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John Robb On Vini Reilly And The Durutti Column Live In Manchester
John Robb , February 2nd, 2010 04:45

John Robb salutes a Manchester legend as he watches the Durutti Column live

A couple of years ago the Red Hot Chili Peppers played a couple of nights at the Manchester Arena. The band's guitar player, the mercurial John Frusciante, stepped up to the mic half way through the set and played a solo version of a Durutti Column song to a confused stadium, none of whom seem to have heard of the shadowy Mancunian institution.

Frusciante certainly had, and his delicate finger-picking style has been copped from Durutti Column’s talented Vini Reilly, whose spidery arpeggios and chorused licks Frusciante somehow translated into multi-million selling stadium fillers.

Not that Reilly seems to care. His thirty odd years in music have been willful and gloriously individualistic. He started out in the mid 70s, playing round Manchester in a pub rock band called Wild Ram. These morphed into punk mini-legends Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, whose sometime drummer is now Goldblade's van driver. He likes to regale us with tales of a youthful Tony Wilson in awe of Vini's talent and attempting to lure him away from Ed Banger. Ed Banger released a couple of singles that excited a young Johnny Marr and hung around long enough to get themselves a decent footnote in Mancunian folklore, largely due to the fact that Morrissey once shared a stage with them, and Billy Duffy joined after Vini Reilly left.

Wilson put the Durutti Column together to showcase the guitar genius’s spidery talent and they were the only band who remained on every label that Tony Wilson ran. They remained in the background releasing great records and occasionally disappearing due to illness or boredom. Vini wrote an album for a solo Morrissey and apart from that seems to have done his best to avoid the limelight - leaving a trail of great records and amazing guitar playing.

This is a band unlike any other. When people were talking about post punk all those years ago and breaking down rock conventions maybe they didn’t have Durutti Column in mind, but they should have.

Tonight, they take the stage fumbling - first on is the guitar prodigy who can't find his instrument and mumbles down the mic before sitting down and playing a lick so delicious it makes your mouth water. Next up is drummer Bruce Mitchell, the man who Tony Wilson called “the real Mr. Manchester”. He’s a 71-year-old legend who has been on the scene since the trad jazz days of the early 50s. Bruce played drums though every style of music since then from beat boom to psychedelic, and was renting out the PA for that legendary Sex Pistols gig. He has a story for everything that ever happened in Manchester and remarkably is still a key part of the scene now - he wanders on stage in a great purple coat and stand there impassive next to his kit waiting for Vini to hit the groove giving him five minutes before laying down the free jazz rolls that flavour the Durutti Column sound.

It’s about now that keyboardist and bass player Kier Stewart arrives, looking bemused at the antics of his elders and lays down a heavy dub grove and kicks in the breakbeats. The song builds up - it’s beautiful and sweeps you up with its rhythmic prowess and scintillating guitar playing. Someone is playing a trumpet and suddenly you are there in the zone, that zone that prime time Miles Davis created with Sketches Of Spain, but dragged backwards through a post punk hedge. Close your eyes and you’re away on a swirling, mesmerizing trip. Durutti Column are that good - this is a band at the peak of their powers and the song cycle tonight - a tribute to the late Tony Wilson culled from their recent A Paean To Tony Wilson is powerful, moving and delivered by players at the top of their game.

Defying all laws of music and gravity, the Durutti Column soar- the perfect tribute to the equally mercurial Tony Wilson.