The Annual Jumping Hot Club Christmas Party has always been well attended and a bit of a hoot; but since local lad Martin Stephenson reformed his original band; the Daintees it’s become a sell-out with an extra date added for the second year running.
The diminutive Miriam Campbell got the party started with her passionate folk song, that all come with an added dash of Country and Soul. The multitude that stayed in the bar missed a treat as her song; Secrets will have me searching the internet for a copy. The other thing Martins ‘loyal’ fans missed was the man himself joining Miriam to add harmonies and guitar to a couple of songs.
A few more people had drifted onto the Cluny dance floor when the nattily attired Helen McCookerybook started her set and, sadly, those who were in attendance chattered loudly leaving Helen to struggle to be heard meaning that these fools missed beautiful renditions of Temptation and the charming Mr. and Mrs. Songsmith.
As Helen introduced A Song With No Name Martin Stephenson appeared from the shadows at the back of the stage and shook his fist and pulled faces as Helen cleansed her Soul with an extraordinary song. Martin then joined the love of his life for a Tammy and George influenced Loverman that finally won over the chattering classes.
With the slickest changeover I’ve ever seen Martin Stephenson and The Daintees launched into a raucous version of Little Red Bottle as the hoards were still piling through the doors and surging onto the crowded dance floor.
How do you describe Martin Stephenson to a stranger? His music is certainly Folk but with a smattering of Western Swing and occasional Surf-guitar thrown in for good measure and the man himself is one part Bob Dylan, one part Nanci Griffith, one part Letterman and one part Tommy Cooper! All of his songs from the last 30 years are ‘from the heart’ and quite often deep and meaningful; but never po-faced. How could they be when Martin never stops smiling all night?
The Jumping Hot Club Christmas shows are always a celebration of his own work with the emphasis on the early stuff that doesn’t get an airing during the rest of the year, like Slaughterman and Louis’ about the café he used to sit in when he should have been at College which had a few people nodding in agreement at similar memories.
As a fan since 1981 I recognised most songs but the Dub-Reggae version of Boat to Bolivia that had to be heard to be believed and kicked the original into a cocked hat.
Of my own favourites it was great to hear Big Sky/New Light get a bit of a Punk treatment that harked back to the band’s early days and the ever beautiful Rain became a sing-a-long interspersed with Martin joking and changing the lyrics around to suit the mood.
Being the kind spirit he is Martin allowed guitarist John Steel into the limelight several times and invited several friends to join him and the band on stage with local Rockabilly legend Colin Mee taking centre stage to sing his own song; Another Nail in My Liver which allowed the Daintees to let loose in a Rock-a-Boogie style that had some girls jiving at the front of the stage.
As could only happen during one of these concerts the battery for Martin’s guitar remote ran out, leaving them to scavenge through some gear to find some more triple A’s to solve the problem. Oh; that reminds me – a teenage girl’s i-phone ran down so she nonchalantly rummaged through her handbag for a charger and plugged it into a spare socket on the stage! Only in Newcastle.
A Christmas Party wouldn’t be any good without the obligatory tears at some stage; would it? Martin had already exchanged a few jokes with his Uncle Brian who was in the VIP Area but towards the end of the show he dedicated the sweet We Can Roll to the memory of his Aunt Thomasina who had recently passed away and I swear grown men were wiping the corners of their eyes by the end.
The band went through the well practised charade of leaving the stage and returning for a very well deserved encore which was now way past the curfew but we just had to hear Matthew and Me one last time and the final finale Look Down/Look Down became another 100mph Punk fuelled rocker that had the middle-aged drunks around me po-going like it was 1977 all over again.
Then they were gone; well not really as Martin made his way to the exit and shook everyone by the hand and thanked them all for coming.
That was Friday; Martin Stephenson and the Daintees had to repeat the exercise the following night to another sold-out crowd.