POP MUSIC / On The Road: When did your father last see you?: In Ireland, our correspondent has to cope with groupies, stage invaders and his parents

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The Independent Online
To Ireland for some more solo shows. The response to the ones I had done earlier in the year seemed to merit a speedy return, so why not?

Well, here's one reason: familiarity breeds contempt, or worse, plain indifference. But I've been the object of indifference before. I can live with this risk. I think open hostility is the most difficult thing to deal with, such as the time Squeeze played at a veterinary college. Discerning, rightly enough, that we weren't a punk band, the audience failed to take a shine to us and started throwing things, which we manfully ignored. Only when we got off did we discover what they had been pelting us with. I suppose they have access to those sort of things at a veterinary college. Let's just say, even if I hadn't been a vegetarian, I would probably have been dis-chuffed.

At the Roxy in Waterford, I thought perhaps I had over-played my hand. It had been packed the last time and now it wasn't. But within 20 minutes the place was heaving and jolly and one particularly enthusiastic couple was working the crowd. I only hoped they weren't saying anything too embarrassing as almost everyone in the audience had been accosted by my dad and step-mum Liz by the end of the show.

My dad is about as likely to forward-plan as Michael Portillo is to spend Christmas with the Heseltines. He'd mentioned on the phone that he and Liz might be coming over and I'd heard no more until they turned up. Still, there we were, chatting in the warm glow of post-gig relaxation, when a woman who was much closer to my dad's age than mine came up to me and said how much she had enjoyed the show. She went to kiss me on the cheek but in a move of alarming dexterity swerved her face around at the last moment and managed to insert her tongue in my mouth. The earth moved for me. Rapidly. I ran back to the dressing-room.

In Galway, at the Warwick Hotel, my mood wasn't right. The quiet between songs was too darn respectful for my liking and I wished the crowd would lighten up a bit - though I was talking to them like a late-night Radio 2 announcer. I put it down to tiredness and went to bed.

I had a chance to redeem myself at the same venue the next night. Someone asked me to do an Irish song, and as I couldn't convincingly bluff my way through anything by U2, Sinead O'Connor or the Cranberries, and as I wasn't about to risk my neck with 'The Wild Rover', I was left with one option only. 'Olay Olay Olay Olay' it was. Dad was overcome with emotion and Guinness in equal measures and, for the second time, made a short speech at the end of the show, silly old sausage that he is.

The last show of this tour is at Whelans in Dublin, and when I start playing 'I'm a Believer', a bunch of people begin dancing like the Sixties cartoon characters the Archies, so I stop and ask them if they'd care to join me on the stage. One guy, whose name is Johnny, is up to the task and maintains a level of energy and intensity, as well as a sense of humour, that is incredible to behold.

Afterwards, waiting for an encore at the side of the stage, I see a familiar figure approaching, looking overcome with equal measures of emotion and Guinness . . .

Next week: Denmark

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