The theme was "Tennessee Comes to Town" sponsored by Jack Daniel's whiskey, and the Clapham Grand was crammed with black Stetsons worn by booze fans who'd won tickets online.
Whether they had any interest in the musical line-up was hard to judge given the level of chatter, from bar and circle, that punctuated the evening.
Ellie Goulding, the warm-up act, strove to make herself heard over the JD-fuelled din, with songs from her debut album, Lights. A sweet-faced, precociously confident waif of 23 with an angelic voice of limited range and a blonde fringe falling over one eye, she drove her band through "Starry Eyed" and "Guns and Horses" with impressive energy. Borrowing a special effect from Florence and the Machine, she whacked hell out of a drum kit and left the stage to deserved cheers.
After an interminable wait, Richard Hawley's black-clad band filled the stage and Duane Eddy ambled on. The King of Twang is now 72, portly, be-hatted and white-bearded around the chin, with his favourite gold Gretsch 6120 guitar slung around his neck. "Hello everybody," he said affably, "we're gonna do some old stuff for you tonight ...." The "old stuff" is all of 50 years old, recorded between 1958 and 1962, before most of tonight's patrons were born, but it stood up well. Those of us who've wondered how the great man got so far by playing so few actual notes – his songs mostly constitute a twangy, single-string melody, played over and over – forgot our ignorant cavils as he traded licks with the saxophone player Ron Dziubla. Mr Dziubla is a real find. His honking, tempestuous, full-blooded playing lifted every song into a delirium of noise: "Rebel-Rouser", "Movin' N' Groovin'", "Forty Miles of Bad Road," "Because They're Young" (the Radio 1 DJ Johnny Walker's sig tune for years).
Then Eddy introduced Richard Hawley, with whom he's currently making an album. As a token nod to the appeal of Tennessee, they played a lilting "Tennessee Waltz" with the retro-crooner Pete Molinari guesting on vocals, and Hawley took over the stage for a run of his hits. He's a talented, old-fashioned singer (tonight in a black cowboy shirt and trademark oily quiff) who writes big, old-fashioned songs like "Tonight the Streets are Ours" and "Open Up Your Door", but he does love to fill the stage with splashy oceans of synthesiser until you feel you're drowning. A romantic dirge with awful lyrics ("Never say goodbye .... You're the apple of my eye") lowered spirits in the hall, except among those who'd been lowering spirits all night.
Jarvis Cocker arrived to reinvigorate them, bucking the evening's all-black trend with a brown velvet jacket and matching tie. "We love you!" shouted a male fan in the mosh-pit. "You don't even know me," said Cocker dryly. "How can you love me?" Oh, but they could. He and his former Pulp-member Hawley essayed a version of the Everly Brothers' "I Wonder If I Care As Much," which showcased Hawley's church-organ guitar effects, but didn't sound anything like the Everlys. The crowd didn't mind.
Searching for songs that have something to do with Tennessee, Cocker came up with Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" which the band delivered with raucous, energetic joy, with Chas Hodges of Chas 'n' Dave on piano, Hawley on bottleneck and Cocker himself playing guitar in the style of a man stuck on page five of the Chet Atkins Guitar Tutor, Vol 1. He revealed that he'd chosen Pulp's song "Something Changed" because, when writing it, he'd felt it needed "a bit of Duane Eddy in the middle section". They proceeded to play it, the middle section arrived – and Eddy played possibly the smallest guitar solo ever heard.
Eddy ceased playing at all on the heartbreaking Lambchop song, "I'm a Stranger Here," but came back for the storming climax. "I share three letters of my name with Elvis," said Cocker, "so forgive me if I attempt to sing an Elvis song". Forgive him? Try and stop him. Cocker performed "One Night With You" on the edge of the stage, thrusting his pelvis, wiggling his butt, pointing at the crowd, kissing girls' hands, adopting random poses. He resembled an Anglepoise lamp wrestling with its sexual identity. Meanwhile Hawley, Eddy and Dziubla the saxman played this most dramatic of Elvis songs to the hilt. Eddy beamed with frank delight as the crowd roared.
Ellie Goulding returned for the encore, a lovely cover of "These Boots Are Made For Walking," and the band closed with the superb prowling menace of Henry Mancini's theme to Peter Gunn, the late 1950s TV show. One by one, the musicians embraced Duane Eddy and left the stage until he was the last man standing. A patchy evening, but a triumphant one for the great survivor.Reuse content