It was a bit like one of those evenings when you've got absolutely nothing to do, it's raining and you don't want to go too far from home, so you take yourself along to the local fleapit where they're showing one of those late Sixties cult rock movies that still do the circuits from time to time.
On such occasions, the audience will be almost entirely composed of people who whose time has evidently stood still since those heady days of free love and bad trips. Tattered loons, torn velvets, long flowery dressed over socks and desert boots, long greasy hair... these remnants of culture ten years past and almost entirely alien to the youth of 1978 will be out in force, making their umpteenth last stand against changing tastes.
Those were the people who gathered at the Rainbow last Saturday to cult West Coast band which has literally reappeared out of the blue after a silence of some five years. And seeing Spirit walk on to the stage and start to play, well that was just like watching one of those old movies too.
Randy California, looking hardly a day older than the last time I saw him in '72 or '73 and wearing almost identical clothes, could well have been heading one of those big Sixties rock festivals. He went through the whole guitar hero bit - quite unselfconsciously, it seemed - and even jumped off the stage to play among the audience at one point.
The number he chose to do this was 'Hey Joe' the Hendrix classic which I haven't heard played live in England since the last musicians know to feature it in their repertoire died of natural caused a couple of years ago. He also played 'Like A Rolling Stone' - another of Jimi's favourites - and so perversely while most of the audience was suffering from Spirit nostalgia, I was smitten with an acute attack of Hendrixitis.
Of course the trio- with shiny-pated Ed Cassidy behind his bizarre kit of massive concert drums, and a slightly chubby Larry Knight on bass - played all the old Spirit fave too - numbers like 'Mister Skin' and 'Nature's Way' and I can only hope that their fans' enjoyment of the set was not too spoilt by the absolutely appalling sound which characterised the whole show.
The PA seemed incapable of dealing with any treble frequencies other than those from the cymbals...the middle (i.e. the guitar, vocals and most of the drums) was horribly muffled and the bass frequencies boomed as if the whole show was taking place inside a ship's boiler room. Randy's constant use of heavily-echoed guitar can't have helped with separation, but after this, I'll take the Winfield Wall Of Sound any day.
Mind you, I suppose the naff sound did heighten the feeling that you were watching a film, and on the strength of this showing, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it on television in another five year's time!
Meanwhile, back at 1978, the two support acts provided what I suppose one could call a healthy contrast, with The Police opening and Alternative TV taking the middle spot.
Though I shall no doubt not be too popular in Blackheath for saying this, as far as I'm concerned The Police showed Mark Perry and his chums the proverbial clean pair of heels. Drummer Stewart Copeland's three-piece concentrated on tight energetic songs where New Wave brashness was tempered with strong melodic content and humour too. Their best number was actually a slower, pseudo-reggae thing called 'Rock Sound' which is very, very catchy and - surprise, surprise - is about to be released as a single by A&M. Should be a massive hit.
Alternative TV on the other had offered little that would yet endear me to them; indeed with their elongated fill-ins they actually sounded as if they were dying to play long boring solos if only long boring solos weren't considered uncool, and to me the most remarkable thing about them was that their music was very different to what you might expect from a one-time punk pundit. Still again, I might have enjoyed them more if they too hadn't suffered from the awful sound.
On the whole it was a strange night to say the least.
© Sounds by Tony Mitchell (thansk to Dietmar)