A Night to Remember: Arthur Lee and Love at The Limelight, Crewe – September 2nd, 2002

Loving it!

Buddhist Punk comes to Crewe and steals the Limelight.

There has always been a bit of a debate about Love – and no you aren’t reading Cosmopolitan by mistake – here at AUK.  Mr Lee and his compadres – were they a psychedelic garage band as some would have it or linked sufficiently genre-wise by Bryan MacLean and Maria McKee? Certainly, the variety of their sound is enough to sustain a good debate; ‘Seven and Seven Is, Alone Again Or, Signed DC – a fair range I’m sure you would agree?

But really what we are talking about is a ‘Night to Remember’ not an individual bands credentials. Lee and his then backing group, Baby Lemonade as they were, turned up in Crewe one September in 2002 to provide one of the most unexpected events ever in this post-industrial outpost (though Robert Plant playing a local school – one reason to love him – runs it a close second)

I will wax lyrical about the venue – The Limelight Club, long since mismanaged into the ground by new management and now closed. I would suggest if you want an interesting story then read this.

This grubby out of the way ex-snooker club and converted church put on some amazing acts in its time, as diverse as Jefferson Starship, Country Joe McDonald, John Renbourn, Focus, Big Brother and Nick Cave.

Seeing acts from yesteryear can be wonderful or woeful – coming into the latter category would be Man and whichever iteration it was of Wishbone Ash – whose bass player spent the whole evening leering at someone in the crowd.  Maybe I was just jealous because it wasn’t me.  So car crash or revelation, which was it to be? I’ve certainly seen enough car crashes in my time – Johnny Winter being virtually carried on stage at The Robin to strum a few chords would be a prime example.

The Limelight was the epitome of intimacy – and it had to be given the nights I had been there and needed to huddle up to keep warm.  This night though it was packed.  Imagine a church crypt with a raised gallery to 3 sides of the room and the central floor where the majority of the 400 or so would stand.  On a busy night, it was excellent.

Rumour had it that a modish Liverpool band of the time, with entourage, were in attendance, but I’ve no idea who they were – but there was certainly a buzz about the place. As the band made ready Arthur graced us with a few words and a truly dreadful joke about Jewish people and child abuse which rightly got a huge groan from the audience – bear in mind the case of Ian Huntley was all over the papers at the time.  Heroes and feet of clay!

But so to work – and what a start, straight into a crunching brilliant note-perfect version of’, Seven and Seven Is‘; and it didn’t let up from thereon in.  I can’t say hit after hit – perhaps rather classic track after classic track and the whole audience (no lie) sang along word-perfect from beginning to end. The place throbbed, Arthur’s voice was in good form and the band dealt expertly  with the light and shade of the material on offer,

I tend to steer away from large scale venues and there is no way I could believe that it is possible to achieve the intimate intensity of that night.  This was one blast from the past that was still absolutely on form – and hats off to Baby Lemonade for their contribution – maybe their youthful vigour and enthusiasm was the key to it all.

I have always wondered about the myth of Arthur Lee given that so much of his solo material was of poor quality – ‘Forever Changes‘, and a few bits and bobs from elsewhere are really all you need – the world certainly wouldn’t miss, ‘Revelation‘. There has always been speculation about who was the presiding genius  – or maybe there were two.  Alongside Maclean, engineer Bruce Botnick is also worth a mention if only for pulling the whole thing together. There was a time – brief as it was – when Love was the hottest ticket in town, but it was all frittered away in a haze of drugs and ego.

I did have a chat with Erich von Daniken once about whether it was possible that aliens visiting earth gave various artists some top quality material that they were never able to replicate.  Think about it – there are a few who fit that bill.  Of course, the other possibility is that alien brain stealers visit earth and spirit away artistic grey matter – come on – ‘fess up Van Morrison.

As if to prove the point one of the final, if not the closing song on the night was something about wanting to be in Scotland – I’d tell you more but that as I recall it was the only lyric- repeated ad nauseam.

All caveats aside it was a magical night – how lucky we were. Bizarrely, someone who also saw them in Liverpool reckoned that was a better night!! Rumour has it that there is a recording of the Crewe gig floating around somewhere?  I did, some while later, see the, ‘Forever Changes‘, with strings tour in Manchester.  It was nice enough, but never as good.

Blasts from the past – from dire to magnificent.

Set List

Seven and seven is / My little red book / Orange skies /Your mind and we belong together / Live and let live / Alone again or / Bummer in the summer / Andmoreagain / Signed DC / Between Clark and Hilldale / The red telephone / The daily planet / You set the scene / She comes in colours / Everybody’s gotta live -Instant karma / My flash on you / August / The good humour man / A house is not a motel / Singing cowboy

About Gordon Sharpe 86 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts

5 Comments

  1. We drove to the Limelight from Stafford — me, aged 51 and steeped in ‘Da Capo’, ‘Forever Changes’ and Four Sail’, plus younger brother and my daughter, then aged 15. We still talk about it! We heard that The Coral were there, perhaps the ‘modish band’ to which you refer, and we remember someone at the front repeatedly shouting ‘Forever Changes’ until Arthur’s patience snapped and he informed them that ‘Forever Changes’ was an album, not a song. I also saw Arthur with Baby Lemonade playing the album at the Royal Festival Hall, with orchestra. Both great nights, but the intimacy of the Crewe gig, the majesty of his vocals, the mystery of the music and the sense of disbelief that we were yards away from the great man, made it especially memorable.

  2. Great shows with the orchestra and Baby Lemonade with Johhny Ecols. Lee was a charismatic performer ‘Always See Your Face’ from 4 sail is a classic.

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