Chas & Dave at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Thursday, March 17
I’VE always meant to catch Chas & Dave on their regular visits to The Corn Exchange, but thought I’d missed the opportunity when Dave Peacock announced his retirement in 2009 following the death of his wife - and jumped at the chance when he decided to put his plans on hold for one final tour with Charles “Chas” Hodges.
There’s something very heartwarming about Chas & Dave’s distinctive and original “rockney” sound, mixing rock & roll with musical hall lyrics and a pub singalong style. EastEnders ought to establish them as the Queen Vic’s house band to cancel out some of Albert Square’s never-ending misery (it would make better use of the pub’s piano as well). They are loved by musicians from Led Zeppelin who had them open their legendary Knebworth show in 1979, to The Libertines, who cited them as direct inspiration for their sound. They also received the ultimate “cool” accolade when they played Glastonbury in 2005.
The first part of the show was a rip-roaring journey through Hodges and Peacock’s musical influences and early days as session musicians, demonstrating how strongly early rock & roll and boogie-woogie influenced their musical style. They moved on to their hits in the second half, from 1979’s Gertcha to 1986’s Snooker Loopy, and I doubt anyone who grew up in the 1980s has truly forgotten The Sideboard Song or Ain’t No Pleasing You, even if they’ve tried to (a quick survey among friends suggested that Chas & Dave incite quite contrasting feelings).
Joined on stage by Hodges’ rather comely son Nick on drums, replacing the long-serving Mick Burt, with Hodges on piano and Peacock on bass, the duo’s oh-so-English vocals are a central part to their sound, their voices merging in a way that only performers who have worked together for so many years manage to achieve. It’s all great fun, but also a demonstration of musicianship that goes deeper than the comedic stylings and witticisms of their hit songs.
While the show was an uplifting celebration of the pair’s 36 years together, there was no doom-laden sense of finality about proceedings (and I saw A-ha on their farewell tour in December so I know what I’m looking for). I might be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out not to be Chas & Dave’s final visit to Newbury after all. “Nobody else can do that”, commented Peacock after the frenetic ending to Rabbit (“Yup yup rabbit rabbit bunny jabber rabbit...”). This pair of musicians look as if they’re having far too much fun to give up on this touring lark entirely just yet.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, March 24, 2011