I first became aware of Grant Sharkey when Simon and I were booked to support him earlier this year in the 147 club in Llandudno as part of his Radical You tour. It was a good gig and Grant was engaging, thought provoking and funny. I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to support him on the Trollbadour tour in the North Inn in Rhyl.
On the night, we duly packed the complete Mudshark Incident, Me, Simon and Duncan, into my van, along with Terri, our roadie/cover artist/biggest fan and headed for the Wild West. (Yes, I know that Rhyl is East of Bangor, but it has always made me think of the Wild West, and probably always will.)
The North is an interesting venue with it’s chlorine stinking toilets and a smoker’s path to the beer garden that runs through the middle of the stage. Presiding is Steve, endlessly energetic and enthusiastic promoter. His first question is where we’d like to be in the running order, and we opt to go first (get set up, get on, do the business, get off and relax). The Mudshark Incident is fun to do. One member of the audience, who saw the gig in 147, suggested that we’ve taken my folk tinged songs and turned them into art rock. I’ll take that. We enjoy ourselves and the audience seem to like it too.
The Colossous set sees the first significant appearance of Captain Marching Habit (of whom more anon) who offers Rich a banana (we’re in Rhyl remember, things like this happen all the time) Rich’s reply, “Do I look like I eat fucking fruit?” does the trick. Colossous move smoothly through songs like Vanarchy in the UK, Freeway in Texas and Mischief on the Holyhead Road, showcasing Rich’s huge and beautiful voice and joyous songwriting to a rapturous reception.
Which brings us to the main man. Grant Sharkey has swapped his normal upright bass for an acoustic bass guitar for this album and tour. Something to do with singing true songs in hostile pubs and being able to run away when the locals decide that they are offended.
Grant takes us through his observations on Wetherspoons, protest singers, steam punks, robots taking our jobs while we complain about immigrants, the tories, the wonders of genitalia (and Donald Trump’s fear of transgender), the population explosion, the evils of cocaine and the cowardice and inconsistency of most racist Daily Mail readers.
That he does all of this, in the face of repeated heckling from Cpt MH, with enormous good humour is very impressive. We even get to the stage of “I love you, but I’m trying to do a show, so I need you to get off the fucking stage.” It could have been an awkward, annoying, bad tempered affair, which would have ruined the gig. Instead it turns into a triumph as Grant runs rings round the Captain, keeping everyone laughing.
Mr Sharkey finishes off with a couple of songs on the ukulele, delivered, unamplified, from the middle of the audience, continuing to spar with Captain MH all the while. At the end of the set, Steve, the promoter, plays Eric Clapton’s Cocaine over the PA and goes round with Grant’s hat.
We fill it with money.
On the way home, the A55 is closed at Llandulais and we are diverted through Old Colwyn. Somehow that feels appropriate.
Footnote – That was last night, Tuesday 7th November 2017. Tomorrow night I will be exchanging my performer’s hat for my promoter’s as Grant is coming to Bangor to play the Skerries. If he’s half as good as he was last night, it’ll be a night to remember.