REVIEW; Dave Giles & the ’79 Sound @ Night and Day Cafe, Manchester.

About 10 years or so ago, I asked my daughter what she wanted for her birthday. Her reply? VIP tickets to see Dave Giles at the Cockpit in Leeds. You got to meet up with Dave before the show, have tea, listen to the sound check, get a bag load of signed and exclusive goodies, and then watch the gig.

Being the great dad I am, I duly obliged, and a small part of his fan base grew.

Back then, I was working on a local radio station & managed to grab a chat with the man himself for my show.

Here I am, all these years later, and I’ve just taken her to see Dave and his Nashville backing band, the ’79 Sound, at the Night and Day cafe on Oldham Street for the penultimate night of his new album launch tour, and I have to say, found myself very happily whiling away a few hours, listening to some great music, played by some ass kicking musicians.

The album, Tennessee and 48th, was in part crowdfunded and recorded in Nashville in January of this year. It’s a very accomplished piece of work, and hangs together beautifully.

Hearing it live can sometimes be a different beast altogether.

Dave has either been very lucky, or very wise. His backing band of Nashville musicians plays to each other’s strengths and the whole set simply bounces off the walls and you can’t help but tap your feet.

Dave wrote most of the album before heading off to the USA on what was probably the biggest gamble of his career, and it comes across as a really polished set. The whole idea of this short tour is to get the album out there to audiences who have supported him in the past, as well as hopefully a few new fans who may have heard it on Spotify.

If the finished product is what you can achieve in Nashville with £20k, more power to him!

For the gigs themselves, Dave is supported by Nick Parker and Pete RG, two very different and contrasting acts to Dave’s laid back style. Both acts in their own way doing what opening acts are supposed to do, warm up the crowd for the headliner.

To be fair, Dave Giles knows his audience, in some cases personally, such is the fan base he has built up over the years, and he moves easily through the venue before taking the stage greeting fans as if they are old friends he’s not seen for a while, which for the most part is true, having also done a series of living room gigs for fans up and down the UK.

Dave Giles on stage at the Night & Day Cafe

Dave Giles on stage at the Night & Day Cafe

Once on stage, it’s easy to see why Dave has built up such a loyal following. His easy going style plays perfectly with the mixture of people in his audience, and there is soon a decent crowd around the front of the stage happily moving to the new album, most of whom already seem to know each new track by heart.

Its great to see an act who is not only in touch with his fans, but so approachable both before and after the gig.

Sadly, this was the penultimate night of the tour, but rest assured, as soon as he announces another gig in the North West, get on to the tickets as quick as you can, because although he has a “pay what you feel like” policy (‘…and if you feel you’ve paid too much, come and see me, I’ll refund you.’) his gigs are always pretty much sold out well in advance of the night.

Dave also has a very interesting merchandise stall (run by no other than his Dad!) which includes the usual T-shirts and hoodies to different teas and mugs. All available on line as well as at the shows.

Easily a 5* show from beginning to end.

 

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C’est magnifique! Catalan Dragons stun Wire at Wembley

But is it time to look at the showpiece event, and specifically, is it time it left Wembley?

Firstly, the match itself. There is no doubting that Warrington certainly looked stunned when Catalan went ahead inside the first 5 minutes, bur from that point on, the victor was hardly ever in doubt.

Warrington looked like staging a late comeback, but the Dragons defence was strong enough to hold on for an historic 20-14 victory.

Ahead of kick off, I bumped into Alex Simmons of Rugby AM, and asked him how he felt the game would go…

As it was, Catalan Dragons went home with both the Challenge Cup and the Lance Todd trophy for Man of the Match, which is voted for by the press, went to Tony Gigot.

There had been a Twitter campaign to #LetsFillWembley but it fell someway short as the crowd of 50,672 was the lowest of the modern era. Quite a few people blamed this on the fact that one of the finalists came from France, and traditionally, the month of August is a holiday period, and the short turnaround between the Semi final and Final.

Me?

I think the Challenge cup needs a MAJOR overhaul.

Wembley is too big to stage a rugby league showpiece final.

The amount of buildings that have gone up around the stadium means there can be no fan park for supporters to mingle and to build the atmosphere ahead of entering the ground, and this is important.

When you’ve a stadium that holds 90,000, generating an atmosphere with just over half of that really takes some doing. You can’t rely on a couple of 1/2 time games and a choir before kick off to generate one. No matter how good the stadium announcer is, and in Pete Nuttall the sport has one of THE very best in the business, he cant do it if there is no crowd to motivate.

Even the small fan park at the Grand Final gets fans in the mood for what is usually a really tasty encounter, even if you’re not a fan of either team, there is always something to do and see for fans of the sport, and a decent band during the break always helps.

Wembley without a full crowd is a soulless void of concrete with a nice green oblong of grass in the middle.

A soulless concrete void with a green oblong

A soulless concrete void with a green oblong

Credit to those Catalan fans (and those from other clubs sporting “Dragon for a day” tee shirts) who did their utmost to create an atmosphere, but really? I’m not certain Wembley would have filled 90,000 if it had been both Hull clubs in the final, let alone Wigan v St Helens.

Its played on a bank holiday weekend during the English school summer holidays. The RFL needs to look again at perhaps moving it back to its traditional May date, and hold it away from Wembley.

The London Stadium would be a better venue.

The former home of the Olympic games has been configured for a ball game, has superb transport links, has already hosted a big rugby league event and is easily big enough to accommodate a match of the stature of the Challenge cup. It holds 57,000 people, and given the outward lack of concern from the RFL about fan numbers, it seems perfect to move the game away from Wembley, keep it in London and actually fill a stadium.

May though is Magic Weekend.

I want to see the Magic Weekend stay in Newcastle, as St James park is perfect, but I think it’ll be moved in 2019, probably to the Etihad in Manchester as part of the RFL move to the campus full time, but surely, Magic Weekend can be moved to accommodate an early season final for the Challenge Cup?

From small acorns…

There is room at West Ham for a decent fan park, as provided by Rugby AM when England played the Kiwis there a couple of years ago, and if anyone fancies a spot of shopping, there is the Westfield centre within walking distance.

Sadly, the lack of imagination from the RFL means that they won’t even consider a move away from Wembley.

Perhaps if the mooted break away from the RFL by the top flight happens it will stir some action from Red Hall, but somehow, I cant see the breakaway happening either.

For too long, the sport I love has stagnated from the top down. It’s high time that there was some new thinking at all levels.

Next years Challenge cup final?

Not unless Hull KR are playing.

Rhinos miserable season continues

Rugby league can be a cruel mistress…

One minute, you’re celebrating as Champions, the next, you’re in the bottom four, staring at possible relegation and get dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Warrington Wolves.

Leeds looked nothing like the Champions of October as they were well and truly beaten by Warrington in the second of today’s semi finals at the University of Bolton stadium.

With rugby union returnee Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham both grabbing a pair of tries, Leeds were always on the back foot.

Perhaps its telling that director of rugby Kevin Sinfield isn’t putting his name forward for the job of head coach on a full time basis, as his side capitulated 48-12.

For their part, Warrington never looked troubled during the 80 minutes, and could have broken the 50 point barrier if Ben Westwood had brought his shooting boots for the final kick of the game.

Warrington will go into the showpiece final in three weeks time hoping that their opponents, Catalan Dragons, have a similar sort of day at the office Leeds did.

Given how often Wolves fans start the season saying “its our year”, perhaps this year, where the Challenge cup is concerned, it might well be.

 

Dragons slay Saints to book place at Wembley

In the searing heat of a Bolton Summer, Catalan Dragons put the (almost) invincible St Helens to the sword.

Have the Saints peaked too early, or did the men of Langtree Park just not fancy a weekend in the Capital?

Either way, Catalan Dragons looked irresistible at Bolton today as they ran riot in the first half and left Justin Holbrook and his men in the dust as they ran out 16-35 winners in the first of a double header of semi finals today.

A rugby pitch has nowhere to hide, and when Morgan Knowles saw a yellow card with just under six minutes left of the first half, Catalan made the Saints pay.

With a 27 point lead going into the break, it looked like a long second half for the Saints fans, and so it proved.

When the final hooter went, it was the French fans who were celebrating a second visit to Wembley.

Steve McNamara was dripping with both sweat and praise for his players at full time.

“We’re probably the only club who’ve not won a trophy” he told the BBC.

It means so much to us. Perpignan is such a beautiful place and it’ll mean so much for the sport in France”

Coming on the back of winning 9 games from their last 11, the bookies still had Catalan as second best by a distance, but semi finals are one off games where anything can happen, and so it came to be.

Now, Who will the Dragons face in the final on the 25th of August?

The Wolves or the Rhinos?

 

Leeds Rhinos fire Brian McDermott. Good move, Bad Move?

Having taken the Rhinos to at least one final per season and led Leeds for 265 games since taking over in 2011, Andrew Riley asks if it was just a season too far for the former Royal Marine.

A couple of seasons ago, Leeds were beaten by Salford Devils, and in the press conference, I asked Brian McDermott if he felt his job was secure and if he felt that he had done all he could with the club.

He answered with his usual honesty and clarity that he still felt he was the right man for the job and he felt they could still make it to the Grand Final.

As it was, that season they went on to win the Challenge cup that year, failing to make the grand final, but still collecting silverware.

As I picked up my recorder, Brian looked at me and with an all too rare public smile, said “Tossed a few grenades in there, didn’t you?”

It was the first time I’d seen a slight crack in his usual taciturn public exterior.

Other writers who had more interaction with the man will tell you of his wit and how he was always approachable, and for my part I always found him to be open and honest.

Leeds are a club that has become unaccustomed during the summer era to losing. That Brian took charge for over 250 matches, shows just how successful the club had become under both his and Gary Hetherington’s combined leadership.

Just watch the documentary on Amazon Prime, “As Good As It Gets” to see the sort of loyalty McDermott inspired amongst his players. Even a non sporting person cannot fail to see just how he inspired players to achieve more than they felt they could.

Yes, this season Leeds have been beset by a virtually unprecedented injury list, but then don’t all clubs have to contend with injury problems?

His record speaks for itself.

265 games, 162 wins and 97 losses.

An impressive record in any sport, but sadly, this season, having lost another pair of talismanic players in Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire his team have failed to edge out tight games, and losing 7 in a row was just too much this time for Mr Hetherington.

Given the mooted changes for the 2019 season (Nobody actually knows what the league structure will look like yet, which is a travesty for a professional sport) Leeds were worried about being dragged into a possible relegation fight, with a number of Championship clubs determined to secure Super League status, the chance was too great and so Brian had to go.

This was a man whose silverware record reads:

Four Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, a League Leaders’ Shield and a World Club Challenge.

Chief executive Gary Hetherington said the club would “forever be indebted” to McDermott.

“The club’s most successful coach has also helped to forge a rugby operation with toughness, resilience and a strong desire to succeed, which his successor will inherit,” said Hetherington.

“Eight years is a long time for any head coach at the same club and we have enjoyed much success and endured some difficult times along the way when tough decisions had to be made.

“We have always come through strongly but I do believe our present predicament requires change and that this is the right call for the club.

“Brian is a man of the utmost integrity and passion for rugby league. He has so much to offer the sport and I have no doubt he will go on to achieve more success in the future.”

For his part, McDermott had this to say:

“Obviously it is not a decision I agree with,” said McDermott.

“I am extremely disappointed this has happened. I wish everyone at the club the best and my thoughts will be with the team on Sunday and through to the end of the season.”