HAIRCUT 100 + BARBARA – DE LA WARR PAVILION, BEXHILL-ON-SEA 10.11.23
43 years ago, the 6 members of Haircut 100 got together and the band was born. Much of what they provided to the music industry all those years ago post punk, post New Romantic, and post most other things too, is well recorded in musical history now. But with only one album to their name, and a handful of singles, their success was brief and by 1983 they were no more. The intervening time has built up a huge following from Generation X (mainly) for all things from their youth and HC100 fit right into this demand. Having photographed and reviewed Mr Heyward during a festival in Brighton, during 2022, where he came across as a really nice guy, meeting and chatting to fans and enjoying himself on stage, we were looking forward to seeing HC100 perform together again.
An unexpected school reunion after 40 years (you guys know who you are), the ‘escapism of music’, and tears (of joy) all thrown in together to make the De La Warr Pavilion the ‘happening’ place of Bexhill tonight. As there was sadly no Brighton date on this tour, but the support act are from Brighton, we decided to venture eastwards and this is what we witnessed….
Another much loved (by us specifically), The Rezillos very often start a gig with the ‘Thunderbirds’ theme … 18.104.22.168.1. And tonight this is just how HC100 were introduced, followed by Charlie Croker’s (Michael Caine) immortal phrase from the Italian Job (you don’t need to be told this really) “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”. And that was the queue for the audience to go wild. Tonight is ALL about ‘Pelican West’, that sole album from back in the early 80s, when snowflakes only fell out of the sky, and nothing offended.
With his cheeky boy grin much in evidence, Nick Heyward launched into ‘Baked Beans’, only for the mic stand to fail. With the roadie/engineer frantically trying to hold the stand upright and the mic from hitting the floor Nick carried on as if nothing was happening, like the consummate professional he clearly is.
Looking around the auditorium there was a sea of hands in the air either moving to the beat, or recording the performance with mobile phones, particularly in the next track up ‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’ – who doesn’t know the words to this!?
One of the first gigs HC100 put on ‘back in the day’ was at QEC (Queen Elizabeth’s College) in Kensington. The guitarist (Graham) put out a shout to QEC in the audience and there was actually some there from their first gig; now that’s following a band.
A mix of the band’s upbeat tempo songs were interspersed with ones to slow things down a little, such as ‘Snow Girl’.
Les, the bassist, announces “I may look miserable but I’m not miserable. Just a 62 year old trying to keep up with my 20 year old self”. Now I think we can all understand those feelings, as we begin to feel our feet, knees, backs aching from either standing still watching, or grooving to the beat. He also explained that Graham was using a straight guitar lead, not a curly lead. “A curly lead is more curly,” he smiled.
Standing in for Blair Cunningham on drums who is recovering from an operation, is Andy Treacey, the Faithless drummer and what a replacement for the evening he is. Spell-binding and keeping everything together impeccably.
After ‘Nobody’s Fool’, Nick thanked the room for all the love and joy contained, and how happy it was all making he and the band to be back “out there” again after so many years.
Classic HC100 open chords graced ‘The Unloving Plum’, according to Graham on guitar. He tried to explain how being in a band for 43 years was like living in a flat with all your mates for those years… “if you are in a band, you will understand how this feels” he proudly announced. Nick and Les shared a memory of the early days in Kensington High Street buying a Bullworker (ask your parents or even grandparents about this item) to attract “chicks”. Apparently it was embarrassing to purchase said item, so Les would go to the shop to buy it and Nick would wait in the get-away-car. Item duly purchased, Les hurriedly headed for the car only to find “best mate” Nick had locked the car doors…. Oh how he laughed NOT. He used it every day and still has it.
Looking around the audience – of a certain age – seeing the lyrics of the pop classics this evening, being mouthed in perfect time, shows how enduring some music is to us all. Nick had the audience in the palm of his hand, with all the classics belted out, culminating in 12” versions of the biggies. The phones came back out, as did the swaying arms, and singalongs. Fantastic Day? Well it was certainly a fantastic evening. Bravo My Heyward (again) and HC100.
Ian F (Uckfield) – “Generation X are so lucky to have the music we had; the mix, the variety of genres… HC100 are DEFINITELY up my street” – clearly Ian had been dancing all evening as the sweat on his brow attested.
Chris S (Tonbridge) – down to his hometown, to soak up some of the 80s he was unable to see as a 16 year old. “Weren’t you a punk at school?” he asks me, “Well yes but here I am reviewing HC100…”
Sandra/Jenny (Polegate) – Sandra was lucky enough to get to the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982, as an 18 year old with her best friend. She has brought her daughter Jenny with her to relive some of those past times. Jenny said she could remember dancing around the kitchen with her mum to the ‘old’ songs from her youth and wanted to experience the real thing….they were both not disappointed, by neither support act Barbara nor HC100.
HC100 tonight, to us were a mix of salsa-disco, funk with an influence of Nile Rodgers on guitar – none of which is a bad thing. Many thanks to Kilimanjaro for permissions for the gig and for getting the bands to Bexhill tonight.
Haircut 100 setlist:
‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’
‘Blue Hat For A Blue Day’
‘Junction Box’ – new song
‘Lemon Fire Brigade’
‘Love’s Got Me In Triangles’
‘Surprise Me Again’
‘The Unloving Plum’
‘Love Plus One’ (12” version)
‘Fantastic Day’ (12” version)
‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles cover performed on BBC Radio 2 Piano Room
‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’ (12” version)
Support this evening came from Barbara which may seem to be a misnomer for an all-male duo, but with the looks of a younger Jarvis Cocker, and sounds that have the feel of Toploader, Pulp, and even a hint of Sparks with the standing singer (John), and seated keyboardist (Henry), along with their backing band are tight and enthusiastic. Much heralded in previous performances by the likes of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, who they supported, and Squeeze’s Chris Difford who praised: “Barbara are wonderful. I love their songs and their humour. We need more Barbara in our lives!” Bexhill was in for a good night…
What do you get when you mix a generous helping of ‘70s progressive pop, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequinned power pop, basted lightly with luscious Disney strings and topped off with syrupy rich and delicious glorious golden harmonies? Well… you get Barbara, a musical concoction from brothers John and Henry Tydeman! What’s not to love?’ So onto tonight’s performance. Announced over the PA as “All the way from Brighton …… here’s Baaaaaarbara!!!”
The red down-lighting giving the impression of hot plate warmers in your local restaurant, they certainly are warming up the audience. Upbeat and well spoken – you can actually hear/understand what is being sung – with fabulous harmonies, this is “new” vintage pop of the highest calibre. Tasters of riffs you think you know, it is easy to expect one song but receive something new and unexpected. Acapella performances are also rarely as well executed as they are by these 5 guys. Melodic guitars, driving bass lines, and faultless drumming accompanied the Tydeman brothers. And when it was time for the singer to conduct the audience, the response was electric – it was like Barbara were already well known and had their own fan base, rather than ‘just’ a support act.
John invented a new word, asking the audience to “Set your taste buds a-tizzling”. Not sure if it was a real word he went along with it anyway. Taking a bow together to audience cheering, the 5 exited stage right at the run…>>>
Songs about self-reflection, missing out on parties to read a good book, communications, sitting in the rain, and relationship traumas are where Barbara are at. And they are definitely worth your effort. We were uncertain as to what songs Barbara had performed, but in the foyer of the De La Warr, John was chatting to fans – so I asked if he could possibly let me know the order of songs they performed. He was extremely charming and polite, and wrote them for me in my notepad – thank you.
‘These New Communications’
‘Pretty Straight Guy’
‘Rainy Days In June’
‘A Perishing Of Cherished Things’
‘Don’t Send Me Messages’