Three gigs on consecutive weekdays – something of a record, methinks. Friday, and to the Cambridge Corn Exchange for a token dose of modern pop’n’roll, with The Zutons. Their selling point is more than just the originality of a female sax player at the forefront: they’ve cracked the formula of the singalong quite comfortably, although after two albums’ worth, they may have to find a different approach to repeating the chorus several times with full backing, then stopping the music to chant the chorus (along with the audience) before crashing back in with the music again. Terrible sound (in a venue where I’ve heard good sound before) which meant that only the familiar songs were worth the admission fee. And yes, I did feel old.

Monday, and to the Albert Hall to catch one night of Eric Clapton’s annual residency there. When you play like EC, and have the quality of material, you can’t go wrong, although I felt eleven band members made it all just too complicated. But hey, I’m not complaining. How could you with a gig that finishes with Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Cocaine and Crossroads? Wow. Another “must-do” event ticked off life’s list

And finally, to The Junction in Cambridge on Tuesday for another act which was at its peak when I was in short trousers: the Average White Band. There may only be two of the original members left, but these guys can still really cut it. Long before Level 42 made white boys playing jazz-funk mainstream, AWB – from Scotland – had proved it’s all in the groove, not in your background. Rather neatly, they first came to prominence as support for Eric Clapton in his famous 1973 comeback gig. “Pick up the Pieces” sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday, the sign of a true classic.

Eurovision, so much to answer for

Just when you think the Eurovision Song Contest is past its sell-by date, like every year, it comes back and provides you with some unmissable entertainment once more. Now, the idea of getting the public to vote, which has been running these past few years, is obviously stupid; if there was a slight regional bias in the voting before, now it’s set in stone. There’s simply no chance of anyone outside Scandinavia or the Balkans winning now, thanks to all the “and the 12 points goes to our lovely neighbours” stuff. But – and here’s a big but – the public are prepared to do something which the old “juries” never were: and that’s to vote for the nonsensical entries. This comes a few years too late for Germany, which had made the tongue-in-cheek stuff an art form, but never mind: the two countries which put in very silly songs indeed were handsomely rewarded, much to the delight of everyone in countries like the UK which stand no chance of winning any more (because everyone hates us). Lithuania’s song, which consisted of a bunch of blokes shouting “Vote for the winners, of Eurovision!” for three minutes, was nothing short of genius, and for a while looked like it might even get second place. But of course Finland’s “death metal” act swept all before it. It was more a less funny Spinal Tap than Bolt Thrower, but we loved it. The British public voted Finland 1 and Lithuania 2, as did at least one other country with no particular affiliations to either state, and the big question is: just how silly can it all get next year? Now we’ll find out which nationalities haven’t got a sense of humour. Eurovision could be about to go mental. I can’t wait.

Joe Royle leaves Ipswich.

I’m delighted that Royle has gone. I didn’t want him in the first place, along with all those in the North Stand who were chanting “Royle out” before he’d even been appointed nearly four long seasons ago. In all that time, I think we’d agree he really didn’t win over many of the sceptics either. A few, maybe, and I’ll admit at times in the second and third seasons here, his gung-ho tactics were so entertaining that I wasn’t complaining.
But Royle should not be blamed for being himself. He came along as Joe Royle, and he managed as Joe Royle. Good for him. The board got what they asked for.
And there’s the problem, of course. It was the 2002/03 season board who appointed the wrong manager, and it’s those people who we should be saying good riddance to now, much more than Royle, who simply did what he was paid to do. The board were so seduced by the pre-match canapes at Old Trafford and Highbury in 2000-2002 that an immediate return to the Premiership was simply the only thing they could contemplate. They needed a manager who could happily think short-term, one season at a time, with promotion the only objective. Royle was a decent choice. The fact that the supporters clearly would have preferred to see a new squad develop, even if it delayed promotion for a year or two, was just ignored. What do we know? Well, maybe not much. But what we want shouldn’t be ignored, because in the Championship, we represent the club’s main source of income. We knew what Royle was being brought in to do, and we didn’t want that. We wanted another “five-year plan” (or maybe two or three, given that we’d done it once already). Instead, four years have been wasted.
Nowadays, of course, executive management which makes a mistake never falls on its sword, as Mr Blair exemplifies. They just say “this has been valuable experience” and that it “makes us even better qualified for the job” and anyway, “who is there who could do it better?”
I think we’re about to see if this is true. Let’s see if we get a promising manager appointed, with a couple of years to get results. It’s a fantastic time for that, if we can keep the youngsters. The supporters have the patience. Can the board stop acting like junkies desperate for another fix of the high life, and join us?

Restaurant 22, Cambridge has a website!

Last night we ate at Restaurant 22 at 22 Chesterton Lane, Cambridge. I wouldn’t normally think this worthy of a blog entry, but there seemed to be no record of the restaurant having a website when I scoured the search engines the day before. However, when we got there, its website was mentioned on its cards and menus, and indeed it most certainly has one. So I thought a quick link might get the Googlebot visiting it ASAP! Otherwise, if this entry is still the top one on Google, here’s the Restaurant 22 website.
(Oh yes, and the food is very good indeed, but I’m sure you know that. Bill for two with a pretty decent bottle of wine: £80).