Andy Taylor’s first solo show in 30 years brought the house down at London’s iconic 100 Club. Granted exclusive access, Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth followed the former Duran Duran favourite’s big day.
Karma Feel The Noize
Its corridors are adorned with exclusive prints featuring everyone from Aerosmith to Iron Maiden and the rooftop bar is synonymous with star-studded after-show hang outs.
No wonder Andy Taylor – replete with trademark shades, that thoroughly modern man bun and old school overcoat – chose The Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel as the base for one of rock music’s most talked about comebacks.
It’s a matter of hours before soundcheck and Taylor is checking in alongside three quarters of Reef, Skindred’s drummer and a famous face from one of Britain’s best-loved blues rock staples.
Later that night this supremely talented collective will join forces to deliver a blistering set that points to an exciting future and celebrates a glorious past. For now, it’s all about settling into the pre-gig routine, pressing a favourite pair of jeans and ironing out any lingering creases in a fluid setlist.
From Cullercoats To The 100 Club
Fast forward to 5.30pm and the walls of the famous 100 Club – the world’s oldest independent music venue – are shaking to the sounds of a singer songwriter reborn. Taylor’s decision to relaunch his career in a tiny basement club off Oxford Street reflects the Geordie’s keen sense of history and an understandable desire to keep things low key…at least for now.
The 100 Club has been hosting household names and rising stars since 1942 and just like The Karma Sanctum Soho it’s home to iconic images celebrating decades of life-changing live music. Portraits of jazz greats, blues heroes, punk idols and rock gods jostle for position alongside vintage posters illustrating the venue’s storied past.
Taylor is right at home and a revealing soundcheck bristles with ambition. Reef frontman Gary Stringer bounces on and off stage with all the enthusiasm of a kid in a sweetshop and the rhythm section of Jack Bessant (the very epitome of rock and roll) and Arya Goggin drives home hard.
Luke Morley, flat cap pulled down and knowing smile fixed, is standing against the back wall tapping his brown suede boots in time with Planet Rock favourite Love Or Liberation. Thunder’s singer songwriter could be a key player in Taylor’s reinvention: a timely reconnection reflects a longstanding friendship.
Thirty years ago the two men worked together on the brilliant Backstreet Symphony and three decades down the line it’s clear the old magic is still there. As the soundcheck reaches its uplifting conclusion Morley joins Taylor on stage to run through Reef’s Place Your Hands and a cover of The Kinks’ Lola.
Both songs will bring the house down during the main set’s encore four hours later and little wonder. Ever the gentleman, Morley gestures to Stringer and reveals it’s been an honour to perform Reef’s most recognisable anthem alongside its creator-in-chief. Taylor’s ‘band’ is bonding there and then. Now it’s back to the hotel for one last breather.
Soho, So Good
The 15-minute walk from The 100 Club to the The Karma Sanctum Soho takes in boutique fashion outlets, traditional British boozers, bohemian eateries and – if you take the correct turns – Berwick Street’s vinyl emporiums.
Taylor can be found in every corner of Sister Ray and Reckless Records on Duran Duran mega hits, Power Station classics and the odd solo cut. As a producer his name is attached to Thunder, The Almighty, Gun and more. Like the vinyl revival, his comeback is long overdue.
It’s a comeback that’s been years in the making. Back home in Ibiza, Taylor has been tinkering with new material for as long as any of his close friends and colleagues can remember.
Summers have been spent working alongside some of the biggest names in rock – there was talk of a solo album featuring guest vocalists on every track. Then there were the rumours of a first Power Station record since 1996’s Living In Fear but more recently attention has turned to an Andy Taylor record featuring Stringer on lead vocals: a spring 2020 release has been mooted.
Tonight’s one-off London date will feature four new songs and fuel expectation. It’s been time well spent and the follow-up to 1987’s Thunder – the only album of Taylor originals to date – can’t come soon enough.
If the suggested set time of 8.45pm passes without incident then a minor delay simply serves to ramp up an electric atmosphere inside The 100 Club. Morley suddenly appears at the back – with Thunder buddy Danny Bowes in tow – and then the Taylor family piles in en masse.
Classic Rock Magazine scribes mingle with well-heeled VIP guests. Familiar faces from Taylor’s colourful past catch up with a new generation of excited converts. There’s even a bloke in a Barbour jacket, chinos and brogues talking Duran Duran classics – even though he couldn’t have been born when The Wild Boys hit number two on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 2019 it seems it’s impossible to assign a common demographic to Taylor’s crowd. But as soon as the first notes of Don’t Let Me Die Young kick in the various generations are united by their appreciation of unfiltered, uplifting rock and roll.
I Might Lie – another classy co-write with Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones – allows Taylor to let rip. And it’s immediately clear he’s lost none of his insane ability to elevate lead guitar to the next level.
Alongside the classy Jesse Wood – another Reef recruit – Taylor teases every last note out of a bona fide classic and the standard has been set.
By now Andy Taylor Jr is dancing the night away just yards from the stage where his famous father struts his stuff. His mother and sister look on – occasionally venturing forward to take a quick snap for the family album.
The 100 Club is bouncing and never more so than during the funky Reachin’ Out To You. The new song instantly strikes a chord with those keen students of Taylor’s various Nile Rodgers collaborations and surely wouldn’t sound out of place on a new Dan Reed Network record…
There’s a cheeky Duran jam before a meandering, monumental take on Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love (Taylor, of course, played lead guitar on the US chart topper) calls time on the main set in suitably excessive style with Stringer’s pitch perfect vocal paying an impeccable tribute to one of rock’s much missed frontmen.
And then that man Morley adds a layer of understated cool to an emotive encore – a three-guitar assault on the senses sending the masses into raptures. As a taster of things to come this is a veritable feast.
Wild Boys…And Girls
It’s his party and he’ll turn up late if he wants to. But when Taylor does stroll into The Social, on Little Portland Street, he looks every inch the rock star and that on-stage smile is still as wide as the Tyne.
And he times his entrance to perfection as the after-show shindig has suddenly burst into life. The booths are full and the wood-panelled walls and ceiling are dripping – this quirky corridor of a venue doesn’t only look like a sauna, it’s beginning to feel like one.
Taylor, of course, is still wearing the trademark overcoat and still meeting (or melting) and greeting behind those carefully positioned shades.
His beaming band of hired hands are basking in the glory of a faultless show and rightly so. Backing singer for the night – Fire Red Empress’s exquisite Jennifer Diehl – is propping up the bar and the red hot vocalist deserves a drink or three on the back of a memorable shift. Rising star? Check.
Gentle giant Bessant is everyone’s favourite drinking buddy and although Wood would love to be, he’s on the school run with his six-year-old son in a matter of hours. And there’s no rest for the wicked where the Reefers are concerned – the band will be hooking up in the studio before the end of the year to continue work on a brand new studio album.
For Stringer, Bessant, Wood and co. 2020 could be some year.
Taylor, too, appears on the brink of a very busy 12 months. But as the after-show gathers pace it’s all about the present. The future can wait.
I Might Lie (Down)
It’s 3.30am. There are still two-and-a-half hours of drinking time remaining on the rooftop bar at The Karma Sanctum Soho and it seems this particular party has only just started.
Taylor is holding court. Morley is deep in conversation. There’s a chap desperately seeking cigarette papers and struggling to contain his excitement as he flits from one new friend to the next.
Bizarrely, it’s as if Taylor has transplanted his favourite rooftop terrace from Ibiza and dropped it into central London in the middle of winter. The blazing heaters and warm-hearted chat stave off the chill but it’s brass monkeys outside.
And the majority have been caught cold by a comeback that exceeded all expectations. A return to form that’s been a long time coming. And a timely reminder that there’s so much more to come.
When Taylor finally retires to bed following a whirlwind 12 hours he’ll do so knowing it’s job done. Or job just started. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Thanks to andytaylorofficial Facebook page for images.