Review: Turn and Face the Strange - Mick Ronson The Spider From Hull

The legendary Spider from Mars, Mick Ronson
The legendary Spider from Mars, Mick Ronson
0
Have your say

This is a brilliant show about a vastly underrated guitar virtuoso and deserves another rerun.

Turn and Face the Strange celebrates Hull-born Mick Ronson, best known as the guitarist and arranger behind David Bowie at the height of the glam rock chapter of his career.

Ched Cheesman - plays the Gibson Les Paul Mick Ronson played on the Rolling Thunder Tour with Bob Dylan

Ched Cheesman - plays the Gibson Les Paul Mick Ronson played on the Rolling Thunder Tour with Bob Dylan

Carefully crafted and clearly made with love, it collects anecdotes and insights from family, friends and fellow musicians into his genius - and genial - character and plays some stonking music, including some less celebrated songs.

It reveals a man with a compelling humanity - to the point where at the end of the show you mourn him as one of your own.

Narrated by co-writers Rupert Creed and Garry Burnett, it charts Ronson's life, from the moment his mother realised the gift he had, through his early struggles to achieve his ambition, the Bowie years, and onwards to the many collaborations with top musicians as producer and arranger.

A band led by Ched Cheesman brings back some of the old magic of Ronson's work, and includes drummer John Cambridge who appeared with Ronson and Bowie in the "first ever glam rock gig" at the Roundhouse in London and John Bentley, also born in Hull, and is perhaps best known as the bassist for the band Squeeze.

Mick Ronson

Mick Ronson

They play alongside a classically-trained string quartet, led by 17-year-old Wyke College student Elliot Jarvis, treating the audience to a series of classics, Life on Mars, Moonage Daydream, All The Young Dudes.

There's some great tales: Garry Burnett's toe-curling childhood moment when fluff on his record player stylus kept making a rude word on the B-side of Aladdin Sane repeat in front of his father, who then refused to kiss him good night, and a classic description of playing a gig at one of Hull's "fighting pubs" where it was " tables and bottles all night - you just stayed on the stage to keep out of it."

John Cambridge recalled how he turned up to persuade Ronson, who was working as a gardener and marking out lines on a football field in Hull, to give London a third shot.

Then there is Ronson himself talking in his quiet, self-effacing manner, about how he started writing arrangements for Bowie after Tony Visconti left: "I thought if he could do it, so could I."

After the Spiders final gig at the Hammersmith, Ronson went his own way, going onto produce or play on dozens of albums, lending his golden touch to Lou Reed's Perfect Day.

As the show reaches its sad crescendo - Ronson's untimely death at the age of 46, from cancer, it is impossible not to feel a lump in the throat, especially hearing Bobby Joyce's rendition of Ian Hunter's tribute to Mick Ronson, Michael Picasso.

The track Life's A River, from his last album Heaven to Hull, was another spine-tingler.

The show at the Freedom Centre on Preston Road in east Hull was fittingly close to where Mick Ronson grew up and was later buried.

There are a few tickets left for the shows which end this Saturday.