Sonic Breakfast Top Ten 2019 – Number five – The Tearaways & Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts – The 100 Club

 I had the very best of intentions. Two weeks in Spain should have been ample time to complete Sonic Breakfast’s top ten countdown of 2019. I thought that mornings might have been spent writing content whilst drinking juice and eating tostadas con queso y tomate. 

But the sad reality was that I needed the time to chill; long lie-ins were required, hangovers were nursed and batteries recharged. It was a fabulous way to spend two weeks away from the frantic day to day rush. 

Now back in London, I’m preparing for 2020 by having a tidy-up. And I feel motivated to crack on with the countdown. 

2019 had a lowlight. A thirty second blip that’s haunted me on and off since. On the Sunday morning of the August Bank Holiday, I was beaten up, mugged in broad daylight for the sake of a wallet. I tried not to let it impact upon life but I’d be lying if I said that it hadn’t. I find myself much more anxious when rapid movements surprise me behind my back. The slightest, accidental touch on my shoulder still sends me into a nervous spin. 

I remember The Tearaways gig at the 100 Club fondly partly because it was one of the first gigs that I went to after the mugging. I reviewed it here. I had such a great night and felt able to fully breathe freely again. It sounds a bit ‘wank’ to talk about the restorative power of rock ‘n’ roll but that night left me feeling all sorts of happy. The Tearaways, reeling in a recent grief themselves, immaculately showed how the show must go on.

Since that night, they’ve headed back to the States and played tirelessly. They’ve also released two videos of key tracks during December. Tributes to John Ferriter, the key Tearaway who passed away suddenly in 2019, loom large. I really hope that this good time band return to the UK this year. 

 

And any review of that gig wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the support act, Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts. What a 2019 they had. I loved their set. They played a UK gig in December in one of my old Nottingham haunts, a holiday hoedown raising funds for an excellent local homelessness charity, Emmanuel House. Ryan plays a series of acoustic shows across the UK later this year and a documentary film is being prepared around it. A great opportunity to see this modern day Tom Petty up close and personal.

Worthy of a top five 2019 Sonic Breakfast position I’m sure you’ll all agree.

The Tearaways and Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts – The 100 Club – August 28th 2019

Ryan Hamilton, support act on this night at the 100 Club is waxing lyrical in between songs. “If you feel like you’re meant to do something, then stick with it”, he urges. Age should be no barrier when following and realising your dreams, he reckons. That’s certainly more than true tonight. 

The Tearaways are something of a celebrity magnet. Perhaps that’s because they have Clem Burke as their drummer. The man from Blondie remains a magnificent visual icon, a powerhouse of a drummer and a thoroughly decent chap. Bob Geldof watches from the shadows generously accepting the requests for selfies that his level of fame must demand. Nick Heyward gets up on stage with the Tearaways and they astound with the most assured, joyous version of Fantastic Day. Glenn Matlock joins for an encore of mod classics. 

 

“When I wrote Fantastic Day, I always had it with the drumming of Clem in mind”, says Nick post-gig. A lovely man full of smiles and looking decades younger than his 58 years, he simply seems star-struck and in awe that he’s met a power-pop hero of his tonight. I ask him if there’s any chance of a Haircut 100 reunion and it’s not ruled out. That’s a gig I’d love to go to. 

But back to The Tearaways. Some wondered whether this gig and this tour would actually go ahead. Just a month ago, John Ferriter, key band member, passed away aged just 59. Despite the grief that the others must be feeling you suspect that cancellation was never a consideration. “We’re doing this for John”, they say throughout the set. 

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that this is a solemn affair either. It’s far from that. The Tearaways write music that’s full of mod melody, sunny harmony and splendid riff. In the hands of a band less capable, the encouragement to raise our hands in the air could appear cheesy or laboured. Here it’s just a whole heap of fun. 

And support act, Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts, have already warmed us up on that front. Their thing is pure energetic rock ‘n’ roll with a cowboy twang. Ryan has songs that reference Tom Petty, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. He’s clearly a student of music memorabilia and so is more than aware (and humbly delighted) about the significance of this venue in pop lore. Ryan has songs about not doing drugs anymore because you’re married and drinking in Texan saloons. He also has a new album with an unfortunate acronym (This is the sound). He teases his British band mates who are able to give as good as they get. If ever the phase ‘rollicking entertainment’ was appropriate tonight could be your night. 

 

As I get older, a measure of a great gig is how much of a smile it leaves on your face. And tonight The Tearaways have reached the wide grin accolade.