Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Cargo, London
Cargo was a fitting venue. For those that don't know London, this is in the midst of Hoxton / Shoreditch hipster territory but despite that is a nice place. Great sound and as it turned out, just the right size for this swansong. I'd like to tell you about support, but this felt an important enough occasion that I didn't want my thoughts occluded so I sat them out on the frankly freezing patio. We spotted the mid-match shuffle and managed to neatly nip in and grab the front corner of the stage, feeding my OCD need to be near the seat of the action. Owen, clad in a beard and check shirt, did his own pre-gig set up of his rig, which consists of a sturdy kitchen table, stacked precariously with keyboards and synths.
His arrival on stage was marked by enough machine smoke for some theatrical battle re-enactment, someone must have been on the happy juice. Not to worry, this was clearly going to be an affair for the devoted. This was evidenced by a certain keenness around the first few rows, waiting with silence and intensity. Owen came on with 'Harsh The Herald Angels Sing'. The heavy beatbox of the delivery removed any chance for mawkishness but the poignancy remained. At that moment the overcooked smoke machine did its business, setting off the alarms. It was so obvious that this was the cause that no one ran away screaming and the general consensus was 'Oh just play on', so he did.
Owen said he was surprised no-one was asking for requests, and someone piped up asking for 'Don't You Have Payphones'. Sadly he said he hadn't got what he needed with him to do that. What did get played ranged back and forth over most of his career, meaning that I knew about half of it. I was the odd one out - most people I could see appeared to be mouthing along to every single number. I don't know if it was just some sort of Shoreditch time loop, but the songs seemed shockingly and abrasively short tonight, but compensated for by the sheer number that got played. I've never really noticed it before, but yes, on checking, I can see that classics like 'New Year's Kiss' clock in at only 2:02 on the album version. Still, it meant we got to hear lots.
Owen was in chatty mood, wanting to draw the crowd into conversation. Someone asked how was the chocolate cake in Dublin which led him into a story about how he had once expressed an opinion on the desirability and superiority of carrot cake. He had thought no more of it except to appreciate an apparently seamless supply of baked goodness. His innocence was punctured when one night a record company lackey sweatingly enquired if the carrot cake was up to the required standard and Owen realised that he had inadvertently created a one item rider, a prima donna tendency that he had always previously eschewed. Cake is obviously his thing (Hey, it's got to be better than brown M&Ms and Coke) and to prove a point, at that moment, a nice lady in the audience held a small cupcake aloft and asked if he would fancy a London muffin. Oh yes indeed he did, leaning down over the front of the stage so that the goods could be passed to him and safely stowed with that precarious stack of keyboards.
About halfway through the set I decided to move back into the throng and it was clear the tonight's devotion ran all the way through a room that was packed and stacked all the way to the back wall. Even back here, a large proportion were singing along to the words. By the time we got through 'Bobby Malone Moves Home' and 'Killers' I have to admit I was finding it a rather moving experience. There had been a request for him to do 'Love Connection' which he explained he was happy enough to do if maybe someone would come on stage and sing it, seeing as he didn't actually know the words. Of course it's not his own song, being written by Parenthetical Girls, so this was excusable if surprising, and it gave a chance for a young lady named Karen to volunteer and do a frankly touching and effective job of it. We also got to hear Owens' cover of the Paul Simon classic 'Graceland' which was percussive, mumbling, loud and entirely believable. We all indeed will be received.
'Cold White Christmas' came with its own little story about a guy who worked as an escort (no, not that kind) at the airport in St Paul Minnesota, giving guidance and assistance to people who maybe didn't have the language. On this one occasion, his charge was a young Finnish woman who he kept company during something like one hour stopover, in the course of which he inevitably fell deeply in love with her, never to see her again. This left him to curse that he "fucking hated St Paul because it was so fucking cold" and "oh, how he wished that he could move to Finland instead". Americans and their grasp of geography, eh?
It all ended perfectly with 'Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm' with it's appropriate line of 'it's the end of our career' and then 'Holly Hobby'. Schlitz and Mickey Mouse indeed, goodnight and thank you CFTPA, I can't wait to see what's next from Mister Owen Ashworth.