Monday, 28 March 2011

Bill Nelson Live: 'Legends' DVD filming 26 03 11

Read 'em and weep....
Bill Nelson has always been an unlikely looking Guitar hero. In the days of Page and Blackmore, both of whom wore heavily customised silk kimonos, hand tooled cowboy boots and in Blackmore’s case, Oliver Cromwell’s hat, Nelson chose to dress like he was going to a wedding reception. Radiant in formal, 100% polyester attire, he would play melodic and expressive solos whilst his similarly dressed band played his ambitious music beautifully behind him. Nowadays, Mr. Nelson has the kindly demeanour of an eccentric geography lecturer or a landscape gardener, but he can still make that Guitar sound stellar. He also sports a unique combination of Pork Pie hat, woollen winter coat and leather trousers. He makes it look good tho’. 

Bill had assembled his current band - The Gentleman Rocketeers - for a very special gig last Saturday. As part of the ‘Legends’ series of DVDs, he was having his moment in the sun, although, the gig was considerably hotter. 125 people were squeezed into a TV studio which would have comfortably held 50, surrounded by cameras, lights and force fed alcohol. It was great fun. I have to stress how small the room was- the room and stage had the same footprint as Carl Palmers drum riser and every facial tic and bead of sweat was visible by everyone. The back of the room was also the front of the room.

Many thanks to Martin Bostock of the Bill Nelson
Forum for this fantastic live pic. More are available
on the site - the address is below

Bill came on to rapturous applause from a partisan crowd. It would have been oh so easy to sleepwalk through the hits and walk off, but he chose a fascinating selection of material, from the obvious to the obscure. And it was all bloody great. After four songs where he was backed by his trusty Revox (or 21st century equivalent), he was joined by Dave Sturt , Dave Standeven, Gavin Griffiths, Steve Cook, John Spence and Jon Wallinger and Memory Lane was strolled down big time. ‘The October Man’ led nicely into ‘Night Creatures’ – the glam-obsessed lyrics sounding positively quant in 2011. From there, we had a trolley dash through four decades of Nelson. You want ProgBill? Here’s ‘Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape’…PopBill? – ‘Do You Dream In Colour?’… GuitarHeroBill? Here’s ‘Sister Seagull’…NooWaveBill? – ‘Furniture Music’. You get the picture. All played with just the right amount of reverence. Of course he played ‘Ships In The Night’ and ‘Maid In Heaven’ – the latter twice as there were shenanigans in the vocal and guitar departments. All topped off with the depressingly au courant ‘Panic In The World’ – earlier that day, just a few miles from the stage, bits of London were under siege. 90 minutes passed like 10. He thanked us and we thanked him back. 

After the gig he was happy to answer monumentally trainspottery questions from the devoted (mine was so tragic, that even here – amongst fellow ubergeeks, I cannot bring myself to repeat it…) He seems to be a genuinely straight up bloke, which is refreshing. Often it’s a BIG MISTAKE to meet your heroes….

It was an unforgettable night. There'll be a drum-roll when my credit card bill hits the mat, but I don’t care. The DVD is out on May 23rd according to Amazon and it’s a must have for Nelsonites…and everyone else, for that matter. Attendees get a free one, so if it comes in advance, I’ll whizz a sample up here.

Bill Nelson – I salute you.


  1. Fantastic article!

    Jealous Jealous Jealous Jealous!!!!!!!!!!!

    I suppose you'd always look at the setlist and say No xxxxx ????? I'd say Burning Apostles.

    I'd also endorse the meeting your heroes bit. I've been stung by a few but surprised by a few.

    Ian Hunter was the nicest ever, I won't go into the bad ones, suffice to say two of my biggest heroes were pricks.

    You were so lucky. I'm really envious.

  2. Well it's coming out on DVD, so the moment isn't lost forever.

    As for meeting your heroes, I admire your restraint! I met Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper of the Church at a gig at the Borderline sometime in the 90's. MWP (who I thought would be a Diva for no real reason) was niceness itself. Kilbey (my ultimate hero at the time) was - let's say, less than lovely.

    I'm delighted to say that I've met Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies a few times and they were always brilliant. Ya live and learn, eh?

  3. It gladdens my heart to read that posting! I see the set list was very similar to the one played at Nelsonica last November (although I'll be intrigued to hear how the songs sound with Gavin Griffiths on drums, especially 'October Man'). Sounds like a fantastic evening; can't wait for the DVD!

  4. I am awestruck that this even took place and that someone I have the ability to converse with witnessed it. If Don is jealous times three, I double that.

    If I had to pick a tune, it would be "Axe Victim." But looking at the set list, Bill could have removed 5 songs and I would have been happy.


    Frank Sinatra was a sweetheart.
    Todd Rundgren was not. Twice.

  5. Excellent review! Gives the merest hint of what it must really have been like to be there. The DVD is a must-see for any Bill Nelson fan or anyone who appreciates a true professional / creative genius at 'work'. If you like Bill's home-recorded work, you'll simply gasp at the faster, tighter,live delivery of old familiar favourites, with soul-elevating guitar solos (and even extra twiddly-bits shoe-horned in - somehow!) by a true genius.

  6. So, you're a fan quitdreaming...

    The amazing thing about BN is his appetite for creativity. I don't know of any of his contemporaries with such an incredible work ethic. I have to be honest and say that not all of it excites me, but a considerable amount of it does... but Gods teeth, I'm so glad he's still doing it.

    It was a fantastic night and I am a little sad that Bill found it less than fulfilling (at the time)but I think a great piece of Art has come from it and hopefully, it may arose a bit of interest in the Great Man's body of work - especially if it gets shown on the TV.

    ...and thanks for dropping by!