Never The Bride, The Stables (Milton Keynes), 20 August 2016

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I ended up going back up the M1 soon after (and in many ways as a result of) my expedition to Northampton about 10 days earlier, reported here.

The connection is a bit tenuous, or at least idiosyncratic. Kim invited me and Janie  at relatively short notice to join her groupie-fest to see Never The Bride. I explained that Middlesex were in line to be at T20 Finals Day this year and that I would only join the gig outing if Middlesex were eliminated before finals day.

As it happens, Kim and Janie were still enjoying a meal together when I started my drive back from that ill-fated evening in Northampton. I called Janie to let her know that Middlesex had lost. Both girls cheered at the thought that I would therefore join the gang for Never The Bride. Hopeless at understanding priorities and sensibilities, both of them.

Kim is a big fan of Never The Bride – not only did she engage that band to play Janie and Kim’s joint birthday party a few months ago, she also had them play a gig at her house last year and has been to see the band several times.

So Kim was up for this gig big time; which meant the full works. Gang of eight: Kim, Micky, Alan, Janie, me, Joanna, Becky and Millie. Stretch limo with magna of bubbly (see photo above) and a rather OCD timetable which required us to leave NW11 at 16:00 just to be sure of arriving at a venue outside Milton Keynes in time to eat at the venue and take our reserved seats at 20:00.

We ended up with a lot of time to kill. Not that most of the entourage would have noticed; several of them were blotto by meal time. Some had started drinking before we left London. Meal time was 18:15 at the earliest and we arrived in the grounds at 17:00. I didn’t want to drink anything before eating and felt mighty uncomfy in that stretch limo, so I got out and had a good walk around the grounds.

The place is basically Cleo Laine’s house, together with the venue she and the late John Dankworth established in the old stable. The house itself is very beautiful and Cleo Laine is clearly happy for visitors to wander up the drive to see the beautiful ivy-clad front of the house and to have a peek through a locked gate at the very beautiful, well-maintained back garden.

The meal in the Stables Cafe was very bland but also therefore inoffensive. The concert was delayed by about an hour due to some technical sound problems, which must have been beyond fixing, in fact, because the band was already there sorting out sound checks and stuff at 17:00 when we arrived and continued to signal disapproval throughout the gig.

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Nikki (vocals), Been on keyboards and guest Sally Jo on the electric violin

Kim is not the only fan of this band – indeed Whispering Bob Harris is an outspoken fan and was due to present the band that night. Instead, he sent a video introduction due to slight ill health. Or perhaps he knew something about the current state of The Stables sound system that neither we nor Never The Bride knew.

I felt sorry for the band really. They had recorded a live album and video at this venue some years ago and were recording (or at least trying to do so) that night. I suspect that things had changed at the venue somewhat in between visits. Not least the nature of the audience for this gig as promoted – click here; not very rock’n’roll; more Wigmore Hall or Lord’s on a members’ night.

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Nikki and Been with guests Jolly Jumper from Norway on Harmonica and John Emms from Germany on Trumpet.

The band had lined up some terrific guest performers (see photo captions above). You don’t get to see much of Been, “because she hides behind that mass of hair” according to Janie, but she is a super keyboard player and also played two other instruments just to show off.

Been on Guitar
Been on Guitar

Been and Nikki write many of their own songs, although in truth I feel their strongest skill is as performers and that their covers of suitable, well-known material, such as the Janis Joplin stuff and the blues numbers they played with their guests worked best. Both sets of covers they performed at Kim and Janie’s party were superb throughout.

I don’t think the band were that fussed about an entourage turning up from London in a limo. Nikki only mentioned it two or three times during the show; the last time she mentioned it she also suggested a post-show tequila party in the limo.

Kim insisted on hanging around for an hour or so after the gig – she didn’t want her groupie day to be over (or perhaps she fancied that tequila party), but in the end was persuaded by the others that it was time to go home.

No M1 roadworks that night, thank goodness. Not that I would have noticed. Three glasses of wine over the evening and the clock nearing midnight – I was “gonnnnnnne”.

I'm Only Sleeping
I’m Only Sleeping

Not sure I ever was very rock’n’roll. Am absolutely sure that I’m not rock’n’roll now. Janie went with the flow of the evening more readily than I did, although in truth she also drank little and was, like me, pleased for a nice quiet day on the Sunday.

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