Spinal Tap at Wembley Arena June 30th 2009 supported by The Folksmen

When I heard about the very fact that Spinal Tap were embarking on a one night only world tour I was certain I was not going to miss them as they rolled into London.

I bought my ticket which I thought was quite reasonable when you consider that the support act was the highly renowned Folk band The Folksmen.

Wembley Arena has had a revamp, last time I was seeing anyone of similar heritage it was non other than Peter Gabriel back in 2004, The weather was beautiful sadly the stadium was taken up by non other than Take That who were having a sound check which I was able to hear the moment I left Wembley Park tube station.

There were plenty of fans of the legendary Spinal tap who like me were queuing up to come and see their hero’s live on stage after an absence of over 17 years from the bands home town of London.

Once inside the venue it was a quick run to the merchandise desk, sadly all that was available for the eager fans were T shirts with five different designs (some were miss printed Wimbledon) as well as Spinal Tap’s latest release “Back from the Dead”, I did enquire as to why there was a lack of tour programme and I was told that there had been problems at the printers.

We found our seats with ease (how un rock ‘n’ roll is that?) and we settled in for an interesting night, and unknown to me the venue was air conditioned but when you consider the fact that the weather outside was classed as a heat wave by the met office you can understand why there were a lot of trips by many fans myself included to obtain beverages.

Slowly Wembley Arena filled up, I suspect it was due to the British mentality of getting to the concert late to avoid the support act, but I fear those that did arrive late truly did miss out on Folk music on the same level as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

The Folksmen

They came onto the stage with an enthusiastic applause the Folksmen had some rather charming tales to tell and songs to perform which they set about with a real laid back stripped bare appeal. One thing to note though it would appear as though the Double Bass playing band member Mark Shubb has had a gender issue which has been resolved at last, and although it did not affect they’re playing on stage Mark’s stage attire was out of place with the other members of the group.

Although my memory of the set list is a little vague at present although I recall the songs “Loco Man” and “Blood on the Coal” as well as a tribute to the Rolling Stones with a rather folkie version of the Rolling Stones mega hit “Start Me Up”. There was friendly banter between the band members and the audience, although I think they over ran on their time on stage because a member of the road crew for the main act had to tell them to vacate the stage in rather meaningful terms.

The Folksmen (Credit Panja © 2009)

The Folksmen band members

  • Mark Shubb (bass vocals and upright bass)
  • Alan Barrows (tenor vocals, mandolin, guitar, and five-string banjo)
  • Jerry Palter (baritone vocals, guitar, and mandolin)

The Folksmen left the stage and due to the fact that Spinal Tap needed to have some more equipment brought onto the stage the house lights were turned on which meant those fans of the main act could grab another drink etc before Spinal Tap came on stage. Time soon flew and the venue started to fill up at a faster pace than before the house lights dimmed slightly as the road crew fought on stage with some equipment which appeared to be a drape of some sort, their seemed to be other issues which were only resolved with on stage meetings between various members of the road crew.

The lights dimmed again and this time one of the video screens flickered into life and the music video to “The Majesty of Rock” started to play (its from the 1992 album Break Like The Wind) this was met by a huge applause by the audience and myself included.

Spinal Tap

Whilst the music video ended, we were taken back stage by the cameraman and all of the audience could see David and Derek playing against each other on an Xbox video game console, Derek seemed to be getting the better of David until the picture faded and we could see no more of the dressing room.

David and Derek playing on the XBOX (Photo Credit Jana Godfrey © 2009)

David and Derek playing on the XBOX (Photo Credit Jana Godfrey © 2009)

The band emerged onto the stage and they were treated to a deafening applause by the whole of Wembley Arena, The band quickly started the show with the classic stage favourite “Tonight I’m gonna rock you Tonight” the band appeared to take this opening number in there stride.

The band focused mainly on the last three albums with Back From The Dead, Break Like The Wind and the Sound track to the Documentary about the Smell the Glove tour being harvested for material, although the band did proceed to treat the audience to hits from former incarnations of the band when Spinal Tap were known as The Thamesmen.

Stonehenge (Credit Panja © 2009)

After seeing Spinal Tap on film both the documentry and the live dvd from the Break Like The Wind tour I was determind that they could finally get the prop to work during Stonehenge the performance went off without a hitch and at least the prop FINALLY managed to come to life with the aid of the dwarfs and David St Hubbins

On a slightly sour note there did appear to be technical issues with the video screens, all too often the action shots of Dave or Nigel would be out of focus or ill timed but I suspect that they will address those issues as the tour progress’s.

Strangely for a band of Spinal Tap’s age there was no intermission during there performance which I thought demonstrated a rather athletic prowess that is sadly lacking in a lot of bands these days.

All may be well here, but it should be for long! (Photo Credit Jana Godfrey)

Derek, David and Nigel on stage (Photo Credit Jana Godfrey © 2009)

The audience was treated to a guest appearance by non other than Keith Emerson formerly of ELP who appeared on the keyboards whilst regular band member C. J. Vanston took a well deserved break Keith proceeded to give the audience a treat and bizarrely he managed to upstage the band on occasion.

Keith did indeed return with a Hammond Organ which required the assistance of four of the road crew to get it onto the stage, Keith appeared to tilt the Hammond to an alarming angle whilst still playing it and keeping perfect time.

Keith Emerson with Spinal Tap (Credit Panja © 2009)

For some unknown reason Keith’s Hammond appeared to be letting him down and he threw it to the stage floor and kicked it, he then pulled it back up and to the shock of some of the audience he actually stabbed it with a medium sized cutlass.

Oh I forgot to mention the audience who sang along to 80% of the songs especially the early Thamesmen song “All The Way Home” and the later notorious hit for Spinal Tap “Big Bottom”.

Big Bottom brought about more guest appearances; Keith Emerson seemed to lead the way and actually played along with the drummer on the drum kit, Justin Hawkins on a Bass Guitar shaped like Concorde or a Space Shuttle, and the bassist Andy Scott from the 70’s Glam Rock band The Sweet. The band were also joined by a number of female dancers.

There were plenty of highlights and the only things that you could moan about was the lack of two of Spinal Tap’s more commercial songs “Christmas with the Devil” and “America” the rest of the set list was fantastic along with the sound and lighting.

Spinal Tap band members

  • David St. Hubbins rhythm & lead guitar, lead & backing vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Nigel Tufnel lead & rhythm guitar, backing & lead vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, violin bow, harmonica, keyboards, piano.
  • Derek Smalls bass guitar, backing & lead vocals, acoustic bass guitar.
  • Gregg Bissonette (stage name: Scuffy Skipperton) on drums and percussion.
  • C J Vanston keyboards and samplers.

I had a great time and the show was well worth the ticket price, now isn’t it about time Spinal Tap did more gigs? to remind the rest of the world what they have been missing.

For more information about Spinal Tap please visit there official website spinaltap.com

To see more of Jana Godfrey’s photos visit her flickr page at spinaltap-at-wembley-2009

To see more of Panja’s photos visit her flickr page at spinaltap-at-wembley-2009