Ian Prowse – Live Review – Otley Korks
By Victoria Holdsworth, November 2017
It is an intimate acoustic affair this evening, with one of Liverpool’s most esteemed singer/songwriters, who is usually flanked by his long-time band, Amsterdam. Tonight, we are treated to a less energetic version of some of the crowd-pleasing songs that have been entertaining these shores for the past twenty-five years.
Never one to shy away from any issue, Mr. Ian Prowse welcomes his followers, of which there are many, and kicks off with a tribute to the budget which has just past, with a strong dig at the establishment, tongue firmly in cheek version of ‘You’re a Phoney’. The bouncing band behind him may be missing, but the sentiment remains the same.
After he has warmed us all up, Ian lets us know what we can expect from tonight’s showcase of work. There will be some old tunes, and possibly some new material. One thing that you can always be sure of with Ian Prowse though, there will be some toe tappers, some laughter and some heart-stopping lyrical moments.
‘Firmaments End’ is essentially a fictional pub, where Ian imagined all the world’s leaders sitting and having a pint one day and decided to put it to lyrics. The result is a catchy tune with a serious message about just how dangerous people in power can actually be.
‘The Boer Song’, which is the B-side to ‘Megalomania’ is softer, weighted with some very heaving meaning, but is played with such tenderness. Ian then tells us that when his band were just starting, they thought it would be an idea to give their B-sides away, thinking that they were cool and hip. Luckily for the crowd, these songs have stayed firmly in Ian/Amsterdam’s/Pele’s repertoire.
There are tales of younger days and life lessons between such classics as ‘Swinging From A Tree’ and ‘Fireworks’ from the same-titled debut album from Pele, which gets the crowd going with everyone singing along. The Celtic overtones then start to seep through the notes as we are treated to ‘Sean O’Casey’ including a swift and well executed guitar solo, before Ian exclaims, “Fuck you Johnny Marr!”
His latest solo album Companeros has been widely acclaimed, and it understandable to see why. Tracks such as ‘You Can’t Win ‘em All Mum’, ‘Johnny & Marie’, ‘Derry Gaol’ and ‘My Name is Dessie Warren’ will almost always bring a tear to the eye, or the coldest of shivers down your spine. The passion that Ian invokes when he is singing any of his songs reminds me of Joe Strummer, no less.
‘I Did It For Love’ comes from Who Loves Ya Baby, released in 2014 and has an almost South American, Latin feel to it. Even played without all the brass section accompanying him, he makes it warm and inviting. The song was played with such passion that Ian snapped a string, which an audience member quickly sorts out for him, without even a request to, such is the love for the man in this room tonight.
With a guitar-less Ian waiting for his tool back, he takes the time to slightly change the mood and delivers ‘Lest We Forget’, a tribute to the battle of Passchendaele and all the young men and women who gave up their lives. I defy anyone to listen to this song and not have knot in your stomach, with its poetic brilliance echoing WB Yeats, this song is so atmospheric and Ian sings it with such respect. It is simply beautiful.
With his guitar back in hands, he rips into ‘Megalomania’ after telling us how chuffed they were that it got to number one in the South African charts upon release. Sadly, for Ian and Pele, they were never allowed to go perform there due to the political situation. This raucous tune still sounds so good all these years later, and the recognition and enjoyment on everyone’s face is plain to see.
“Home, is one of the best songs I’ve ever written!” declares Mr. Prowse and dutifully strums it out for all, with its lilting melody urging everyone to join in the chorus, then straight into another chorus rouser, ‘Every Man and Woman Blues.’
No stone is left unturned this evening and the crowd soaks up ‘Fair Blows the Wind for France,’ ‘Love Phenomenon’ and ‘Raid the Palace,’ and he isn’t finished there! One thing is for absolute certain, when you come see an Ian Prowse or Amsterdam gig, you certainly get your ticket price’s worth and then some. Ian throws in a cheeky little cover of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’, ‘Jimmy Mack.’
As it approaches the end of the night, we get three encore songs, the most popular one being ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside’ which John Peel championed from the minute he heard it and cried on air, such is the emotionally evocative subject behind the song. This was by far the best performance of the night, and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful this guy’s voice is.
‘Pain Of A Drinking Song’ is one of my personal favourites, which always comes with a very funny story, as to how it came about to be written, and then a newer Amsterdam number, ‘Arm in Arm.’
As he thanks the audience for coming out to see him, he treats everyone to a brand-new song, ‘Joseph I’m Your Girl’ which the crowd soaks up.
Ian Prowse has a knack of writing intriguing songs based on history, love, and humanity. There is no category that you can put this musician into: He is just a one of a kind and not to be missed.