"I FEEL as if I'm just a footnote tonight," was how Pete Townshend put it when he took to the floor to close an evening of music to mark the end of an exhibition by his mentor, Gustav Metzger, a conceptual artist best known for his auto-destructive art and for doing acidic light shows for The Who, Cream and others in the Sixties. As footnotes go, it was a splendid treat for the 80 members of the public who snatched up tickets on the basis of first come, first served. In a spacious room lit by Metzger's vivid liquid-crystal projections, The Who's guitarist pulled a surprise by performing a short set heavy on classics, opening with a lengthy treatment of "Won't Get Fooled Again", and including stirring takes on "Substitute", "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" and "Drowned".
As Townshend proved at two recent gigs in London at the end of last year, he has redeveloped a love of playing live, and the set was punctuated with gushing anecdotes about Metzger and the preceding acts, particularly Alison David. Playing with three backing musicians, the singer with the crossover dance crew Red Snapper embarked on a classic showcase set to reveal an extraordinary voice. She's particularly skin-pricking when accompanied just by guitar, but also proved worthy on upbeat numbers embracing blues, R&B, jazz and gospel.
Townshend promised the crowd that she'd be singing with him in the near future, and another name that will surely crop up again is the unsigned guitar-playing south Londoner Hacker, a singer/ songwriter who does not wallow in self-pity. While Alison David has the voice, he has the songs: material such as the upbeat "Deviation", which marks this regular on the capital's acoustic circuit as a little English soulmate for Elliott Smith, no less.
The main band of the evening were Oxford's The Egg, who are known for playing a continuous live dance set. Their sound-check perturbed the 73- year-old Metzger, who thought they might be too loud and take away from his projections, which he had planned to be suitable for meditation as well as a backdrop to the live music. The Egg's opening numbers cut a fine and funky atmospheric feel with the audience continuing to stretch out on the gallery floor. When the band dropped in their current single, "Getting Away With It", an addictive slab of pop reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys without the kitsch, the floor filled with dancers. It stayed that way as they moved towards a closing housey brace of tunes, "Bends" and "Ambassador". With their 16mm projections they achieved a superb interface of visual and audio, even though Townshend joked that it was antiquated technology compared to what he and Metzger were doing in 1966. That was just another footnote in an unconventional night that was nonetheless an early contender for gig of the year.
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