Supported by The Mona Lisa Twins
St. Georges Hall, Liverpool
November 24th, 2016
Reviewed by Rob Harrison
This is supposed to be a Steve Harley review but because The Mona Lisa twins were so good they are included in the review too.
The Mona Lisa Twins are two women who sing and play guitar and perform harmony based songs They do a mixture of their own material as well as Bob Dylan and Beatle covers. They bring a zest and excitement to the Beatles songs.
Checking them out on their website they appear have done a residency at the Cavern Club, which has probably done them no harm at all.
Most of the material is quite happy clappy bright pop, but when they turn to cover Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones they exude a degree of menace. We like the menace girls, keep it up.
They are joined on stage by two musicians, a guy playing a box drum and a stand up bass playe,r who are also excellent musicians, but the girls could do with a proper drummer to give the songs a bit more kick ass, but apart from that minor glitch they were great.
Then we had Steve Harley. It begins in total darkness with the band stumbling onto the stage with torches, and what probably works for neo-futurists, like Ultravox, doesn’t look that good for Steve and his friends.
Then shazam the lights go up and Steve goes straight into a slow song which immediately brings everything down, but then perks slightly with Judy Teen which is alright.
On stage Harley has good backing from two capable musicians, a violin player and keyboard player, both adding to the overall sound.
Tonight Steve is playing acoustic throughout, well it’s supposed to be an acoustic gig innit, so I guess that’s alright. And then we have the Mona Lisa Twins at the back on guitar and bongos doing their bit to enliven the proceedings.
What Steve seems to lack though is some kind of stage craft. For someone who is coming up to playing on stage for 40 years he seems to lack presence and stumbles around on stage, occasionally mumbling an aside to the audience.
To his followers, and there are a lot here tonight, maybe this is what Harley does, but it does seem a bit rambling.
He does another song Mr Soft, which is good. The older material seems to shine through. Man It Was Mean was another standout track.
The first half ends with Steve telling everybody to go to the toilet so they don’t have to walk past him while he is playing, so I’m off to the loo.
You can tell a lot about a gig from being in the toilet. inside is mostly old fellas with Steve Harley T-shirts. Steve’s fan base seems to reconvene here.
On entering the toilet area a rather posh woman gives me a withering look, nice, but we are in St George’s Hall after all and maybe people like me should think twice about coming here .
The second half begins with more mooching about in the dark from the boys with the torches. The lights, when they do make an appearance, are beautiful, lighting up the interior of the hall in blue and yellow hues.
So enter Steve. He talks a bit about meeting Bob Dylan, then mentions Leonard Cohen, who recently passed away, who was also one of his heroes.
In a tribute to Cohen he offers a rendition of Suzanne. True to his idiosyncratic style Steve doesn’t sing it. He decides to read it out aloud, and so he starts, Suzanne takes you down. As he continues I think, uh here we go, but as he reads it the words take on an essential quality. The lyrical content of the words tend to drift into one when placed within the context of the song, but reading it aloud (he gets better as he goes along) he brings out the depth of the song’s poetic elements.
In the second half things generally begin to perk up, the Mona Lisa Twins having come forward to help out with a few songs, which is always a good thing, and the band seem to fall into sync.
Harley finishes with Sebastian, which is really good. He seems to put a lot into the delivery and then it’s over.
He returns to encore with song Come Up And See Me, which he seems to bang through. He’s probably sick of it but it’s a great song.
And of course the Steve army are now up on their feet cheering.
So, what can I say? Harley played for a long time and seemed to please the crowd. My own reservations about the gig was that it tended to fall into dirge territory once too often. It would better serve him to cut the time down making it tighter. Obviously the intention was to treat the fans to over two hours of Steve but it became a bit of a marathon towards the end.
But after seeing him live I am now youtubing the songs to see what they are like on the album. Seeing the gig has definitely whetted my appetite for all things Harley. Steve then remains an interesting conundrum.