CHINA CRISIS – ROPETACKLE ARTS CENTRE, SHOREHAM-BY- SEA 12.1.19
China Crisis have been around for four decades now and I tell you what, they are still a very entertaining band to see perform live.
Vocalist and keyboardist Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon formed China Crisis way back in 1979 in Kirkby, near Liverpool, Merseyside. They were part of a wave of new Liverpool acts in the late 1970s and early 1980s; led by Wirral based ‘posh boys’ Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark; the Score brothers, Mike and Ali with Frank Maudsley and Paul Reynolds, namely A Flock Of Seagulls; Julian Cope and his pals in The Teardrop Explodes; Ian McCulloch and the Echo & The Bunnymen lads; Pete Wylie’s Wah! Heat; and of course Holly Johnson’s controversial Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Liverpool was really buzzing!
I first became aware of China Crisis when I heard their debut single ‘African & White’ which I snapped up on Virgin 12” and still have to this very day! It was a 1982 remix of their 7” 1981 release on Inevitable Records. I honestly don’t think that it sounds dated at all unlike many of the contemporary tunes of the time. The b-side of my 12” is fab too as it contains the totally dreamy ‘Red Sails’ which transports me to a Mediterranean hot sunny beach with the sun on my face as I look out over the shimmering water and there gently bobbing up and down and glistening in the sun’s rays are yachts with red sails – ahhhhh magic, I want to be there right now!
China Crisis found major success in the UK with four Top 20 singles, ‘Christian’, ‘Wishful Thinking’, ‘Black Man Ray’ and ‘King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)’ and three Top 30 albums ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain’, ‘Working with Fire and Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume Two’ and ‘Flaunt the Imperfection’.
China Crisis also secured some single and album hits across Australia, New Zealand, all over Europe and the Americas.
I was lucky to have seen them play live at the Top Rank Suite in Brighton on Monday 6th June 1983 and tonight, after a 36 year gap, I am fortunate to be seeing them perform again.
Myself and my colleague were unsure as to what to expect from this evening proceedings as we were actually unsure of the current state of play of the band, as this was their first gig in their 40th year and also it was being held in a new venue to us, namely the wonderful Ropetackle Arts Centre located on Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea.
The venue is very smart and certainly has a community vibe going on. You can tell the locals love the place as tonight’s gig was sold out and judging by the clientele, I would assume that some had come along to support their cherished building and may not necessarily know who China Crisis were.
Many volunteers were busying themselves in order for this evening’s event to run smoothly and I salute them all as they are clearly doing a fab job as indeed the Ropetackle Arts Centre is actually a registered charity.
We entered the hall which basically is a decent square box sized room with good acoustics and I would estimate that there were around 240 seats for this evening’s punters to perch upon.
One thing was sure, we were not in Brighton. It really didn’t have a student feeling to the place and the mature crowd were initially quite sedate, however Gary Daly certainly wasn’t settling for this!
The current band lineup is the aforementioned Gary Daly (vocals) and Eddie Lundon (guitar/vocals), with new band members Jack Hymers (synths) and Eric Animan (sax). There was no support band this evening as China Crisis split the evening into two performance halves.
The band entered and it was obvious from the off that this evening was going to be a memorable one but partly for reasons we had not foreseen.
Let’s just cut to the chase. You know how entertaining ‘A Question Of Sport’ tv show is with the lovable antics and smile of Phil Tufnell, well China Crisis’ Gary not only looks like a longer haired version of ‘Tuffers’, but he sure is just as entertaining! In fact tonight was arguably 40% stand-up comedy and 60% music. Sounds a bit strange to those who were not present, but it was a perfect blend. I’m always annoyed when singers blurb on about this and that in between tracks, as I’ve come to hear the music, but tonight is I believe the only time that I can recall wanting even more banter and I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this.
After one tune, Gary gave Eric the sax player his belated Christmas present which was a token joke present and this set the comedy tone for the night. But when playing the hits and more it was reasonably serious. We also learnt some interesting facts that Gary and Eddie had written most of the songs when they they living in their mums houses at the ages of 18 and 19 and that they were ‘state sponsored artists’, that’s on the dole to us.
We learnt that at the time they were penning their debut single ‘African & White’, Eddie was at Liverpool’s Royal Court on 7th July 1981 watching a gig by Iggy Pop. However after just eight songs, Iggy announced to the crowd that your city is burning and he walked off stage and didn’t return. It was the night of the Toxteth Riots!
Throughout the set Gary was also jesting about several musical acts from back in the day, which some of the acts are still going today and so it’s better not to repeat them here.
Near the start of of the second set, we (the crowd) were invited to take place in a promo video shoot for a promotion for China Crisis’ upcoming trip to The Netherlands. So Eddie and Gary had their backs to us whilst Eric filmed it from the back of the stage. This caused the biggest noise from us lot on the night as we waved to our Dutch counterparts.
At the end of the set, we were encouraged to put our mobile phones onto torchlight and wave them in the air. All in all the songs this evening sounded very much how they do on the albums and I liked that! We had a great night tonight. Here is the track list liberally interspersed with Scouse wit and banter.
‘The Soul Awakening’ (from ‘Working With Fire And Steel..’ 1983 album)
Gary Daly presents Eric Animan with late Xmas present of a Donald Trump coffee mug
‘Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Seven Sports For All’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Temptation’s Big Blue Eyes’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Feel To Be Driven Away’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Red Sails’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Fool’ (from ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ 2015 album)
‘Christian’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Tragedy And Mystery’ (from ‘Working With Fire And Steel..’ 1983 album)
‘Arizona Sky’ (from ‘What Price Paradise’ 1986 album)
‘African And White’ (from ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’..1982 album)
‘Black Man Ray’ (from ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ 1985 album)
‘Wishful Thinking’ (from ‘Working With Fire And Steel..’ 1983 album)
‘King In A Catholic Style’ (from ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ 1985 album)
‘Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling’ (from ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ 1985 album)
More info on China Crisis HERE.
Find out more about the Ropetackle Arts Centre HERE.
There you go Gary, I did the whole review and never mentioned Worthing-By-Sea….Doh!