Wayne Hussey @ The Robin, Bilston – Monday 22nd September, 2014


Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rich Ward

One of those gigs about which it’s impossible to not to have quite mixed feelings. One the one hand there was some fine music by someone who has always been one of the UK’s most underrated singers and writers, on the other, a very unsatisfactory and confusing end to a gig and a feeling of being short changed as we left the venue..

Back to the beginning, though, this was one of the first shows in a solo tour for the Mission frontman, coinciding with the released of his solo album ‘Songs Of Candlelight And Razorblades’. The Robin was in seated mode for this gig, which I suspect was an unusual experience for most people there, and although the publicity said ‘Wayne Hussey + Support’, there was no sign of any support presence on the stage and as the advertised start time came and passed, it became more and more obvious that the headliner was going to be the only entertainment on the night.

Wayne Hussey
Wayne Hussey

Eventually the houselights went down at 8.40, and there was a warm and welcoming cheer as Wayne walked on the stage. The opening song was the lead track from his new album, a very atmospheric song about lost love, invoking smoky Paris jazz clubs, ‘Madam G’. Although he sang this without his customary guitar, as with most of the set he used a backing track, this time of clinking glasses and a jazz band, a long way removed from his more familiar role in the Mission.

From then on the songs he played fell into three distinct groups. First, and possibly most obviously, there were songs from his new album. ‘You’re Not Alone’ was played on the acoustic guitar, with some very Zeppelin like tuning, whereas ‘When I Drift Too Far From The Shore’, played on the piano, had lyrics that, while no doubt very sincere and heartfelt, weren’t his best work. ‘Wither on The Vine’, however, which closed the set, was an absolute cracker. Played on a multi-tracked electric guitar, it had a something of a U2 sound, but still very characteristically Wayne Hussey.

Obviously there were some Mission songs, some played, with a wry smile and a great deal of wit, on a ukulele. The choices were often the less obvious ones, some of which were hard to recognise until Wayne started singing, so different were these new arrangements. As well as songs like ‘Shelter from The Storm,’ ‘Black Mountain Mist’ and ‘Like a Child Again’, there were several requests from the crowd for ‘Grapes of Wrath’ , which he admitted he hadn’t thought to rehearse, and didn’t have the lyrics on his i-Pad prompter, but he gave it a go nonetheless, although he had to admit defeat after a single verse, but the pick of the Mission songs was ‘Wasteland’, a song that still packs a punch no matter how many times you hear it or however it’s played.

Spread throughout the set were also several covers. Early in the set came ‘All along The Watchtower’, which, with the rhythm track behind Wayne’s electric guitar, almost sounded like it could have been recorded for ‘Carved In Sand’, and he more than compensated for his being unable to finish ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ with a smooth transition into The Stones’ ‘As Tears Go By’, a song that showed what a good singer he is. There was also a genuine surprise in his playing the all About Eve song ‘Martha’s Harbour’. A great song, as he said, and he sang it superbly, but I’m sure he’d understand if some of us still yearn to hear Julianne Regan back on stage to sing it.

Wayne Hussey
Wayne Hussey

Up to ‘Wither on The Vine’, this had been a very enjoyable evening, some surprises, some old favourites and a lot of great music, but at this point, having been on stage for around 70 minutes, Wayne raised his glass to the crowd, said ‘Cheers, thanks very much’ and exited the stage. Although the house lights didn’t come on immediately, it was obvious that the crowd thought that this heralded an interval, and the only movement was toward the bar. There was no cheering and cries of ‘More’, but after a couple of minutes the stage manager came on and made a gesture toward the desk that made it clear the show was over, and began packing up.. Even then the crowd didn’t really start queuing for the exits, but began to leave in ones and twos. Your Reviewer stayed for about twenty minutes, in the hope of getting a couple of CDs signed, but eventually decided to leave as well.

It transpired that Wayne was waiting backstage for the usual demands for an encore, but being unable to hear any, decided to call it a night. After about half an hour, his assistant told him there were still people in the hall who had thought it was an interval, but were now showing their feelings about what they thought was a short set. So he went back into the hall, got a guitar out and played another 5 or 6 songs, to send the remaining people away happy. It was good of him to do that under the circumstances, but those who didn’t stick around couldn’t help feeling a little short-changed. All it needed was a simple announcement about a break, or an indication that this was the end of the main set, and at least everyone would have known what was going on. As it was, it was an unsatisfactory way to end what was otherwise a good evening.

Set List:

  1. Madam G
  2. All Along The Watchtower
  3. Like A Child Again
  4. Shelter From The Storm
  5. Black Mountain Mist
  6. You’re Not Alone
  7. Dragonfly
  8. When I Drift Too Far From The Shore
  9. Martha’s Harbour
  10. Grapes of Wrath
  11. As Tears Go By
  12. Dancing Barefoot
  13. Wasteland
  14. Like a Hurricane
  15. Wither On The Vine

See more of Rich’s photos here