Rychard Carrington reports on John Otway, Murray Torkildsen and Albany Down - The Man On The Moon, Cambridge, 10 December 2010

Otway and theremin
Man On The Moon

This was a tremendous gig, definitely one of my favourite of the year. It is surely rare to hear three superb acts, of such diversity, on the same bill.

Albany Down play Zeppelinesque heavy blues rock, and mighty well do they play it too. Tight, proficient musicianship, potent vocals and a consistently strong set of originals and covers added up to as enjoyable a performance of heavy rock as any I've seen. These are four young masters of the genre - they could go very far.

Murray Torkildsen, of Popdad, The Sweeney and The Otway Big Band, is one of the most underrated songwriters in rock. A resident of Harlow New Town and very proud of it, Murray perfromed tonight solo, playing mostly electric guitar. A New-Wave-derived roughness gives an edge to his witty, down-to-earth lyrics, scathing yet sensitive. On Stilts With Feathers In Your Hair is really beautiful, and a punchy cover of Children Of The Revolution was a tremendous finale. Shame he left the merchandise on his kitchen table.

Murray talked jokingly of bringing the audience down from the openers, to prepare them for Otway. Indeed from tight rock energy to joyous ropeyness would have been a very large jump. Fortunately, though, Otway remains as compelling as any live act in the country. I've seen him so many times, yet the appeal never wears thin. He really is so instinctively unique. I envy those seeing him for the first time, entering his extraordinary world afresh. Otway is a self-deprecatory show-off, a gauche clown with a soft soul, a clumsily yet brilliantly inventive amateur, a supreme but ingenuous showman, and, actually, a very good songwriter. In other words, you've just got to see him for yourself.

Roadie 'Deadly' is an excellent foil, thoroughly incorporated into the act as hapless,  forbearing sidekick, and Murray joined in at the end, although dying batteries spoilt his stylophone solo on The House Of The Rising Sun. Otway's doctor will be relieved at the absence of the familiar dangerous onstage acrobatics (these were replaced in Cheryl's Going Home by Otway singing with the microphone inside his mouth), but not at the forehead self-harm committed with said microphone during Headbutts. Alongside the goofy comedy, the rawness of the musical delivery does bring the sentiments of the material to the fore: the songs are moving - alternately raunchy and tender - as classic pop should be. Unsurprisingly, Otway's lyrical expression is fascinatinglly idiosyncratic, and his interpretation of other's hits brings out the potency of the compositions, even as they stamp 'Otway' all over them. Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive isn't half so redoubtable as the Otway-impersonates-Dylan version. Otway really is one of the all-time greats.


Otway's set list:

Really Free

Beware Of The Flowers


21 Days

U R Breaking Up

Body Talk

Louisa On A Horse

I Will Survive



Cheryl's Going Home

The House Of The Rising Sun

Bunsen Burner

Crazy Horses



Writer: Rychard Carrington