For most of us, the start of lockdown in March 2020 began a run of 500 nights when we were unable to see live performances of any kind here in the UK. Comedy nights, gigs of all kinds, musical theatre, legit theatre, opera: all closed down. Since July 2021 most live venues have reopened. I went to my first gig of this new era in September 2021, over 18 months after I had last seen or played live music in a public place.
In this piece from March 2019 I wrote about a local pub where I regularly played and watched live music. It includes a list of #1 songs that I and others performed over a 13-month period, up to October 2019. I continued to play there until the first Wednesday of March 2020 and kept my own record of the songs that we played in those additional months. Maybe I should update that earlier piece, listing all those other #1 hits , but for now I want to report on the relaunch these regular music nights at our pub of choice in West London.
It was supposed to happen last month, but too many of the people involved had Covid (what are the chances?) so we had to wait until this week. My own Wednesday night activities have changed, so I arrived much later than I used to: around 10pm, after a game of football. There was only time for me to play two numbers. I had decided long ago what my opening number would be, if the venue ever reopened: “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson. It’s not, in chart terms, a #1 song, but he has often used it to open his shows, so that makes it a number one song in another way. Here’s a link to the red-headed stranger himself performing it in Austin Texas.
I sang the opening verse the same way that he does: “On the road again / I just can’t wait to get on the road again / The life I love is making music with my friends / And I can’t wait to get on the road again”. And then I altered it a bit to suit the circumstances: “At the Grove again / I just can’t wait to play at the Grove again / The life I love is playing music with my friends …”
I followed it with “Umbrella” by Rihanna, the longest-running #1 of 2007. I won’t trouble you with my version. Here’s a link to a compelling live performance by the woman herself, from Battersea Power Station of all places, when it was still mostly a building site. Delightful.