Leading promoter’s hopes for Leadmill

A global music mogul with a soft spot for Yorkshire is hoping for an amicable outcome to the uncertainty surrounding a famous venue as he continues to bring top tours to the region.

Steve Homer, CEO of AEG Presents. Picture: Alex Rumford
Steve Homer, CEO of AEG Presents. Picture: Alex Rumford

Steve Homer’s passion for Yorkshire generally and Sheffield in particular dates back to the eight years he spent booking bands into the lower refectory, Maze Bar and Octagon at Sheffield University.

As a musician, DJ and fan of live music he also grew to love The Leadmill and now, as CEO of AEG Presents, the live events arm of global entertainment company AEG, he values the iconic venue as highly as ever.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

He said: “It’s clear there are a lot of unknowns at the moment about The Leadmill but my first reaction as a music fan is deep sadness – I spent many a great night there when I was working in Sheffield in the 90s and I saw some amazing acts – I even got to tread the boards myself at one point!”

Red Guitars at the music mural in Hull by Ed Ullyart. Picture: Doug Swallow

Steve’s history in Sheffield is one of bringing big name bands to the city as well as supporting the development of local talent. Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Blur and Robbie Williams’ The Ego Has Landed tour are some of the former. From Yorkshire, Utah Saints and Pulp spring readily to Steve’s mind.

He said: “I put Pulp on quite a few times before they became a household name. I used to deal with Russell Senior – he was the organised one who sorted things out and I put them on several times.”

Current projects include the tour by Blondie and Johnny Marr which comes to the Bonus Arena in Hull on Friday April 29 and the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Wednesday May 4. There’s also the Rolling Stones tour which takes in Anfield and Hyde Park in June.

Steve’s next productions in Yorkshire will be the lower profile but eagerly awaited reunion by the Red Guitars – Hull’s stars of the European indie scene – as they set out on a seven-date tour of intimate venues 40 years after they formed.

Unable to attend the hometown date at the Adelphi Club in Hull on Saturday April 23 – which sold out within hours – or the opening night at Old Woollen in Leeds yesterday evening because of a business trip to Los Angeles, Steve will catch the band at the 100 Club near his London base on Friday April 29.

He recalled how he rediscovered them during lockdown: “I was just going through stuff from the last 40 years, listening to a compilation and the Red Guitars were on it. I wondered what happened to them, Googled them and reached out to ask if they had thought about doing any shows.

“We said when we got out of lockdown I could put together a proposal, so when I wasn’t too busy cancelling tours and rescheduling them that’s what I did.”

Steve first came across them in 1984 when he was a student at Leicester University and member of the crew setting up for a gig by The Smiths, with the Red Guitars as support.

He said: “They were one of many bands that I liked – they had something different about them. They were favourites of John Peel and they just sounded so different

“Then they split up and I went off and did various things in music. It’s nice to have a band back that has its original members. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

The Red Guitars were formed by a bunch of people who arrived in Hull to study. You won’t find them in the Top of the Pops roundups but you might see them on reruns of Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube and equivalent shows throughout Europe.

The gig archive on the band’s website ends at December 1984. The version of the band which followed is barely acknowledged – it stood up against the contemporary sounds of the time but it just wasn’t the same and it didn’t last long.

The reunion tour, named Slow To Fade after the debut album, focuses on its nine tracks and the early singles. Good Technology, still a signature track, reached number 11 in Peel’s festive 50 in 1983, with Elvis Costello, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and The Fall among the big names trailing in its wake.

Fact, also from 1983, carries an anti-war message. The following year brought Steeltown, inspired by the impact on the community of the closure of the steelworks at Consett, and Marimba Jive, anti-apartheid, single of the week in the New Musical Express and number one in the Indie charts.

A major challenge for the tour was how to get everybody together for discussions, rehearsals and writing new material when the five band members weren’t even in the same continent, never mind the same city.

Lead guitarist Hallam Lewis was in Cape Town and singer Jeremy Kidd in Brighton. Drummer Matt Higgins lives in Leeds, rhythm guitarist John Rowley in Bridlington and bass player Lou Duffy-Howard is in Hull. Guest guitarist Jos Allen will join the tour, with the band initially connected by the good technology of the internet until they were able to get together in person earlier this month.

Lou said: “We started with a Zoom meeting and from the first moment we slipped straight back into the best times we ever had and the best people we ever were, all together back in the early 80s.

“We had all done our practising before that. I re-learned the bass lines and I remembered them better than things I have only done recently. We got together and just played and it was a fantastic feeling.”

Steve’s approach came as a welcome surprise. He’s known to be well-liked in the music industry and he offered a few options from a headline tour of small venues to supporting big names at major arenas.

He said: “I work with a lot of people and I like a lot of different music… Katy Perry, Dolly Parton. I have quite a few tours going through Yorkshire… Blondie, OMD, Level 42… I tend to favour Yorkshire and Sheffield in particular if I can. They say never work with your heroes but I can’t say I have ever worked with people whose records I would burn!”

Lou said: “We like intimate venues and we didn’t hesitate to agree that was the best thing. We had a couple of conversations and it surprised us all because we never thought we would re-form.

“There are people who have bought tickets for all the gigs and some flying over from various European countries – a few from Germany where we played a lot. Through social media one guy asked if we were going to the UAE because if not he’s going to buy a ticket. We told him it’s unlikely, so he’s coming to the Birmingham gig!”

Whatever happens next, it’s clear there is already an appetite for another encore.

Steve revealed: “When we were putting the tour together quite a lot of people contacted me from venues and said they really fancied having a go at it, so there are some dates in abeyance for another tour.”