Concert Review

Rab Noakes Solo

The Greys, Brighton - Sunday, 22nd Oct 2006

review by Stuart Grant

photos taken from:  and


I last saw Rab perform live when he was supporting Lindisfarne, which must make it over twenty years ago. But with the benefit of his own (Neon) website, I recognised him instantly when I walked into The Greys in Brighton. Mind you, there weren't many faces to choose from and only one person was patiently signing record sleeves. About six, all for the same fan. I thought I heard a quiet "what, more?" at one point. So, I was a bit reluctant to disturb him again, but I did, to ask if there was any chance of further CD releases of his back catalogue. The answer lies in the hands of the record companies who themselves are constantly changing hands.

So, watch this space but don't hold your breath. Being a Patter Merchant (see self named album, 1972), between songs Rab reported our conversation, and referred to me as a gentleman. I'd excused my interruption, I'd praised his work, thanked him for his time and offered him a drink, so I guess that qualifies me as a gentleman! I should say that while we'd been talking, Rod Clements' Stamping Ground was playing in the background; perhaps fitting for the size of the audience.

On to the performance itself. Rab swapped between two six string guitars which to me, knowing nothing about these things, looked exactly the same except one was capoed. The more I watch guitarists play, the less I understand about the art. Here, I had a ringside seat and was still confused but I didn't need to understand in order to listen.

In a set of two halves, Rab spanned the years with songs from Red Pump Special through to the more recent Varaflames' Throwing Shapes. Mainly his own compositions, but his hat tipped to Dylan, Leiber-Stoller, Beck, and Carole King.

Plus, there were two collaborations born out of his participation at song-writing seminars organised by Chris Difford. There were soft melodies gently finger-picked and punchy rockers which allowed him to give vent to a powerful voice. I felt at time he was too restrained, but maybe output was regulated to meet the needs of a small venue and not the concert halls that I last saw him in.

Some of Rab's recordings suffer from over production, in my opinion (Restless is the worst culprit), so it was good to hear these songs stripped down; back to basics as someone else said.

With genuine pleasure (and a big boyish grin) Rab stayed for an encore but couldn't oblige the request (not mine) for Turn A Deaf Ear. He said this had been requested the previous night at Whitby, too, but it needed rehearsing before any public airing. Instead, we had Radio & TV, a song from the same pen that wrote Blue Dream (recorded on his Standing Up album). His current project, by request from Bordleaux's son and heir, is to record a whole album of Bryant songs.

Live performances from Rab seem rare, particularly in the south, and this one was well worth the trip. I hope I get to see him again before another twenty years has passed.

If these shoes could talk
Blues around me now
How can I believe you now
Supposed to be
Love potion #9 (Leiber Stoller)
Day away from here
Light in my heart
Living in the past
Absolutely sweet Marie (Bob Dylan)
Open the door
When you're not here
Devil's haircut (Beck Hansen)
I'll never find another you (Gerry Goffin/Carole King)
Fallen ones
No one answered
Wrong joke again
Running from Diane

Radio and TV (Bordleaux Bryant)

note: further 2006/2007 tourdates can be found at