Dodgy at South Street Arts Centre, Reading, on Saturday, June 4
AUGUST 1996. Reading Festival. I'm working on the Saturday, but "no worries," says Bill, "come down later, we'll probably be at the main stage, somewhere on the left - don't be late for Dodgy!". Hmm. Vague. Anyway, early evening I make it onto the festival site; Dodgy are already on. I wind my way through the crowd towards the front of the main stage, keeping towards the left - and just as Dodgy start playing my favourite song, Grassman, I spot Bill's leather jacket. Sorted.
OK, so Reading Festival back then wasn't the immense crush of more recent years, and I do have a theory that we all used to have built-in satnav which was switched off when we all got mobile phones, but I like to believe that it was the magic of Dodgy that made a seemingly impossible meet-up very straightforward indeed.
June 2011. South Street Arts Centre, Reading. I'm not going to have much trouble finding Bill at this gig, as the room only holds a couple of hundred people (but there he is, down the front, on the left). Appearing as a favour for an old muso friend, the organiser of Reading's Know Your History club night (which aims to mark major musical anniversaries), Dodgy have not only agreed to play for a cut-price rate, but are obliged to perform a track off The Smiths' album The Queen Is Dead, which was released 25 years ago. Their attempt at There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is not exactly the musical accomplishment of the night, but it would amuse all but the most hardcore Smiths fans. Luckily there don't seem to be many of those in tonight.
Dodgy have been back in the shape of their classic line-up (Nigel Clark, lead singer and bassist, Andy Miller, guitarist, and Matthew Priest, drummer) since 2007, but this was the first time that I've seen them since the 90s - when I saw them many, many times. Older they may be, wiser they may not be, but the trio's vocals still blend together together in perfection, on old hits such as Staying Out For The Summer and the epic and uplifting So Let Me Go Far (but sadly not Grassman - I've since had words with them about that), and newer tracks from more recent and forthcoming albums.
One thing I always loved about Dodgy back in the day was their sense of fun, and it's good to see that has remained intact despite the passing years, as they banter with the crowd and each other throughout their set. As a microphone slipped down its stand, Nigel bravely battles on with the song, straddling lower and lower until he is all legs akimbo, like a dubious Elvis impersonator. I doubt Morrissey would be so obliging. Hilarious.
Dodgy, I know you've never really been away, but welcome back into my life. I hope you'll stay a while.