Saturday 3 December 2022
December is here; my favourite month of the year. Sparking lights, everywhere busy and buzzing and friends in the mood to socialise. And in 2022, the yuletide month gets off to a cracking start with a night out at Manchester’s Band on the Wall….
Yes, one of my oldest friends and I cast aside our usual ‘festive cream tea’ in favour of a live music gig.
Its fun even before we get there. We stop off for a quick pizza before the concert and, in discussing drinks opt for a Peroni instead of wine to ‘pace ourselves‘. However, when asked whether that’s a ‘large or small beer‘ we go large without much thought and … a stonking beast of a beverage arrives for each of us; at 620 ml, a veritable wine bottle-sized flagon of ale! My friend is unconcerned and with a surprisingly impressive knowledge of metric and Imperial measures, confidently announces that that it is really only akin to ‘drinking a pint‘ and so we ‘clink and drink’ and hit the metro into town in a very merry mood.
Our destination is Manchester’s Band on the Wall, a live music venue with a proud history of music and engagement with the politics and protests that have characterised the market district of our great industrial city over the past 2 centuries,
“Band on the Wall has been a place where people have met, exchanged stories and ideas, debated politics, espoused philosophy and drank and danced until the early hours…”
For us, this evening, it is the Noise Night featuring cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and pianist Harry Baker, and hands stamped with ink, we join the expectant crowds inside the building. Whereupon we order another couple of pints in trademark plastic glasses and find ourselves a spot close to the front of the stage. And what a performance it turns out to be.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason is the famous name in the duo, a cellist who has performed in The Royal Albert Hall, the Carnegie Hall and other international venues with the world’s leading orchestras, but tonight, in this special and more intimate location, he plays within a metre of where we are standing. Incredible! From Mahler to ‘Cry me a River‘ and a brilliant Bach improvisation to folk songs, both Kanneh-Mason and Baker hold the audience in the palms of their hands. They are an assured partnership; easy and relaxed, unique and utterly distinctive. It is electrifying. We love it!
At the end of the set, we swig another beer and then retire to nearby Mackie Mayor, a trendy eatery and bar area housed in the beautifully renovated meat market, for some mulled wine… it is nearly Christmas after all!
Does this mark a farewell to a festive cream team for us? Absolutely not; we shall squeeze that in too! But many, many years after we first started seeing bands and live music in the smaller, less commercial corners of our amazing city we both agree that this has been a terrific Christmas catch-up and that even out of the yule-tide season, with our offspring all independent and grown-up (most of the time), it is high time that we started looking out for interesting gigs and music once more…