01. I Remember That
03. The Sound of Crying
04. Machine Gun Ibiza
05. Andromeda Heights
06. We Let the Stars Go
07. Life’s a Miracle
08. If You Don’t Love Me
09. Jordan: The Comeback
10. Faron Young
11. Couldn’t Bear to be Special
14. A Life of Surprises
15. Electric Guitars
16. Cars and Girls
18. I’m a Troubled Man
19. Carnival 2000
20. Moving the River
21. Hey Manhattan
22. Lions in my Own Garden (Exit Someone)
24. One of the Broken
25. When Love Breaks Down
26. Goodbye Lucille #1
27. Cowboy Dreams
28. Looking for Atlantis
29. Where the Heart is
30. Prisoner of the Past
A recording of this concert exists, sourced from minidisc. Good audience recording but with drums very prominent in the mix, otherwise clear if rather quiet. Wonderful moment early on where an audience member exclaims “look at that beard” as the band walk on.
“‘EVERY 2.4 seconds someone somewhere is not buying a Prefab Sprout record’, said the official tour T-shirt. And the Royal Concert Hall wasn’t full for this footnote in pop history – the band’s first gig for ten years.
“But the show’s message to all those who stayed away was: Your loss.
“For two hours and 15 minutes, Paddy McAloon – now a Grizzly Adams figure unrecognisable as the svelte ’80s pop sensation he used to be – proved beyond any doubt he is every inch the eccentric genius his supporters always claimed.
“Cautious at first, the band admittedly took a while to warm up. But imagine your first day back at work after a decade away! I’m already envious of audiences on the rest of the tour, if this form is anything to go by.
“With his brother Martin on bass, drummer Neil Conti back in the line-up and Jess Bailey on keyboards, McAloon cut a diffident, self-deprecating figure between songs but hit the heights during them. Emotive vocals surpassing the records and superior, jazzy guitar was the icing on the cake.
“Highlights? Every song, really. But for me the material from the two Sprout masterpieces – Steve McQueen and Jordan: The Comeback – took the laurels. Goodbye Lucille, piledriving its way to a spectacular conclusion atop its buzzing guitar riff, was simply astonishing, while the hymnal One Of The Broken provided one of the most moving moments this venue has seen for many a year.
“Pity there was nothing from the rumoured epic concepts still in the home studio vaults, but fear not, pop-pickers: A new album is in the works. About time.”
“If you remember the last time Prefab Sprout had a public profile, you’re probably an elephant. That was 10 years ago, when Margaret Thatcher was PM and critics were raving over an ambitious concept album called Jordan: The Comeback.
“Then Paddy McAloon, the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist, went off to sit on a hill near Newcastle, and the record label resigned itself to producing best-of compilations. The only blip came in 1997, with the all-new album Andromeda Heights and a lip-synching appearance on the National Lottery Live.
“So there was a lot riding on this gig, the first date in the first tour since 1990. That McAloon has a sense of humour became clear with the opening number, a 12-year-old ode to nostalgia called I Remember That. Within minutes, he’d also proved he’s still an awesome performer. His elfin days are gone – the white-streaked beard makes you think of an OU lecturer or, in his own words, Captain Birdseye – but he still has the voice of an angel seduced by worldly pleasures.
“Backed by brother Martin on bass, Neil Conti on drums and Jess Bailey on inaudible keyboards, he led us through 30 tracks in over two hours, from Prefab’s first single, Lions in My Garden, to the forthcoming release, Where the Heart Is. There was passion, power and no hint of boredom or overfamiliarity: he can still produce what he called ‘the shiver of the fur’.
“Hearing all these songs together, it was striking how often McAloon has written about the passing of time, the mutating and maturing of character and emotion. Of his twin icons, Elvis and God, one went from sexy young rock god to bloated hamburger junkie, the other from omnipotent thunderbolt-chucker to beardy old hand-wringer.
“It was an evening to bring a lump to your throat, as much for what McAloon didn’t sing as for what he did. Where were the new songs, composed since 1997? When Andromeda Heights came out, he claimed he was writing a song almost every day. There was no sign of them, nothing to suggest he might one day re-emerge as one of Britain’s smartest songwriters. The show closed with A Prisoner of the Past, with its line ‘I’m a ghost to you now.’ A smart nod to McAloon’s rich past – but perhaps too close to the truth.”
The Guardian, 1st April, 2000
(The following review is from Leonard’s Lair Site, the Show Review).
“Having followed Prefab Sprout since about 1988 and disovered the delights of all their albums since, Prefab Sprout were one of the few bands that I have been genuinely excited to see live. I can honestly say that Prefab Sprout haven’t put a foot wrong yet in terms of their album output; this is all the more remarakable considering that their style of music is basically just AOR (Adult-Orientated Rock) a much derided genre – and sometimes rightfully so – given it’s normal refusal to adhere to musical fashion.
Paddy McAloon and his able band have managed to write songs which are strangely addictive and what’s more, they are a group whose music can appeal to most people’s mothers. In fact after seeing the average age of the crowd there would have been nothing embarrassing about taking my mother along. The term ‘gig’ didn’t seem appropriate on this evening, it was very much a concert, or even a performance. When Paddy emerged in David Crosby-style beard, the first thing to be noticed was that he seemed to be wearing the same outfit he wore on the last tour, some 10 years ago. The white shirt and black waistcoat combination was given another airing and inside it beat the heart of one of Britain’s best songwriters of the last 20 years. Staright away the band launched into I Remember That, a soulful number from 1988’s From Langley Park To Memphis Album.
“Neil Conti, back in the fold, after being absent from the recording of 1997’s Andromeda Heights, provided fleshy drumming which at times threatened to swamp the subtle guitar techniques of Paddy whilst his younger brother Martin contributed accomplished and understated bass which is exactly what bass guitarists should do normally unless your name’s Peter Hook. The other member of the touring party was keyboard player Jess Bailey who was replacing Wendy Smith; who in turn had recently given birth and understandably chose not to tour. What was most striking during the two-hour set was that the group actually managed to play their way through 29 songs. This was in due in no small part to the lack of show-off keyboard or guitar solos; generally the songs were played pretty straight as they were on the albums or singles. The one notable exception was on the occasion when Martin and Neil left the stage to ‘take bags of drugs or whatever rock stars are supposed to do’ as Paddy joked and it was clear that he disapproved on this kind of fashion too.
“The stripped down version of first single ‘Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)’ with just Paddy on guitar and Bailey on keys was a delight as was the gentle lullaby that is ‘Swans’ which followed it. The biggest cheers, however, were reserved for the standouts from 1985’s ‘Steve McQueen’ album, arguably their best effort in a career which has been synonymous with high quality. ‘Goodbye Lucille #1 (Johnny Johnny)’, ‘Moving The River’ and ‘Bonny’ demonstrated that the 80’s weren’t just about synthesizers and poodle-perm rock but also about cleverly constructed, nagging melodies which send regular shivers down the spine. In truth, though, all the tunes played were delivered with precision and even though some missed the delicate harmonious vocals of Wendy Smith, Jess Bailey proved a more than adequate replacement in the keyboards department particularly in the glorious flourish that climaxes ‘Moving The River’.
“During the lean years between albums in 1990-1997 McAloon wrote for the actor/producer/director/singer Jimmy Nail and 3 of these songs were given an airing. Frankly, they didn’t add much to the evening’s entertainment and probably sounded better with Nail’s more aggressive vocal style rather than the Sprout’s frontman’s hushed timbre.
“McAloon’s on stage patter was heart-warmingly humble, constantly thanking the audience for their continued support during a decade of little new material from the band. He even attempted a few half-hearted jokes perhaps the best one being when he commented that Celine Dion would be covering some Jethro Tell tracks; “I’ve heard my Heart Will Go Aqualung and believe me, it’s great”. But you had to be there to appreciate it.
“Rumour has it that the Sprouts will be bringing out a new album before the end of 2000, provisionally titled Sleeping Rough, according to Q Magazine. A new single will be released which will be familiar to many, the title track to Sunday evening drama ‘Where The Heart Is’ but this is not one of their best efforts it has to be said; too unassuming and not ear-tugging enough to merit more than a ‘oh, that’s a nice song’ comment. Hopefully, the songwriting muse is still with McAloon despite his advancing years but whatever happens, some people left the Royal Concert Hall knowing that they had witnessed greatness.”