Melody Maker, February 6, 1971

The Python and the Centipede

by Michael Watts

     PATTO: very strong
NOT having attended the previous two events, it is difficult to judge how successful the Lanchester Arts Festival has been so far. From organisers and people who did attend then I have the impression that there has not been the same sense of excitement in the air as last year, and several students I have spoken to attribute it to the fact that many feel there are not the big names on the bill that there were 12 months ago.

It seems that Leon Russell and Elton John do not have the same sort of charisma that Jack Bruce inspired last year (although his consequent performance was not particularly well-acclaimed).

On the first three nights that I was there, in fact, I felt that the audience was a little slow to respond to acts. They preserved a stony silence, for instance, throughout the whole of Centipede’s vibrant act until the very end; only then did the natural exuberance of the music get through to them.

All in all, however, I think Martin Poppleton and his band of organisers staged a well-balanced and vital selection of music, sensibly interspersed with offbeat items like Monty Python’s Flying Circus…

Patto, who played a short set prior to the appearance of Centipede on Saturday, were hit by the problem of their bassist, Clive Griffiths, having to be rushed to hospital that day with a collapsed lung. Hasty readjustments were made and Roy Babbington, bassist with Centipede and various other outfits, depped, and Gary Windo’s tenor was also added for the occasion. Considering that they only had an hours rehearsal together, they were very strong, although naturally a little rough around the edges.

It was one of the hottest blows I have seen in a long time, with Windo playing in his typical fierce, insane style -- rather a contrast to Ollie Halsall's subtle, restrained work on lead, whom he tended to overshadow in the early stages. Babbington and drummer John Halsey are to be congratulated on the empathy they quickly established together.

Centipede, making their fourth appearance, have become more cohesive, although "Septober Energy" still tends to sprawl a little and seems at times designed as an opportunity for every horn player to have a blow. But what blowers! Apart from the ubiquitous Windo, there was Ian Carr, Karl Jenkins, Elton Dean, Marc Charig, Alan Skidmore, Dudu Pukwana and Nick Evans. Apologies to anyone who I have missed.

Tippett himself was lovely, whether playing those long jagged runs that are so typical of him, or a lighter, more romantic style that he used halfway through the piece. They all got an encore and they deserve it…

Note: This is an excerpt from the article - paragraphs about Climax Chicago, Arthur Crudup, Brewers Droop, and Erroll Dixon have been omitted.


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