“GO ’ed, Mick.”
After every song, a Scouse voice arrowed through the 250-strong crowd at Manchester’s Night & Day Café to the stage where Mick Head stands. It’s a seal of approval delivered by a smiling face. I didn’t look, I didn’t need to – I know that face was smiling because every face was smiling.
“I’m doing it,” laughed Mick. And that was the thing. Mick Head loved this. He loved it every bit as much as those lucky enough to be packed into this small but perfectly-formed venue.
Nerves were on show to begin with – Mick struggled to find words between the songs. But no-one was here for banter. And when his fingers hit the fretboard and his vocals kicked into gear, this was awe-inspiring stuff.
Initially backed by a cello and a trumpet for tracks new and old – Meant To Be among the stand-outs – Mick’s nerves soon subsided and by the end of the gig – finished with a truly brilliant acoustic rendition of Emergency – Mick looked confident and triumphant. He knew. We knew. This was genius at work.
Yes, it was a room full of people that loved Mick. Yes, the applause and the adulation were guaranteed regardless. But let’s get this right – the applause and the adulation were richly deserved for a staggering show of talent.
Few up and down the country will have witnessed a better musical performance tonight – and most will have paid much more than a tenner for the privilege.
The genius of Mick Head seems effortless – songs he sheepishly presented as ‘just some new ideas’ sounded every bit as good as timeless classics like Mood of The Morning from 95’s Waterpistol.
Yet here he is, into his fifties, playing a gig to a hardcore of fans in Manchester. If there was any justice in the world, he would be puffing on a pipe in a mansion watching his gold discs gather dust. That said, it makes it special – it’s a man doing it for the love rather than an over-indulged artist going through the motions.
It may be clichéd to talk of Mick Head and mention that NME cover, but come on, calling him ‘Our greatest songwriter’ is a million miles from being far-fetched. For the uninitiated, a plunder of the back catalogues of Shack and The Pale Fountains will show you the way.
And if you’re lucky – or feeling flush – the ultra-rare Magical World Of The Strands by Michael Head and the Strands is a record you simply must hear.
But what of the future? Mick’s new material is cut from the same cloth as the past – just one listen is enough to hook you in and leave you wanting more, but is there a label out there prepared to take a chance on a man perceived as just another Scouse cult hero?
It’s happened before – but now, like the venue that hosts this gig, it feels like the walls are closing in and time is running out.
Perhaps the answer is in the gig itself. Organised by Shacknet – a brilliant fansite and the place to go online for Shack/Paleys/Mick stuff – the gig sold out with minimal publicity.
Could the same people unite to give the world more Head music? The internet has brought music fans together and Liverpool’s very own Tea Street Band have just reached their target for a fan-funded debut album via PledgeMusic.
So maybe the rest is just up to Mick. Go ’ed, Mick…