Photographs by Richard Townsend, Zoë Pinchin, Richard Boddy


The first concert – Part One – Before the Show
Goodness, It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this and the previous weekend seems almost like a blur. I booked my tickets for the Customs House in December last year, and the time since then moved so slowly but when it finally arrived it was over all too quickly.

However, I now have time to recount the events of last weekend, which will hopefully help me commit the experience to memory and, hopefully, inform those of you reading this what you missed (so don’t let it happen again).

On Friday I had arranged to take the afternoon off so I could get a few last minute things organised before my son, Scott finished school at 3.30pm. Then the three of us (my wife was going too) could leave at around 3.45pm to motor down to Wallington, which is located near to Rothbury and Morpeth. On my way home, I stopped in to get a few provisions from Asda, including drink and eats and a collapsible table (as you do!). My wife was all organised and so it looked like we would leave on time.

There was a short delay in leaving as Scott had to get washed, changed and “do” his hair and then he wanted something to eat before we left. A Scotch pie was quickly “zapped” and we hit the road at about 4.30pm and everything was looking good apart from the weather which could only be described as moist at best. We turned on the City Bypass and immediately hit tailbacks. Luckily, we decided not to take the A1 and therefore avoided potential hold-ups with holiday traffic. A couple of hours and a similar number of food and toilet stops later we arrived at our hotel. From the outside it looked really nice and its location was ideal, only 1 ½ miles from Wallington. The entrance took us through a games area, passed a wide-screen TV, through the public bar, then through the restaurant along a corridor and finally arrived at the reception. The immediate impression was that they were going through refurbishment as there was a lot of clutter, building materials lying around and things generally out of place. Anyway, the room seemed clean enough and my son was happy that he could watch TV for a few minutes before we left for the concert.

The staff at the hotel suggested that we could walk to Wallington. However, this was not overly appealing as the outlook look bleak and it was uphill all the way.

The trip was uneventful but certainly seemed a very long 1 ½ miles. However, we didn’t see anyone else on the road until we got to Wallington. Once there, we were in a queue of cars all looking to park. We looked like we were going to the beach as we were kitted out with our cool-box, travelling rug, and collapsible chairs and table. However, this was no ordinary picnic. I had my umbrella (and not for shade from the sun), we were dressed in raincoats and were wearing sturdy boots and shoes. All except my son, who decided at this point to tell us that he had nothing waterproof with him and only had skate shoes to wear. “Perhaps the weather might get better”, we thought.

We humped all our stuff through the magnificent entrance gate into the courtyard at Wallington Hall. In front of us the stage was encased in an inflatable semi circle, which blocked out the view of Wallington Hall which stood behind it. Either side of the stage were two white tents that I presume were either changing areas for the musicians or hospitality areas. Apart from a roped area, which went from perpendicularly (i.e. at 90 degrees) from the middle on the stage to the sound desk, you could set up camp anywhere. We parked ourselves relatively near to the front behind a well-organised table. Our 18” collapsible table with our box of sandwiches paled into insignificance beside this 8 footer complete with parasol and crammed with plates of meat, savouries and salad all carefully covered in cling film.

While my wife and son got settled in I went in search of coffee. Only “soft” drinks are on sale at Wallington as it is a “dry” venue. However, you are allowed to BYOB, a concession which was well used (if not abused). As well as buying the coffee, I was able to persuade the staff to let me leave the flyers that I had made highlighting the mailing list and web site addresses. One of the ladies said to me “Are you selling John Miles CDs. You would sell a load here”. When I explained that I wasn’t selling anything she exclaimed, “He doesn’t need the money anyway”!

I also found that there were programmes on sale which gave a little background to Wallington, 4 pages devoted to the “Northumbrian Proms”, which would take place the next night, but most importantly a single page covering the Wallington Shindig, with 2/3rds devoted to John Miles and the rest to the multi-talented Brendan Healy, who accompanies John on keyboards and backing vocals, provides comic relief and comperes as well!

Having had a quick read of the programme, eaten a sandwich and opened a bottle of Miller, I was now ready for the show to begin.

The first concert – Part Two – The First Half.

At spot on 8pm the show began. Without any fuss, the band, including Brendan and John, took to the stage. The band looked to be almost the same as last year. From the back we had from left to right: a 4 piece brass section, drums and 2 backing singers, Then front of stage on the extreme right we had Fred the bass player and on the other side was John Junior on lead guitar. Finally taking centre stage was Brendan on keyboards and last but defibnately not least we had John on rhythm guitar (and keyboards).

Brendan introduced John and the band began with the R & B classic, "Let The Good Times Roll". This was a hit for saxophonist Louis Jordan just after the war. While John played rhythm guitar, there were some nice touches on lead from John Jnr and lovely sax work from Mick Donnelly (formerly of Jamiroquai).

John then said good evening to the audience and while playing a little boogie woogie on the keyboard introduced the next track. He told us that most people believe that rock and roll started with Elvis Presley. However he further explained that it actually started in 1940's with a little Italian chap called Louis Prima. John invited people to get up. "If you want to dance, dance. A track called "Jump and Jive" " (The full title is actually "Jump Jive and Wail")

As the music began a few got to their feet and began to Jive. John Miles was again on guitar and on this track Brendan had solo spot singing and playing keyboards. In addition, the track was perfect for showing off the talent of the brass section. As the track progressed there were a substantial number enthusiastically dancing around the sides of the stage area.

Brendan then addressed the audience and said how good it was to be back in Northumberland. He indicated that he had been in Blackpool recently and he was on the beach and saw a man hitting a woman. This distressed Brendan. He was more upset when the man then he got out a cricket bat and hit the woman with it. Luckily a policeman came along and took the cricket bat off the man. But…. the policeman began hitting the woman with it!! And then…. this crocodile ate all the sausages…..!!! This joke was a bit of a slow burner. As the audience were figuring it out Brendan gave out some important information regarding the evening. He advised everyone that this was the 8th year of the concerts and that all proceeds would benefit Wallington. The staff and volunteers were thanked for all their help in organising the evening. To help him he enlisted the help of Joanne who was one of the backing singers referred to by Brendan as one of the "Poptarts". Apparently she is an air stewardess for Virgin Airlines!

Brendan then covered the Emergency Exits reading the directions "To the left of the courtyard….." to which Joanne then in true air stewardess style indicated with outstretched arms. Lots of laughter followed.

The toilets or lavatories were then indicated with Brendan mixing up the direction such that Joanne was pointing one way and Brendan the other. More chuckles from the crowd.

Brendan then introduced John who played the opening bars to "Makin' Whoopee" on keyboards. Simon Ferry on drums, Fred Hill on bass and Brendan also on keyboards then joined him on this smoochy number. John asked the audience if the liked the Beatles. When they yelled back "Yes", Brendan retorted "They're Not Comin'"! John then introduced Simon Ferry as the featured "multi-instrumentalist and baseball back-stop". Brendan told everyone that he had a washboard attached to him for this song, for the Lonnie Donegan fans in the audience. When the crowd roared back, Brendan added "In that case, you can answer the argument John and I had,,, Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?"" As Brendan seemed to conduct the audience in the rest of the words, John and the band launched into "Lady Madonna", which, as was previously mentioned featured Simon Ferry on washboard. It was done in Busby Berkeley bright, upbeat style reminiscent of "Hollywood Queen" the B-side to "One Minute…."

Brendan explained the format of the night – 1st half would be songs that John knew as a boy before the war – the Boer war! John interrupted that he had thought about retiring but people had said that he still looked younger than Brendan so he thought "Bollocks". Brendan replied "people don't half lie". In the second half Brendan indicated that they would play John's "hit" at some point. He asked people to settle back and they would get to it eventually. He described it as a lovely song about modern breakfasts called " my first love". He also said they might do an earlier minor hit "Stir Fry, touch the sky".

Apparently, Brendan's grandfather once stood on a platform such as this and he went straight through it. If it hadn't have been for the rope around his neck he would have broken his legs. After the laughter died down Brendan exclaimed "Still Crazy after all these Years".

John and the band then began playing this Paul Simon classic in a slow and deliberate fashion. In contrast, John Jnr. played an enthusiastic solo in the middle. The tune then took a harder edge with some gutsy vocals from John accompanied by more lead work from John Jnr and backed with a wall of brass.

As the mood then slowed, the rain grew heavier and the umbrellas went up. John kept the pace quite slow with the Otis Reading classic "Try a Little Tenderness". In a similar fashion to the previous track the gears were then stepped up as the track progressed.

The next track was Halleluiah! (I just love her so) from Ray Charles. This was a bouncy jazz track that seemed to feel like a (choo choo) train as it rumbled along. It seemed to drive the rain away as it abated a little and the umbrellas slowly were put away.

John then introduced "Crying In My sleep" which was written by Jim Webb who was responsible for Macarthur's Park. John initially played keyboard with only support from the backing singers Dion and Joanne. As the ballad progressed Brendan supported on keyboards and drums were finally added. By the end of the song the rain had began again.

Brendan asked "is it raining out there?" The audience shouted back "Yes" "Tough" Brendan retorted. "Its lovely up here!" he continued. "Tell you what everybody, Up Here!"

To up the tempo, there followed a brace of Stevie Wonder tunes. The first track was from early in Stevie's career. "Signed, Sealed Delivered" with its bright beat got the crowd back up dancing. This segued into the more serious "Livin' For The City" which though still danceable had a harder edge than the former track.

Brendan announced that there would be a half hour break and in the second half they would play John's hit and a few of his minor ones.

"Slippin' and Slidin'" played out the end of the first half. It could be said that this was the 2nd Beatles related track of the night as it owed more to John Lennon's version than of the original in my opinion. As the track came to an end there was great applause and whistling. There was a great buzz that gave an air of expectancy as to what the 2nd half would have in store.

Before The Second Half

Much drinking and eating continued during the break. While making a toilet stop, I noticed a receptacle that was just the right size for the mailing list flyers. So I went back for them and rejoined the queue for the toilets. I saw a few people who had been waiting when I was first there now coming out. I'm sure they thought I was loitering for something else. I left the leaflets in the loo and quickly scarpered. I like to think that some people may have picked some up and that we may see some visitors as a result. Otherwise they may well have become hand towels!

When I got back to my seat my wife had now acquired a hotdog for my son. Between bites we moved the chairs a little to see past the large table with all the brollies that was in front of us. The rain was now lashing down. We huddled together, the umbrella barely covering the three of us. Water ran down my back where the ends of the umbrella touched my coat and a groundsheet on our laps barely covering our knees.

Before the second half began, the stage was mopped. It was a little worrying that water could get into the stage with all the electrical equipment, lights, amps, speakers, microphones, keyboards, guitars etc.
The first concert – Part Three – The Second Half

John came back onto stage on his own, Before he began, he noted that he had recorded the next song with Andrea Bocelli (and was released as a single). John then sang the Italian ballad "Miserere" accompanying himself on keyboards. It was most unusual as it is usually sung as a duet. But here John sang both parts! ( I must remember to read the translation of this song)

John was then joined on stage by the rest of the band and they began with a thumping version of John's first single, (on the Orange label) "Why Don't You Love Me?" John was back playing rhythm guitar with John Jnr on lead. The crowd were back up dancing again despite the rain.

Brendan chatted to the audience. Apparently it's traditional for it to rain at Wallington. He just wished he owned the umbrella concession. Brendan told us that if anyone brought their own water with them, there must be something wrong with them. While on the topic of water Brendan told us that if you read a bottle of water that you buy it says, "In the Jurassic period of our history, this water fell to earth. It filtered its way through the earth for 2m years into an underground lake where it lay dormant for another 3 million years. It froze for another 2 million years during the Ice age and then thawed slowly for the last 3 million and it springs to earth naturally in the highlands of Scotland where we bottled it for your pleasure…..Best before the end of February!!" "Oh How Those Million of Years Go By".

John said "That sounds like a cue for a song" and so began "Oh How The Years Go By". This was the first track of the evening to be taken from John's last solo album "Upfront". Anyone who has this album will recall the distinctive sax playing and this was also in evidence here but with Mick Donnelly instead of Deric Dyer. John Jnr also got to show how good a guitar player he is on tracks that fans will have fond memories of his Dad's virtuosity.

John began to introduce the next track as being one of a number that he recorded written by Vanda and Young of the Easybeats. He indicated that it was a Northern Soul classic. "If you have a copy its worth…." John hesitated and Brendan interjected "34p!". John stuttered and said, "I've just swallowed a fly". "I know an old lady who did that" Brendan ad-libbed. "Perhaps she'll die," he continued. John was in some discomfort but quickly composed himself enough to start singing "One Minute Every Hour" The crowd were back up dancing as the rain let up a bit. John certainly seemed to be enjoying himself.

Following "One Minute" the tempo slowed a little with the superb ballad "No Hard Feelings". In addition to the keyboards, drums and bass there were little touches of flute work from Dick Donnelly that were very light and really suited the mood of the song.

During the course of No Hard Feelings there was slow but distinct move of people who were venturing to the front to stand. What perhaps began a trickle became a steady stream as John played a trio of tracks from his last solo album "Upfront".

Absent Hearts was first up and featured John Junior with tremendous lead guitar work and magnificent brasswork giving the track a marvellous wall of sound. Brendan then linked the tracks while referring to John's recent career. "John Miles plays the piano, He used to play piano with Joe Cocker, joined Tina Turner as a piano player and now plays guitar with her. She introduces him as 2nd lead vocal. He plays acoustic guitar like this: Pale Spanish Moon". John noted that he wrote the song with Tony Joe White of "Polk Salad Annie" fame. Despite the crowd building up they were silent listening intently, appreciating John's musicianship.

(At this point, my paper that I was writing notes upon began to get very damp and the ink was beginning to run. Therefore, the rest of this review is more from memory!)

I kept darting back and forth from my seat to the front occasionally taking the odd photograph before returning to my seat beside my wife and younger son. However, when the last track from Upfront came on I just had to spend more time at the front. Brendan acknowledged that John had had more than one hit and that the next song was a hit he wrote for Joe Cocker "Now That The Magic Has Gone". Brendan hoped that we would remember his favourite John Miles song and he wasn't disappointed. The crowd roared as John began the first verse and were able to appreciate the master's lead guitar work. He was able to show that he has not lost any of the gustiness in his performance and his vocals were equally as strong. I was really sorry to see the song finish.

You could tell that the night was coming to a close as the familiar introduction to his first hit began. (No not Music Brendan!) Highfly, a top twenty smash from 1975. There was now a significant proportion of the crowd at the front. They were all enjoying themselves, clapping, singing and some playing air guitar! The tempo was maintained with the penultimate song of the evening, John's second "minor hit" as Brendan described it. He announced that the next hit would be his big hit. He requested that if don't like this one to go to the toilet and come back for the one you like best. The band launched into Slow Down and the showed off the value of the brass section to full effect. Brendan and John Jnr. played keyboards and lead respectively, replacing the usual voice box solo. As the song came to a close the crowd went wild.

Brendan had to make himself heard above the noise of fans shouting for their requests and wanting more.. Brendan thanked the band and his pal "John Miles". Brendan tried to appease the audience and thanked everyone for coming and hoped they had enjoyed themselves despite the weather. He said that they had no more songs…. except this one. As the opening chords of the next track began you knew that no one was worried about the weather.

The crowd wallowed in the richness of "Music", still a timeless classic and played with such feeling. When the six minutes of sheer rapture was drawing to a close, fireworks lit the sky. But the bangs were drowned out, by an audience clamouring for more. However, there was no more and the audience's cries went unheeded and they had to settle for the pictures being drawn in the sky.

As the explosions and bursts of lights came to an end, we gathered our belongings together and made our way back to our car for the short (but long) journey to our hotel. While many may have been returning to Wallington the next night for the "Northumbrian Proms" I knew that we would be headed to South Shields for another night of Miles Magic.

My feelings on the performance - just “AWESOME”. John’s breadth of talent never ceases to amaze me and his voice is quite simply better than ever. Without reservation I own up to being the guilty party in the front row that started foot stomping when John paused just before the last section of “Music”. Thankfully the entire audience joined in at this point so I didn’t embarrass myself – great stuff. Good idea of the evening goes to Richard – having just filtered back into the foyer at the end of the concert, Richard made the suggestion we try and get the set list from the stage. This was very kindly given to us by one of the stage hands but unfortunately there was only one available. Richard, you are an absolute gentleman for kindly letting me have this little piece of memorabilia. (This does of course now carry the appropriate autograph).

On to the highlight of my evening – I’d taken with me a couple of items that I wanted to pass onto John. One – a copy of his family tree dating back to 1733 and two, a photograph of John, his brother Alex and two cousins taken in approx 1953. Stephen very kindly introduced me to John and I promptly handed over the goodies. I’m sure those who were present will agree that John was most definately stunned and taken aback – certainly with the family tree. Firstly he said “I haven’t got my glasses” so I pointed him out on the tree. More stunned silence followed and then he said “this is just amazing, I’m absolutely gob smacked – where on earth did you get this”. I explained that I’d acquired everything from his cousin who has a holiday home near myself in France. Certainly from the conversation and thanks that followed John genuinely appreciated this stuff– he’s also very kindly given his permission for the photograph to be shown on the web site so I’ll be sending off a copy to John Webster post haste. I also raised a question with John regarding the song we noticed had been missed from the set list - “What Goes Around”. In fairness to John he was perfectly blunt about it – “I just didn’t fancy it” he said. Well, that told us I suppose! By this time I have to admit I was starting to get a little bit overwhelmed and while we stood together for photographs I’m sure I was shaking from head to foot. (Did any of our happy snappers get that kiss???) Now I know what these celebrities must feel like in front of the press – I’ve never seen so many flash lights going off in my life.

I think almost all of us managed to get the much sought after autograph and photograph so no doubt we’ll be posting up the evidence shortly.

All in all this was one terrific evening – can’t wait for next years event.

It was great to see so many of you on Saturday, and my profound apologies if I didn't get a chance to say hi or shake hands or something. It is just great to belong to an essentially internet-based group that can actually get together and have a great time together, sharing a common enthusiasm. I have to add that I have been a member of another couple of Yahoo groups for a much shorter time, and there have almost been world wars between people in those! I won't go into any further details, as it's not relevant, but you folks are the Best! (And that goes for those of you who didn't make it as well - and I just know the postings will help to give you a flavour of what was happening.) After the gig, I thought it nice just to watch everyone else having fun meeting the man himself, so I tried to keep out of the way, but I got to witness Zoe presenting her gifts and it was enthralling to watch, especially when John called over to his wife to see the items for herself. Apparently, she has a copy of the photograph, but only with John and his brother on it - so not the full version which Zoe presented! You could see miles (!) off that John was delighted by the thoughtfulness of a fan!

I loved the whole gig as I knew I would, as did Gill; it was interesting to hear the new tracks they did this year, which I'm sure Stephen will comment on. I'd like to echo the other thanks for Stephen's excellent organisation of the meal, which was excellent and a great opener to an excellent evening, plus his brilliant flyers - I'll leave all the designwork to you in future, Stephen, as at least you manage to produce the goods!
One other bit of news - the friends we were staying with in South Shields had the local free paper, which included a nice photo of John on stage with Tina Turner, as well as a poster for the Wallington gig - I'll scan them and make them available just in case.

What a great evening. Big rush to get to the hotel for the 17:15 meet. Had to drag the kids off the beach. Throw them in the car etc etc. I was as organised as ever in that I had no idea where the Hotel was or the theatre was (well I only had eight months warning, what do you expect). Still, got there with two minutes to spare.
Met for drinks and then moved on to the restaurant (well-organised Stephen. We were all quite happy for you to pre order the food and organise the bill. All we did was ask for a drink and throw some money into a pile).

Into the Concert. Once I had got past the disappointment of the first set being all songs that influenced JM rather than JM songs, I just sat back and had a fantastic time. The second set, being all JM songs was even better. Not exactly my choice of play list but I'm not complaining.

Favourites: Now that the Magic Has Gone; Absent Hearts and Music.

I was surprised at just how good Music was. Who needs a 150 piece orchestra?

After the show I got to meet the man himself. I didn't really have a conversation (the guy was knackered and inundated with well wishers) just said thanks and shook his hand (somebody took a photo, wouldn't mind a copy).

Overall a fantastic evening. Thanks to Stephen for the stuff he did and thanks to all for making it a nice sociable affair. Great to meet you all.

I would also like to say how much I enjoyed the two concerts by John at the weekend,at Wallington and at South Shields.I am actually very hard pushed to decide between the two,which one was the better,so I won't do that,but a special mention has to go to the Wallington concert for its outdoor rawness and the firework finale which was spectacular.We were let down slightly with the weather that night as it rained down for most of the concert,but the music certainly made us forget about all that.

The music played was almost the same on both occasions but such is John's talent he makes every gig seem unique.I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend and it was great meeting up with everyone from the mailing list,sorry for not introducing myself to everyone,it was very difficult to keep track of who was who really.Myself and Tam,were the ones who were a bit late in getting to the Customs house and we missed the lunch at Romanos.Sorry about that,if everyone was waiting on us,but we caught up with most others later on in the evening anyway.I have to make a special mention of Zoe's enthusiasm on the night.It was very infectious,we spoke for a few minutes and she could hardly wait to meet John afterwards to get him to autograph photos,documents,etc! I hope you got everything signed OK Zoe!

Myself,Tam and Stephen had met up and had a chat with John at both the gigs last year,at South Shields and at Billingham and when we saw the assembled throng to talk to John we thought we would give it a bit of a miss for a while,but he left after that,just when we thought he might come into the bar for a few beers like he did at the gig last year.All in all though,no disappointments from the weekend at all.John is sounding as good as ever and the standard at both gigs from John,the band and from the irrepressible Brendan Healy was superb as usual.

As for the concert I loved it to bits. But I also have a couple of moans too.

I wished John had done more of his own stuff . However I suspect that I'm missing the point here and he does the concerts for his own gratification as much as the fans. His "I just did not feel like it , is that honest enough? " to Neil when asked about "What goes around" said it all really. I cant help thinking when people travel a long way (from Sweden, France Italy etc) to see the show he should think about what his fans think too.

John Miles jnr on guitar !!! Why ??? The lad is an ok player but he's is not that good !!! (good semi pro standard at best I would say ) His improvised solo's were in truth adreadful racket because of the amount of gain and compression he was using in the signal path (usually used to hide poor fingering technique). Karen (my wife) remarked to me that whenever John played guitar the band went up to a new level - and she was not wrong . The high points of the night were for me, apart from ac/dc leadsinger Brian Johnson's cameo and meeting the rest of the group (we even have a celebrity member in Donny Osmond, tee hee) were "Why don't you love me ", "Highfly" ," Music" , "Slowdown", and "Now that the magic has gone". The only ones ( I think) that John played electric guitar on!!! Oh and from the first spot the Jim Webb one and "Living for the city".

Low point for me was as predicted Pale Spanish Moon.

Well Folks thought I should write something too, always the last (but not necessarily the least...)

Now to THE NIGHT.....what a night, truly awesome....roll out the old clichés.....Sally and I have been enthusing about it ever since. She cant stop playing Upfront, we got lots of snaps too, yet to develop as we still have to use up the film, but I have some digital ones from my friend Richard that includes JM+ Sally and JM + me. There should also be one of the Romanos table ensemble ! So if any body wants, shout out, I can send em !

The gig itself was fab. For me Upfront is still in the developing listening stage so it was particularly great this time round to be able to witness live tracks from that album. I thought "Now that the Magic has gone" + "Oh how the years go by" were brilliant. Tom - I agree with you that it was a shame "What Goes Around" was missed out, and to be a tad picky (if I may dare), it would have been more interesting to have seen a slightly more varied choice of stuff from the JM repertoire (having visited last year). However I can appreciate the potential logistical issues of limited familiarity / rehearsal time for all the band if completely new stuff (to the other band members) has to be learnt. Music was, like last year, totally brilliant, what an awesome piece of music that is. I would rather say that it capped off a great performance perfectly and justly brought the house down. It is a very special song.

Overall I was very happy and in awe of JM's musicianship and appreciative of the other band members (with special mention of the very funny Mr Brendan Healey !).

For JM to have provided us the amount of time as he did afterwards in the foyer was I think very special and the fulfilment of a mini ambition for me ! Having attended many concerts over the years and considering the high value I personally place in music and for particular artists in the Rock / Pop genre (of which JM is one) it was a very special moment for me to at last have the opportunity to meet one of my heroes and get the chance to thank him ! I owed JM that at least, it felt like a bit of an obligation. Zoe however went much further of course - what an amazing gift ! ...and what a story ! no wonder JM was gobsmacked !