The Politest Gig

It’s 1988. December 13th in fact. 

We’re wending our way down the M20 to Folkestone in a white Montego, dressed to the nines in charity shop Crombies, scuffed winklepickers and carefully managed mullets. The reason? To see Tanita Tikaram live in concert at the Leas Cliff Hall. 

Honestly, we were. 

Why, you may reasonably ask? Well, when you’re fifteen years old, reasons can become hard to pin down. Someone heard about it and word got round; “Shall we go and see her down in Folkestone?”. A few of us thought it was worth a tenner, or whatever it cost. ‘Good Tradition’ was okay, as was ‘Twist in My Sobriety’. Why not? Live music, a surreptitious under the age piss-lager and close proximity to the opposite sex. It didn’t dawn on us that the music would hardly be conducive to a rock n’ roll riot. Nevermind though, a gig’s a gig.

The Leas Cliff venue itself is described thusly on it’s contemporary website;

If an impressive setting – clad with opulent decor and exquisite attention-to-detail – is what you dream of, you need look no further than The Grand Hall. Living up to its majestic name, this beautiful hall can seat up to 450 guests, with ample room left for a stage and dance floor. It’s a guaranteed way to make your event stand out from the crowd.

And here on a technical spec sheet of the venue;

Capacity Seated 1004 without stage, 872 with full stage. Please deduct 14 seats from all the above if a mixer position is required. Standing 1514 – General Admission. Comprises 1300 Standing and 214 seated on balconies unreserved seating Guest lists form part of the capacity and CANNOT be added on top Main Hall 

Dimensions 37.2m wide x 20.5m deep (122ft x 66.5ft) (including staging) Stage Details: Width of Stage: 48ft Depth of Stage: Ranges between 15,21,27ft Height of Stage: 3ft 6in Height from Stage to Grid: N/A Height from Stage to Ceiling on Apron: 23ft 7in (7.3m) Height from Stage to Ceiling Fixed Stage: 12ft (3.7m) The stage is not raked or heated.

I guess both are accurate in their own way, but it’s not how I remembered it. 

Anyway, we shuffled in, slightly disheartened by the fact that it was a sit down affair. Not much opportunity to mingle. None, in fact. There were a lot of Mum’s and Dad’s, and some Gran’s in there too. Our naive hopes of music enhanced lust were obviously seriously misplaced.

Was there a support act? My mind doesn’t wish to reveal that. I do have a generally vague recollection of Tanita though. It was professionally presented with solid players, and in her own way, was mildly engaging, if only for the fact that she was a newly minted pop star and was all but a few feet away singing in that distinctive, contralto voice. It must, in fact, have been the Basingstoke pop-folkster’s first proper tour, and possibly early on too. Entirely inoffensive. All the Mum’s, Dad’s and Gran’s clapped along and were politely appreciative between songs.

But, by God, we were bored! 

One friend, who I shall call Steve, decided three quarters of the way through that enough was enough. He got up, politely made his way to the end of the row and began to dance his way to the front of the stage. For at least 3 minutes he gyrated on his own to the mid tempo sixth form poetry folk pop of our Tanita. A small coterie of previously unnoticed-by-us young ladies began to clap and cheer near the front, then got up themselves and joined the now rapturous dancing of Steve. Many others soon followed, and by the end, during the smash hit everyone (I assume) had come to hear (Good Tradition), at least half of the crowd had joined at the front. I reluctantly got up and joined my other friends on the periphery, finding it difficult to truly ‘get down and boogie’ due to the nature of the music and my own crippling self-consciousness. It was all somehow quite ridiculous. The concert mercifully ended, and Tanita looked pleased, having, in her eyes, brought the house down, albeit with the not insubstantial help of our good friend, the lunatic Steve (who by the way, was now eagerly chatting up two of the prettiest girls who had joined him earlier).

We all went home with a fuzzy glow and in the knowledge that we may have made Tanita’s night. Little did we know that come the following March we would see the mighty Fishbone in the same venue and experience the other extreme of what live music can offer. And that’s another story.


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