Steve Harley: HMV Forum [Live]

Music writers are sometimes criticised for commenting on the personality rather than the music.

I’m going to ‘fess up and make no bones about it – this review is going to gloss over the music and predominantly focus on the most blatant display of arrogance by a musician that I have witnessed in some time.

I’m not against musicians speaking between songs – sometimes that interaction can cement the link between performer and audience and enhance the experience.  But some people really should just let the music do the talking.

Steve Harley - Carl Batson
It is difficult to pinpoint what annoyed me the most about Steve Harley at The Forum in Kentish Town.  It might have been when he stopped mid-song to tell members of the audience to refrain from taking pictures of him on their mobile phones.  Then again it might have been when he tersely repeated that request a song later, saying that the flashing of lights disturbed his intense concentration.

I suppose he must have been pleased that there were no more than a couple of professional photographers present, that the gig wasn’t sold out and that his performance wasn’t sufficiently rousing to get people on their feet or singing along.  Heavens knows how that might have disturbed his concentration.  It must be distressing when loyal fans, having paying their hard-earned cash to see you, have the cheek to want to record the occasion.

Steve Harley - Carl Batson
Thankfully some of the audience were able to redeem themselves by bumping up his pension fund through purchasing his merchandise, which we were repeatedly told was to be sold from the front of the stage during the interval (there was no support band – he played a gig of two halves) and at the end of the gig. And indeed it was. From a plastic box, Delboy-style.

He told us how he hated the hassle of giving interviews and scoffed at how interviewers can ask badly-researched questions.  Therefore it must have been some relief to him that there was a distinct lack of press at the gig.

Perhaps the most annoying part was when he spent ages telling us how he had allowed his hat to be auctioned for charity, then forgot the name of the charity that he professed to care about so much.  On the other hand, it could have been when he asserted that as an artist he has a free pass to behave as badly as he likes.  Or maybe it was when he took the mickey out of his own fans by saying that some of his early work was unemotional and meaningless lyrically and that he didn’t understand what they were reading into it.

Steve Harley - Carl Batson
If you are reading this not having attended the gig, you may think that he was merely displaying a self-deprecating, dry sense of humour.  But that wasn’t the impression given by his delivery.

So what about the music?  Actually it was pretty good, although not remarkable.  It was an acoustic gig with Harley on guitar and vocals, as well as a second guitarist/violinist, a keyboard player and a drums/percussion/saxophone player.  Harley’s voice has lost none of its tone or strength with the passing of time.  The other musicians were highly skilled, the violin being both mournful and exuberant.

His songs were moderately touching but not heart stopping. The middle-aged faithful in the all-seated audience appreciated the old songs and were quietly appreciative rather than dancing in the aisles.  For the less hardcore of us, however, it was a gig to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Steve Harley played the HMV Forum, Kentish Town on December 13th

Photographs: Carl Byron Batson

28 Comments

  1. Silly, humourless woman. Law lecturer? That explains it. Hey, good photos. He’s obviously a professional, unlike you.

  2. Wrong gig for you, dear.

    Steve actually raised £650 that night, from the stage for that hat.

    The money went to StepUp, a charity built on councillors who help kids who have been sexually abused, and their parents. He never claimed he “cared so much about” it, but that a fan had asked for the hat to be auctioned, as he was one of the StepUp councillors.
    It was a kind and touching gesture. And we, his long-term fans, love the chat, the inter-action, at which Steve is brilliant.

    You sound a bit stern, and like you take yourself very seriously. This comment will gloss over the kind words you deigned to offer re the actual songs and superb musician, and concentrate more on your snobby attitude: del-boy like??? Happens at many gigs, it’s business – The Forum has a useless merchandise stand somewhere out of sight and I’ve missed out on T-shirts etc several times there when queues built up because there’s only ever one person selling.

    Don’t give up the (rather dull?) day job, ma’am. You sure ain’t no professional critic. And those cameras, what a pain, even for those of us sitting next to them, filming it all, for what?

  3. It’s a bit tragic when people resort to personal abuse, so I won’t mention the elephant in the room – toupe or not toupe, that is the question… no wonder he was so reluctant to let the hat go.

  4. what? Isn’t 90% of your silly review “personal”?
    Didn’t you “‘fess up” etc.
    You DO sound snobby, don’t you think? The del boy comment.
    Do you sound all day reading this, looking for comments to pamper your ego? Really! Are you a lawyer? Your piece reads like you went in with a spiteful frame of mind, that’s all. It’s clear to anyone reading it. I’m just sorry I came across it, trawling the web, as you do (well, as I do occasionally). And what’s an elephant in the room mean?

  5. ..er, never mind – my wife has explained the elephant allusion. Still don’t get it though.
    I meant “spend” NOT sound all day.
    I won’t be returning to this thread Ms Compton. Don’t bother responding. “Personal” – you are very touchy, don’t you think?

    • I do declare, people are really flipping their wigs over this.
      Mr Mulholland seems to be trolling, not trawling the web. Let us all hope he finds the images he is surely looking for.

      Did Mr Harley play that Mr Soft ditty? I did love those mints so. Bring back Marc Bolan.

    • I don’t know anything about Craig but I do know that Rachel, who posted the first comment, is Steve Harley’s assistant. And people say I have a dull job….

  6. Outrageouse venom ! never read such utter drivel. This woman is clearly from another planet ! The Mans of a musical master class, a poet. and a professional performer through and through.

    How anyone fail’s to recognise anything other than that, who has attended any of his live performance’s is beyond me !

    If Id never seen The Man live before! and I just read this reveiw, just out of interest ! it would only serve as to furnish me with a very sour taste of how uninspiring and spiteful the author’s observations come across . clearly has some problem with the Job inhand .

  7. Outrageouse? Everyones entitled To. an opinion ! It wouldnt be a reveiw if it was just some fan’s saying how great The Mans.

    • I do declare everybody appears to be quite drunk.
      I shall stick to my peppermint cordial whilst singing ‘Deborah, you like a Zebra’ on the front porch swing.

  8. Lazy, spiteful journalism.

    Very derivative to accuse Mr Harley of being arrogant. Obviously no research done there.

    He never professed to care about that charity. He’d never heard of it until someone offered to buy his bowler hat and donate the proceeds on his fan forum. Again no research done.

    Very little research done into Mt Harley past. He was as famous as sliced bread for a while in the seventies and is now gigging more than ever without the backing of a major record label.

    Hard to take your criticism about how he sells merchandise very seriously. What do you expect? A gold-plated kiosk with surround sound and lasers?

    And again a bit of research would have informed you that he is very well known for his self-deprecating and dry sense of humour, as well as cheekily poking fun at his fans.

    Your review was utter drivel, lacking in factual basis, and motivated by spite and negativity.

    What was it? Didn’t get invited back stage afterwards?

  9. You may all be interested to know that yesterday we received a very humble email from Steve Harley saying that he is not really arrogant and asking if I fancied giving him a second chance (his words) and coming to see him play in November.

  10. I have been to many a backstage party and I declare I still have a good many to attend, but I do not believe that a Steve Harley back stage party could be anything but as dull as dirty dishwater.

    I do however like your thoughts on the lazer attraction. That could work very well indeed and I have noted your excellent suggestion in my notebook of excellent suggestions although I think gold plate is a little extreme. Perhaps merely a ‘gold color’ rather than actual gold plate would suffice? I’m no expert in this field.

    Mr Harley’s shows do seem quite exciting and I may purchase a ticket if I am in the country for his next shows.

  11. Such as shame about the censorship on this website. It seems the critics cannot take a bit of criticism, so here’s my review of her review again:

    Lazy, spiteful journalism.

    Very derivative to accuse Mr Harley of being arrogant. Obviously no research done there.

    He never professed to care about that charity. He’d never heard of it until someone offered to buy his bowler hat and donate the proceeds on his fan forum. Again no research done.

    Very little research done into Mr Harley’s past. He was as famous as sliced bread for a while in the seventies and is now gigging more than ever without the backing of a major record label.

    Hard to take your criticism about how he sells merchandise very seriously. What do you expect? A gold-plated kiosk with surround sound and lasers?

    And again a bit of research would have informed you that he is very well known for his self-deprecating and dry sense of humour, as well as cheekily poking fun at his fans.

    Your review was utter drivel, lacking in factual basis, and motivated by spite and negativity.

    What was it? Didn’t get invited back stage afterwards?

  12. Lazy, spiteful journalism.

    Very derivative to accuse Mr Harley of being arrogant. Obviously no research done there.

    He never professed to care about that charity. He’d never heard of it until someone offered to buy his bowler hat and donate the proceeds on his fan forum. Again no research done.

    Very little research done into Mt Harley past. He was as famous as sliced bread for a while in the seventies and is now gigging more than ever without the backing of a major record label.

    Hard to take your criticism about how he sells merchandise very seriously. What do you expect? A gold-plated kiosk with surround sound and lasers?

    And again a bit of research would have informed you that he is very well known for his self-deprecating and dry sense of humour, as well as cheekily poking fun at his fans.

    Your review was utter drivel, lacking in factual basis, and motivated by spite and negativity.

    What was it? Didn’t get invited back stage afterwards?

  13. Lazy, spiteful journalism.

    Very derivative to accuse Mr Harley of being arrogant. Obviously no research done there.

    He never professed to care about that charity. He’d never heard of it until someone offered to buy his bowler hat and donate the proceeds on his fan forum. Again no research done.

    Very little research done into Mt Harley past. He was as famous as sliced bread for a while in the seventies and is now gigging more than ever without the backing of a major record label.

    Hard to take your criticism about how he sells merchandise very seriously. What do you expect? A gold-plated kiosk with surround sound and lasers?

    And again a bit of research would have informed you that he is very well known for his self-deprecating and dry sense of humour, as well as cheekily poking fun at his fans.

    Your review was utter drivel, lacking in factual basis, and motivated by spite and negativity.

    What was it? Didn’t get invited back stage afterwards?

    • You do realise that you don’t make something true just by saying it four times, don’t you?!

  14. Funny how comments disappear and then reappear on this site.

    I only posted repeatedly because my review of your review mysteriously disappeared, along with a load of other negative comments about you.

    Now they all reappear again and you don’t miss a trick to make an ad nominen attack.

    I notice that you don’t try and defend your lack of research.

    • Apologies Bert,

      We, like many sites, use page caching. This sometimes means that some user updates (such as comments) don’t appear immediately after being posted. We’re looking into it and thanks for your patience thus far.

      We only censor posts on the basis of being spam ads… I can’t find any others of yours that might have lost. Please repost as appropriate.

  15. Well I do declare I have done a little research of my own as I have found this whole thing quite interesting to follow (I have time on my hands).

    Amongst many articles was this little gem stone from Charles Shaar Murray at the NME magazine. Following a review written by said gentleman an incident did occur. Mr Murray shares his recollections in the book The History Of The NME.

    “I remember once being ringed by Steve Harley and his entire band in some godforsaken European field behind the stage at some godforsaken festival and harangued for almost half an hour. A real ‘caught by the school bullies’ flashback.”

    It would appear Mr Harley has a history of taking exception to the press. I surely did chuckle to to myself, although it may be this fine Tennessee whisky. I think Ms Corbett is lucky the furious Harley posse hasn’t tracked her down with their guns a blazin’ and strung her up from the tallest tree. Look out honey, circle the wagons, the grey brigade are comin’ for ya.

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