This show was a real treat compared to Tommy Hale's show last year. That previous show was blighted by one of the worst soundmen and all sorts of problem that hampered what should have been a great set. This time way out east in Leytonstone at the Ex-Servicemens club, Tommy proved what we'd belived all along: that he's one hell of a great live.
The evening opened with Hot Snake Time Machine; the latest band to come out of The Snakes' stable of groups which also includes The Snakes and The Snakeoil Rattlers among other groups. The Time Machine do as the name suggest and play a bunch of old songs they don't have to pay royalties on or something like that.
Now they don't play any really obvious covers to such a degree that I don't recognise most of the songs they do perform. They opened with a song about a Big Blue Bus that was a real good blast of power pop - a little ragged around the edges but not in a bad way.
Was the second song Heart's Two Silver Rings or was it a cover of a cooler song on that same subject? Not sure, but either way it was a heartfelt love song that kept to the power pop/Beat Boom template and featured some nice gruff vocals from Simon Moore.
They played an obviously Beat boom-inspired cover of a song by The Action about not thinking about Bad Times. that's slightly easier sung than done and I think they were flying by the seat of their pants by the end of the song. In a way that just got everyone smiling, admittedly.
They then tried to persuade us it was time for some Tea and Symphony with a version of Nimbo's 1971 classic Maisie Jones. What a great song; a real gem and a great version which was followed by a song by some band called The Snakes and The Last Days Of Rock & Roll. That seems to suggest we are really getting to the end of the Rock & Roll era. Well maybe, but it's a stonking song to help keep the faith.
They then took us down for some deep southern soul, with a lovely version of Bobby Charles' I Must Be In A Good Place Now all about how it's a good day to go fishing. I wish I recognised this song before hearing it live and I must find the album it comes from.
They also gave us a good version of Dion's King Of the New York Streets: one of the few songs in the set I not only knew but also own and they recrated that nice loose feel to it to a T.
They finished by singing about Little B (or is it Bee or Bea?). I can't be sure, but I do know it's a very cool song about a woman doing all sorts of things to them.
They got a well-deserved encore and gave us a very ragged, unrehearsed version of And The Band Played On that the evenings host Rambling Steve requested while getting us all to cheer enough to bring them back. They were a lot of fun and did everything they could to sell all of theit T-shirts. All 2 of them.
After the break the Hot Snake Time Machine transformed with the addition of another Snake into The Magnificent Bastards ready to back Tommy Hale who is back over from Texas and ready to blast off with the band's Theme song Magnificent Bastard. Right, so this is how they were meant to sound last year! Damn they're cooking right from the get go and they've got that deep southern blues soul feel just about right.
Homecoming Mum felt almost like a testimonial and for those of us that always feel like they are having an homecoming by coming back to Leytonstone it felt kind of apt as I remembered record shopping round the corner in Woolworths as a kid with my dad and all the other adventures I got up to around here back in the day.
Can I Lay Down Next To You saw the first keyboard action of the set to add a bit of a Jimmy Smith twist to things as Tommy really begged and pleaded for that chance and you know she had to give in. I'll Be around is much more of a promise than a threat as he's not bringing the boys with him. The shaking tambourine ensured it was delivered with a slight revival feel to it.
As per last year, Tommy then told us the harrowing tale of his childhood friend O'Dell Barnes Jnr who was wrongly executed for a crime he didn't commit. This led into Save Me which this year sounded every bit as emotional as it should. It was great to be able to hear all the words this time round as it's a really great song and also chimes with the times we are living in sadly.
Open Letter has a barnstorming southern soul feel to it that just keeps things properly grounded and thankfully Tommy sings about some very real issues. This is also the case on Backburner: a song that had plenty of backbone as well as some crisp guitar work from Simon Moore with a really nice bassline from Jim O'Sullivan.
We then got for me the song that has been stuck in my head ever since - Sonrisas Y Sunshine; one of those songs that once I hear it I'm stuck singing the chorus for a good week afterwards. It really should be turning up on TV drama soundtracks quite regularly by now - it has that perfect feel for when everyone goes to the only pub anyone on the show drinks at.
Just How She Died is sad and yet still uplifting in the way it's played to wring emotion from both the lyrics and the music. They then asked Dan the important question: Where Were You Yesterday? Not sure if he remembered the answer or not, but I think everyone else still could and most of us by this point were throwing money into the big glass being passed around by Rambling Steve.
That brought the set to a close and once they had decided what to play for the encore, Tommy put on his best ringmaster voice to kick off Libertine: the perfect shimmy and shake to finish off with. They came back for a well-deserved second encore of Silver Clouds with yet more great keyboards and it provided the ideal end a really great night out. Go and see Tommy Hale live if you get the chance, you really won't be disappointed.