When we arrived, I was horrified. I said to them, ‘do we look as ancient as this lot?’ ‘Of course not’, they said reassuringly; but I knew they were lying. I mean, I was looking at those two and I could see they were old so surely I couldn’t be the only one whose looks are deceptive. It was like a care home outing – folk falling over each other’s crutches and walking sticks; lines of wheelchairs – get some wheels if you want the best view. The Civic Hall, located in what used to be Trowbridge Park and now comprising a few random trees in between Frankie and Benny’s and Tesco, was populated with what, in the pre-politically correct days we’d call the crippled and the lame; the confused and the doddery; the stumbling and the disheartened; the downright bloody old. Anyone, in fact, hoping for a miracle who’d eaten beforehand in case they were a bit short on the fishes and bread front and hadn’t arrived with someone called Lazarus. And it’s not a popular name on the Wiltshire/Somerset border.
He said, ‘look at the blonde at the bar. She’s not old’. I said, ‘she’s not even wearing her own hair – and she’s got someone else’s face on’. On a good night, when it was Top Twenty at the Town Hall, with acts ‘all the way from Bristol’, they might have had a Durex machine for the terminally optimistic, although I doubt it. Tonight, they’re all rushing towards the Tenna Ladies’ emergency refill.
We’re here to see a Roy Orbison tribute band. Barry, aka Roy, is wearing a kind of Alice band to which is attached a stand-up black quiff of sorts. You can’t see this unless he turns sideways so, front-on, it’s quite realistic. It doesn’t matter too much because Barry’s done his homework: he looks like Roy, he sings like Roy…he even, between numbers (as they used to say) talks like Roy. And he has a most excellent band who do a few turns whilst Roy/Barry disappears to have a few pints of cider. There’s a fat woman – always handy when looking for termination clues – who performs, illogically, as Cilla Black. You’ve never seen anyone look less like her nemesis, but she’s ok. Fortunately, they show some grainy footage of Cilla behind her. I forgot how young Cilla Black was. Easily done in this crowd.
During the break, I go outside for a cigarette. I don’t smoke but I like the idea. And anyway, I need some fresh air. I would say about 80% of the audience is out there puffing away. On my way back in, I mention to the child on the door that I’m surprised how may folk will make the second half given that they’re mostly pissed and challenged by trying to get four fags in their lungs in fifteen minutes.
Second half is even better than the first and there’s a fantastic finale with ‘I drove all night’. It’s hard to remember this song is quite that old – like him or not, it’s what my son would call ‘A TUNE’.
Naturally, the encore is Pretty Woman. Fair enough but this evening has reminded us of other classics and, I’m sorry to record, the tragedy of Roy: two dead wives and two sons killed in a fire. Whatever, the crowd is on its feet – well those that can are. The ladies in the row behind are crying, probably because they’ve missed the nine o clock Horlicks.