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UK: The State Of The Nation (Live gig in Newcastle)

Sounds, May 20, 1978

Phil Sutcliffe

A WEIRD thing happened when UK went into their encore the Newcastle City Hall smiled. After an hour and a quarter of fiercely seriously rock there was Eddie Jobson suddenly picking a humorous pizzicato and the others filling out a charming tune called 'Caesar's Palace Blues' with wit and delicacy. It was a delight.

People around me who had been concentrating strenuously and jerking about in their seats to UK's unsquare rhythms with a rather manic intensity as if they were in straitjackets relaxed and laughed, enjoyed themselves in fact.

I'm sure it was a very significant moment in UK's set. The rest of it had a deep earnestness no doubt caused by their awareness of what they have to live up to severally and collectively. It demanded a lot without offering as much encouragement and sense of sharing as it should have in return. It was a very difficult concert and uneven in an unusual way. Where, with any new band, you might expect to like one number and not the next my reaction divided itself into much smaller units, liking one half minute then losing touch with the next before picking up the thread again. It seemed that UK were over conscious of not wishing to bore people and therefore tended to ring so many changes that the music became overbearing and oppressive to [sic] often for comfort.

As on their album they were utilising their skills to the full and that was wonderful to behold in its way but they were failing to express their character which they must do if a mass of people are to warm to and appreciate their technical virtuosity. This applies to their music for sure, but equally to the way they presented themselves, or rather didn't.

All the audience got was a couple of titles and a few thank yous. The two UK persons I know, Bruford and Jobson, are among the most articulately amiable musicians on the planet, but I suppose almost none of the literally millions of people they have played to have ever heard them utter a word. In a sense it's the inevitable problem of a group of illustrious sidemen becoming joint frontmen. But it may also be that perversely their great love of their music and respect for their audience has somehow brought them to mistake communication for distraction. It seems to me that at least one of the four will have to develop the sort of role that Annette Peacock fulfilled in Bruford's solo album, a very human point of contact.

But having dwelt on the difficulties UK present it has to be said that 'developing' is exactly what they are doing and at quite a pace. Five of their eight pieces including 'Ceasar's Palace Blues', were even newer than the album, which has only just reached the streets. To criticise them at this stage is certainly not to damn them because they seem to be sparking off each other like lighted matches in a box of firecrackers.

Their power and drive was immense and, despite the quiet, nice-guys image, the prevailing mood was of ferocity from Bruford's incomparable kick-ass drumming up to Wetton's strident, rough vocals. When they were all firing together the band's sound had a dirty, grunty quality which could be the hallmark of their contribution to the sophisticated end of rock. The Only Thing She Needs was another new one which showed the fluidity the too-controlled pieces on the album lack and the violent contrasts of 'Sahara Of Snow' made an eyepopping climax to the set proper, especially with Allan Holdsworth making his presence felt at last.

There is very little doubt that UK could be a fine, innovative band. I hope that as they come to believe in themselves as a unit they will be able to express more of their depth and gentleness, forget technique and bare their souls.

Transcribed by Per Stornes
Updated: February 1, 2001
Scheduled update: None

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