Andy Coleman Tribute Show: Sons Of The Desert, King Rat And The Soul Cats and The Risk – St James, Guernsey – 08/10/22

Gig For Andy - poster

Earlier in the summer of 2022 the sad news was announced of the passing of musician Andy Coleman which, it was instantly apparent, had a profound effect on many in Guernsey’s music community which he had been a part of for several decades and so it wasn’t long before a pair of events paying tribute to the different sides of Andy’s musical life were announced.

On Saturday 1st October St James hosted an event featuring a multitude of the island’s jazz scene paying tribute to his work on trombone with many jazz bands and then on Saturday 8th October the focus shifted to his more ‘pop’ orientated work, specifically with The Risk, King Rat & The Soul Cats and Sons Of The Desert.

Things began with mod band The Risk with whom Andy had played trombone since the mid-1980s and wrote the brass sections for all their songs since.

The Risk - Gig For Andy
The Risk

Launching into their set with long time favourite Norma Jean the band put on one of their best shows in a long time with Mark Le Gallez and Colin Leach leading the charge.

Ozzy’s drumming sounded particularly powerful here, driving it all forward while long time saxophone player Garrick Jones was joined by Nick Peters on trombone for the start of a marathon effort that saw Nick barley leave the stage all night while stepping into Andy’s shoes in fantastic fashion.

The punchy and powerful power pop of The Risk brought a few onto the dancefloor, though it felt like many were saving themselves for later, but nonetheless they got big positive reactions throughout with highlights coming with the likes of State Of The Union, Twilight Zone, Work and Jobs For The Boys while Good Times closed the set on a positive but poignant moment, making for a great start to the night with a celebratory tone.

King Rat & The Soul Cats are one of those bands who’ve taken on something of a legendary status in Guernsey’s music scene having made their names in the late 1980s as the band to see if classic soul music is your thing.

King Rat And The Soul Cats - Gig For Andy
King Rat And The Soul Cats

Reconvening tonight for the first time in five years they had made it pretty clear that, despite having played several ‘last gigs’ over the years this was even more likely to be their final outing (though frontman Chris Dean did say ‘never say never’) so there was an extra special feel to this outing which just added to the emotional tone of the evening.

Playing through a ‘hit after hit after hit’ set of soul classics including the likes of Heard It Through The Grapevine, Dancing In The Street and My Girl the band were as tight as they come and so polished they are impossible to fault, all complete with dance moves for the lead trio too.

With the hall packed to capacity it’s fair to say they received the biggest response of the night with Chris showing why he is so well regarded as a frontman as he got people singing along to call and response moments while the whole band’s performance was so tight and together I heard people comment it was like listening to a record more than a live show, but all without losing the live energy.

A special rendition of Soul Man paid direct tribute to Andy and had the whole crowd singing his name to the Sam & Dave song before an encore of Gimme Some Lovin’ closed their set on a huge high.

While the audience had thinned somewhat the number of be-fezzed heads around St James showed that plenty were eager for Sons Of The Desert’s set and, as they launched into Madness’ One Step Beyond the crowd again came to life.

Sons Of The Desert - Gig For Andy
Sons Of The Desert

Chris Pearson’s somewhat chaotic energy set the tone for the hour or more of ska hits that was to follow with Colin Leach providing the more grounded side of the lead duo as band and audience skanked their way through the likes of Three Minute Hero, Lit Up Fatty, Ghost Town, Gangsters and plenty more.

Part way through the set Andy’s daughter, Clara Coleman, joined the band on stage and, after thanking the musicians and audience for being part of the two nights in tribute to her dad, sang a few songs starting with a hugely emotional rendition of Groove Armada’s At The River that also gave Nick Peters his chance to shine with the song’s iconic trombone solo before a version of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and then, on something more usual for Sons Of The Desert, Toots & The Maytals’ Monkey Man which got people dancing again and brought the energy back up with a great time being had on stage and off.

While they had a slightly looser energy that King Rat, Sons Of The Desert were their equals tonight and were quickly called back for an encore culminating on Madness classic Night Boat To Cairo which closed the night on a big high point.

While the show was a terrific one all round the extra element added by being a tribute to Andy made it all the the more special and, even for someone who only knew Andy from his work with a few bands in more recent years, it was an emotional experience that general consensus seemed to suggest he’d be hugely surprised by, but appreciative of, and that showed just a little of the love and admiration felt for the man across Guernsey’s music scene of which he was an often under sung, but key part, for many years.

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