calls for '18 Wheels.'
John was on stage until 11-50 with just a 15 minute
break between sets - nearly three hours of magic and what about this for
Strange Rivers/Ticket to the Stars
Wingless Angels/Survivors/Seven Angels(segue)
Dreams of the Starman
Cannons in the Rain(a beautiful version with stunning acoustic guitar and
Dreamers on the Rise
Bringing Down the Moon
I Want to be Elvis
Living in a Rock and Roll Nation
Midnight of the World
Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams
The Eyes of Sweet Virginia
Johnny Flamingo (complete with Winning Post Choir)
Dogs in the Bed
Turn of the Century
July You're a Woman (with choir)
Anna on a Memory
California Bloodlines (with full choir)
The Star in the Black Sky Shining
Angels with Guns
Fire in the Wind
Looking Back Joanna
Pirates of Stone County Road
There followed a standing ovation throughout and then autographs and fond farewells to friends old and new as we trooped off home or to hotels, hoping against hope that he would be back before another two years.
So yes, John had scaled new heights. It was an awesome performance, even better than two years ago, and the new songs must be amongst the finest that John has ever written.
Andy sold out the merchandise stall and what a
shame that only a dozen or so copies of "Teresa" CD's managed to make it
to the U.K.
Photos : Eric Johanssen