Review: John Otway, The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

John Otway has survived in a changing pop world.
John Otway has survived in a changing pop world.

It's 40 years since the punk rock explosion of 1977 when John Otway with Wild Willy Barrett broke onto the scene with the double-A side hit Really Free and Beware of the Flowers (Cos I'm Sure They're Going to Get You, Yeah).

Since then Otway has survived in a changing pop world thanks to the brilliant songs he wrote back then and continues to write.

He has three acts: one, with Barrett that has a more serious musical bent; another with the band, which mixes driving rock 'n' roll with lighter touches; and a third which involves him solo with his roadie (called Deadly) and is just, well, very, very funny and mad!

All three are fantastic shows but very different, and it was the solo performance we were treated to this time.

Despite a late change of venue and little advertising, the Cumberland was rammed; there was steam heat being generated.

The show opened with his 1977 hits and then move into parodies like The Sweet's Block Buster, played on a twin guitar.

The hilarious between-songs music patter has been honed over decades, but there's always new anecdotes to keep the show fresh.

Bachman Turner Overdrive's You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, The Osmonds' Crazy Horses and The Animals' House Of The Rising Sun are given the Otway treatment and are hilarious.

The show lasts an incredible two and a half hours (we're in Springsteen territory here), but between the wonderful music hall jocularity he throws in numerous Otway-penned straight songs like Poetry and Jazz, Josephine and Real Tears in Both Eyes, an instant classic from his soon-to-be-released new CD, Montserrat.

It's then that you fully realise this guy has survived more than four decades with a dedicated following because he is a poet and genius.

Chuck Berry is dead, long live Otway!