During the course of October and November 2013 Pauline Murray did a series of acoustic gigs around her native North East. She normally fronts local punk band, Penetration on their occasional tours around the country so a series of intimate acoustic solo gigs was definitely unusual for her.
The first gig of the tour that I managed to attend was at the Old Cinema Launderette in Gilesgate, a mile or so out of Durham city centre. The venue used to be a cinema, opening in 1941 as the Crescent Cinema and later reopening under new management in 1958 as the Rex. After the cinema closed down it became a bingo hall for a few years before being converted into a launderette a couple of years ago and very soon afterwards started to have small intimate gigs which proved so popular they are on most weekends. Capacity is only about 35 as the venue is tiny but the atmosphere is wonderful and there is even a licensed bar there now with a selection of wines and beers available.
And so it was that Pauline Murray sat down with her acoustic guitar among the washing machines and driers surrounded by people sitting in a ring of chairs and a few others sitting on the floor or propping the bar up at the back. The set started with a selection of new songs, the first of which was ‘Shadow in my Mind’ about the little voice nagging away at you in the back of your mind. She had a little attack of nerves and had to compose herself before starting the next song ‘When we Were Young’ which was about teenagers having no responsibilities until they have to leave home. Next song ‘After All’ started by examining how people think before going off on a tangent about the media, It was a more upbeat track than the others and the best of the set up to now. ‘Missing’ was next, written about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann a few years ago. Another upbeat song came next, ‘Unbroken Line’ which was about Pauline’s growing interest in researching her family history and the last of the new songs was the best so far, it was about battling against depression, called ‘Dark Clouds’. Unfortunately, she forgot the words to a complete verse and had to improvise until she picked up the next chorus and then she made a mess of the finish as well.
She moved onto a selection of older songs now, taken from the various bands she had been involved in over the years. First song was ‘Don’t Give Up’ from her solo LP “Storm Clouds”. After a change of guitar the excellent ‘Sympathy’ was next, taken from the LP “Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls”; It was followed by ‘Guilty’, which was written as an acoustic song but was picked up by Penetration and became a regular part of their set. A song about the bad times in the mid 80’s called ‘Pressure Zone’ came next and the last track was the excellent ‘Dream Sequence’ of which I still have a copy of the 10″ single somewhere in the house.
After the music finished a Q&A session developed covering a wide range of subjects and she even remembered and recited the missing verse to Dark Clouds as well .
This was a brilliant gig, Pauline playing an unusually small intimate show, with the acoustic guitar which she doesn’t normally do and playing in a fabulously strange venue to top it all off.
A few days later she played at the Green Room in Stockton, another tiny venue for small intimate gigs that I had tickets for but I headed up to Newcastle instead to see Peter Hook and the Light play Power, Corruption & Lies and Movement at Digital.
The next day Pauline was at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Byker, Newcastle so after a quick zoom around Lumiere at Durham I headed up to Newcastle for the gig. It was a very late start, Pauline took to the stage around 11:15 which was to allow people to arrive from another earlier gig at the Sage. Same setup as the gig in Durham with Pauline sitting on a chair at the front of the stage, the same set as well, starting with ‘Shadow in my Mind’, ‘When we were young’ ‘After all’ ‘Missing’ ‘Unbroken Line’ and the excellent ‘Dark Clouds’ which was faultless this time around.
The last of the acoustic tracks was ‘Don’t Give Up’, half way through the other musicians started to join in one by one, first of all Rob Blamire on the Bass, John Ashton on Keyboards, then Dave Hodgson on the drums and finally Paul Harvey on guitar. A selection of songs from Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls CD followed starting with ‘Screaming in the darkness’, the excellent ‘Sympathy’, ‘Time Slipping’, ‘Shoot You Down’ and ‘Judgement Day’. Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls final single ‘Searching for Heaven’ came next and the final track of the main set was ‘Dream Sequence’. The band came back on to do a single encore of ‘This Thing Called Love’ to end another excellent set. A very good turnout tonight with the venue almost full, a few talkers in the audience whose tongues were loosened by a few beers due to the late start and the long set at just over an hour ended after midnight.
Which was the best of the two gigs? that is a difficult call but I would have to go for the Old Cinema Launderette and the full acoustic set in amazing surroundings.