Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison

Well tonight we’re back in Wolverhampton at the smaller of the two main building Civic Hall venues – the Wulfrun for double headliners featuring long standing talents artists. From cuddly toys to harvests and worlds welcome people of Wolverhampton to (Andrew) Roachford and The Christians.

Roachford-9 Well I’m slightly confused. I’ve been to scores of gigs in this venue and for the first time I’ve ever experienced we’re seated. Yes seated. We joke with the box office man as he implies that the audience may be older these days and would like to sit…. And on top of that there’s seats for 300 or so, seats spread to 2/3 of the hall…. First up it’s The Christians. All harmonised and smoooooth, their set starting off with ‘Born Again’. Lead singer Garry  akin in dark shades and flat cap. He’s the sole remaining of the three Christian brothers, the band’s name taken from their surname. After years of hiatus they re-emerged for their 25 anniversary, and followed with an extensive tour with Go West – and now they’re out with Roachford.

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“Thank you for coming out to see Roachford – ey – ” comes the Scouse accent. Christian declare he’s a bit nervous “…cos they’ve been doing this for 28 years now…..”Next up ‘The Perfect Moment.’  Comment on the Wolves footie followed by a comment on the chairs – he thinks there’s chairs out because of the limited number of people have turned up….  he wants the audience want to stand.

Each act has 70 minutes each, Christian says they really have got to make it work. He’s chatty  with the audience, mild yet quick witted. “You can stand up – there’s no rules – you can stand up – or  you can leave if you want…” he quips. ‘Once in Your Life’ gets some of the crowd to their feet. “See it’s great when you stand up…” as we go into ballad ‘Father.’

Christians-6 The band are tight, the vocal harmonies bang on. And it’s back in time to 1987 – ‘Forgotten Town’ including harmonised acapella section. We enjoy this one. Christian tells us he likes everyone to chill out… as we go into a hit from ’88 ‘Ideal World.’ The crowd are warming up to the engaging and talented Christians as they tell us it’s really special touring with their old mate Roachford.

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“Hope you enjoyed The Christians…” and indeed we have ass we head into the finale – ‘Hooverville (And They Promised Us The World).’ End not not quite – here comes the encore. The Christians do have a new CD out  –  ‘We.’ “Available at the merchandise with a money back guarantee.” quips Christian. And then we’re singing –  ‘Harvest for the World.’ Applause and break.

And as we sit and wait Duran’s ‘Rio’ blasts from the speakers. We spot a couple of people in Mike and The Mechanics T’s. Why? Because that supergroup is now Roachford‘s second musical home – taking on the singing mantle along with Tim Howar and he’s a key part of the song writing team.

Roachford-8 But tonight Roachford’s here in his own element, the lights go down and here we go, sirens go up, band take to the stage and here he is with ‘The Doctor’ to a big cheer. “Wolverhampton let me hear you say yeah! And raise your hands…It’s great to be here.” So they start of well, with slight technical problems – as the band member can’t hear themselves – the drums have no monitor, not the bassist and not enough vocal on the other guitarist. Sounds good enough to me. Next up ‘Real Again’ as I be keeping a sneaky eye on the rugby – England v Wales – (70 mins – sounds like a truly brutal match with lots of injuries to Wales and a level at 25 all!)

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Lot’s of dry ice, Roachford asks for less  he feels it’s currently like a foggy London Town. ‘I Get High’  – indeed probably on the dry ice. Roachford is a funky dude with a great voice invariably at the keyboards like  a British version of Stevie Wonder.
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He’s chatty and engaging. (Though I’ve been slightly distracted. Twitter tells me Wales beat England in the Rugby World Cup – and the twitter sphere is in meltdown. I’ve picked up my my jaw from the floor). Ahem – anyway so back to the gig (sorry Roachford) – he’s jamming down to ‘The Way That I Feel.’

There’s a supermoon tomorrow night he tells us – it will turn blood red. Check it out! (It was at 3am – did anyone catch it?)  As we go into ‘Ride the Storm’ which rocks on down before a funked up version of the classic Bill Withers cover ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. He has the soul voice to sing it – but this isn’t blues – it’s all funked up and bopping along.

Roachford-1 I hate to mention it but there are less people in the venue than there was for The Christians. Shame, Roachford is funkily rocking on down as he leads us into an introduction to the band – which includes one Steven Roachford. ‘Work It Out’ we encouraged to sing it back. The sparse crowd is on it’s feet clearly enjoying the gig. Before the final song of the set  ‘This Generation.’ Track stops to make everyone clap. Apparently he can feel our power. He’s letting his band groove on down as he gives it the moves on stage before back to dabbling on the ivories, as it merges into Chic’s ‘We Are Family.’ Encore. ‘I know you heard so many people say…..’ before going all gospel and Stevie Wonder and a bit of the object everyone always named on the Generation Game  ‘Cuddly Toy.’ People are on their feet and bad dad dancing. It be his big hit. And he’s going for it…and the band rock out and speeds up and up and up into a whirling dervish. “You’ve been a wonderful crowd thank you…” – as he thanks everyone involved in his gig and the world. He’s gonna do one last song – ‘Only To Be With You.’

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This gig was an odd one. Both bands are hugely talented but failed to draw in the punters. The Christians would have been clearly more comfortable in the Slade Rooms, Robin or Hare and Hounds, the intimate venues suiting their sound and Christian’s quips. Roachford is more comfortable on the larger stage (he’s used to it with Mike and the Mechanics these days) and is resolutely professional. Maybe tonight’s gigs limited numbers show how difficult it is these days, smaller venues struggling to keep their heads above the water, an over saturated and at times over priced gigging scene. Maybe.

Whatever the case – support live music. Keep it live.
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Roachford Setlist:
The Doctor
Real Again
I Get High
The Way I Feel
Ride the Storm
Ain’t No Sunshine
Work It Out
This Generation

Cuddly Toy
Only To Be With You
Wonderwall

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