The Humber Mouth
Hull Literature
Festival 2002


Rent a Writer!

Chamber of Secrets

Pee Po Belly Bum Drawers

Larking About

Imagine A Dandelion Upside Down

Close Encounters of a Literary Kind

Wreckless, Eric?

Fading, Fifty and 100% South of Watford

Next Best Thing

Larkin Unearthed

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Sue Wilsea & Jackie Goodman

Wreckless, Eric?
Adelphi 8pm
Friday 8th November/

How lucky is it for balding men that someone made shaved heads a fashion statement? There were a lot of them about at the Adelphi on Friday night, bobbing and glinting in the pulsating disco lights. Perhaps one day someone will come up with a similarly whizzy idea for the dentally challenged, though how to make gums a fashion statement may well be one challenge too far for most rebranding agencies. Anyway, no need to bother about rebranding Eric. Why spend millions on laser shows when a few tweaks from hunky Andy (sorry, sexist comment) sets the lights flashing mesmerically on the strip of flowery wallpaper generously provided as backdrop for the star? And why invest in creating instant Pop Idols when Eric has voluntarily spent a lifetime developing himself into a legend of performing longevity?

Fever pitch isn't quite how I would describe the atmosphere by 10pm when hunky Andy was still trying to coax Wreckless out of the dressing room. The audience, many of whom were pretty much Eric's contemporaries, seemed reasonably content to get in another pint or two. I was on my fourth packet of salt and vinegar crisps, wondering what flavour to try next. When Eric eventually decided that the moment had come, he shot onto stage at an alarming speed considering the various ailments he described in his intro. More than likely, he had been helped along by a strong shove from behind.

Wreckless may be truly mad, in the nicest possible way. It seems strange to describe an old punk who can deflate an ill-advised young heckler with one word as nice, but, like a strict father, Eric expects that the etiquette of performer/audience relationships is observed. Quite right, too. Eric's opening number bore a strange resemblance to 'Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west'. Perhaps it's because of the subliminal association of names. Another number sounded much like 'Save the last dance for me.' These hooks make the mind hopscotch around the culture of the last few decades. Eric appears to work on several levels. His performance is his life, with diversions down the odd cul-de-sac here and there. His material seems to have been written because he knew he would be able to turn into a parody of himself eventually, his own tribute band. And anyway, I'm sure he was making half of it up as he went along. His songs are strong on a central idea and resounding chords but thin on words. 'There's only one destination in the final taxi' seems quite meaningful and melancholy initially, but after multiple repetition, well, hang on a minute´┐Ż.Eric's talent is for making a lot of a little. It's not what he says but the way that he says it.

His new material is more introspective and did not command the same response as his more familiar songs, but, as he said, there is an insatiable demand for tribute bands, so I guess that's not surprising. At certain angles, he bears a strange resemblance to Francis Bacon, only slightly less raddled. This impression was enhanced on Friday night by the disco lights which caused intense green splodges to shadow his nose and cheek like a Bacon self-portrait. But then again, at other moments he could have been Austin Powers. Then there was his collaboration with Jim Eldon, whose violin brought an added dimension to the instrumental interludes in Eric's songs and whose formal appearance in suit and tie provided a surreal foil to Eric's idiosyncratic antics. Eric is a true professional, which is why, at the end of the evening, I was all for giving the young hecklers at the bar a few well-chosen words of my own. As it was, I settled for a long and meaningful glare, which had no effect at all as, by that time, they were dancing around with eyes closed to the music in their heads. Some of it might even have been Eric's.