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Reid between the lines

Rob Haynes embarks on the Terry Reid journey

Published on May 21st 2008.


Reid between the lines

It’s been a long journey for Terry Reid – not just in the literal sense of his haul from his Palm Desert home to the middle of Oldham Street, but in the fabulous saga of his career. Cambridge born, heralded by no less an authority than Aretha Franklin in the late 60s, offered the singer’s job in both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and feeling confident enough in his solo career to cheerfully turn both down.

Not to mention opening the first Glastonbury festival, touring with the Rolling Stones and Cream, relocating to California, hitting a bewitching mid-seventies country rock peak and then drifting off the radar, before abruptly springing back to the limelight as Rob Zombie somewhat incongruously included three songs from Reid’s 1976 classic Seed of Memory on the soundtrack of his brutal horror film The Devil’s Rejects. Most recently Jack White’s Raconteurs have covered Reid’s Rich Kid Blues on their new album.

Consequently there is a broad range of ages in tonight’s audience, with much long hair in evidence, much of it wispy and much of it grey, but also with a healthy scattering of people whose parents would barely have began their courtship when Reid was in his pomp.

Reid steps onto the stage wearing a grey suit and tie, the light catching the earrings beneath his mane of grey hair. His devilish grin and sardonic, slightly shambolic air give him the look of a disreputable black sheep brother of Michael Heseltine – a dissolute great uncle to the beautiful, hippyish young man photographed on the front of Seed of Memory.

Within seconds it is apparent that the passing of the decades has brought no diminishing on his voice. Launching into “the first song I ever wrote”, Without Expression – the voice soars throatily out with effortless magnificence. He resembles a gifted footballer who, without any apparent backlift, suddenly sends a thirty yard volley screaming into the back of the net.

Narrow-minded convention has Reid down as one of rock’s nearly men, but tonight he is clearly revelling in a career spent pursuing creative freedom, grinning widely throughout each song, laughing in open joy at the playing of the members of his excellent American backing band, and preceding each song with a cheerful introductory ramble. The night contains one tetchy moment – where a distracted Reid stops his solo acoustic performance of The Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby, stalks to the edge of the stage and yells “Shut…the fuck…UP!!” to a man who had rudely been nattering away at a competing volume mere feet away. The remainder of the audience erupts in applause at this and Reid breaks into a rueful grin. “Sorry about that!” he exclaims cheerfully, and starts the song again.

Elsewhere the band maintain a solid groove throughout, as they indeed need to, with Reid’s attitude taken from the Neil Young school of feeling over technical accuracy. He has an eccentric looking guitar style, his hand wafting over the strings in languid circles, seeming to stir the chords rather than strum them, while his voice takes the lyrics on a loosely meandering course like the waters of a deep, slow river. But this famed looseness adds to the feel rather than detracting, and on highlights like an immaculate Faith to Arise (missing only the celestial backing vocals of absent Mancunian Graham Nash) or a haunting solo Mayfly, the goosebumps are raised.

The evening offers no clues as to why he never made the big time, but whatever vagaries fate has thrown his way over the years, Terry Reid – in much the same manner as his audience are left tonight - seems indomitably happy in 2008.

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