As some of the harshest weather hit the Midlands in 5 years with freezing conditions, 6 inches of snow and cancelled bus and train services, it’s an understatement to say there was a little trepidation as to whether this gig would go ahead. Almost every other Midlands venue had cancelled or postponed, so it was a surprise when it was announced that the Fish gig would still be going ahead. It also generated a fair amount of criticism and anger from those having to travel, being faced with the possibility of a hazardous journey or choosing to stay at home and lose both the price of a ticket and the opportunity to catch the show. As it turned out, the majority of the sell out crowd made the gig, but it seemed about 150 – 200 short of a full venue. To Fish’s credit, the following day he went out of his way to rectify the situation by announcing that he would play further date in Leamington at which all those who had tickets but were unable to attend would automatically be given entry. A great gesture indeed from the big man.
Fish opens in an upbeat manner with ‘Voyeur (I Like To Watch)’ that suitably warms up the gathered faithful, and follows quickly with Suits favourite, ‘Emperor’s Song’. Although we know the main body of the gig is still to follow, the other choices of tunes are picked from across his entire career with 13th Star being visited for ‘Circle Line’ and a trip back to the debut for ‘State Of Mind’. Fish is as loquacious as ever, and chats extensively between songs with amusing anecdotes, banter and some of the history behind the songs. He doesn’t really need to mention that the lyrics of ‘State Of Mind’ are as relevant today as they were in 1990.
It’s then on to the main theme of the night, as the entire ‘Clutching At Straws’ album is revisited; played through in its original running order. Doris Brendel also returns to the stage to provide backing vocals which prove very effective, especially on the title track itself, and also additional flute on the like of ‘Slainte Mhath’. The screen at the back projects a mix of images related to the album and live projections. While Fish’s voice may have lost some of the power that graced the original, when Fish starts to swig from a bottle of wine (the benefits of a venue being situated next to a Majestic Wine) it does seem to loosen up the vocal cords and ‘Going Under’ and ‘Sugar Mice’ are particularly good. ‘The Last Straw’ closes the Straw set to rapturous applause.
An encore consists of the non-album ‘Tux On’ before a rousing ‘Perfume River’ on which Robin Boult seems to be more animated and enjoys playing. A second encore sees another Feast song with ‘The Great Unravelling’, and this again is another highlight of a great evening.
As previously mentioned another date has been scheduled for the Robin, the date is as yet still to be announced, but given that Fish has just announced an appearance at Ramblin’ Man Fair in July, it would seem to make sense to tie it in around that time.