Friday night and with Sheffield’s finest singer songwriter John Shuttleworth in town, the people of Newcastle and surrounding areas strapped on their bumbags, jumped into their Y reg Austin Ambassadors and headed for the Tyne Theatre. Well I say “jumped” but, as John himself points out later in the evening (in relation to his wife telling him to “jump in the shower”); safety is paramount these days so it’s better to step gingerly – especially if, like John, you’re in showbiz.
John is worried, you see – 2016 saw a absurd number of celebrity deaths and after a couple of health scares of his own (sciatica and athlete’s foot) he’s been contemplating his own mortality. He’s considering retiring from showbiz to ensure he avoids the Grim Reaper, so this evening he begins with several songs he’s written about his worries for his own life, those of his fellow stars, and even that of his neighbour and sole agent Ken Worthington. Ken, it transpires, is a little careless when eating Polo mints and John is concerned that he may choke on one. Not only a talented performer, this evening we discover that John also provides us with sterling advice on health and safety issues which we could previously have overlooked.
That’s not to say the evening is filled with doom, gloom and melancholy. Much like his good friend Graham Fellows (cough), John has an enviable ear for an emotive melody accompanied by a foot-tapping beat, not to mention observational and incisive lyrics which have the audience chuckling (in empathy rather than ridicule, I’m almost sure) at virtually every line. Tonight we have the added bonus of a glitterball for some of the slower numbers and, at John’s request, even some dance moves from the crowd during old favourite Eggs and Gammon.
Mingling With Mourners is beautifully poignant, while new songs Get The Volvo, Val and his ode to the A1111 (it’s like the A1, but four times as good) see some audience singalongs and have catchier choruses than anything currently in the charts. These are trying times we’re currently living in and the world needs more, not less, of such wonderful wordsmithery and clever couplets to keep us smiling.
Let’s punch the air with excitement then, as over the course of the evening John begins to see the error of his ways and decides that he won’t retire from showbiz just yet. Hurray and, indeed, oof!