Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper played an intimate semi-acoustic and spoken word set to a seated audience of dedicated and knowledgeable fans at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Wednesday the 20th of March, 2019.

Marty Willson-Piper is a British guitarist & singer-songwriter who has been writing and performing with many bands and artists all over the world for the past 35+ years. He is best known as a long-time member of the Australian psychedelic rock band The Church. Willson-Piper contributed to all of the Church’s studio releases until 2013 and was a touring member from 1980 to 2013.

Well known as a man whose music voices the paradoxes of pain and beauty in a lyrical and musical style that snags the attention of the audience and remains in their consciousness long after the music has ceased. In live performance, this penetrating depth of music is coupled with fabulous humour that is nothing but British, intelligent, and vastly inappropriate (in all the right ways).

He was also the guitarist for the English alternative rock band All About Eve from 1991 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2002. In 2005 he joined veteran Australian band The Saints to record and tour.

Marty, on a well-loved and battered Takamine 12-string semi-acoustic guitar held together with copious amounts of gaffer tape, and wife Olivia, on violin and wearing a lovely pair of Cowboy Boots, mixed songs from Marty’s long and varied career with extended spoken word interludes and banter with the intimate, seated audience of loyal and long-standing fans.

Sometimes seated themselves (somewhat precariously in Marty’s case, on a rather wonky high stool) and sometimes standing, the married couple presented their lyrical and beautiful songs to the appreciative audience, interspersed with double checking which song was coming next (the setlist had been misplaced), spontaneous on-the-spot stream-of-consciousness song writing based on conversations with the audience and tangential observations from Marty and Olivia, musings, observations and expositions, and tall tales from Marty’s long music career.

An entertaining raconteur, Marty’s topics of conversation, tall tales and shaggy dog stories included bucolic pastoralism; the best way to fill up empty space in your house; descending chord progressions in songs; Onesies and Womble Suits; whether there was anyone famous from Leek; local radio interviews – leading to discussing Stoke-on-Trent and the Six Towns that comprise it; touring with The Cult, Italian Police with machine guns and the exact sartorial definition of good and evil as far as the Italians are concerned; Venice sinking under water; having a near death experience when a plane he was on suffered a catastrophic engine failure on an internal flight in Australia; Bryan Adams; Prog Rock – Olivia hosts and curates the Night of the Prog Festival in Germany – Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, with Gary Kemp on vocal duties (how and why did this happen?!?); telephone calls with David Gilmour and asking him to produce and guest on an All About Eve album, then being starstruck upon seeing him in the studio and asking him daft questions; disclosure on who actually played the famous baseline to Money; and skiing and song writing with Madonna!

During the interval, dedicated vinyl collectors and fans of Marty’s previous bands got their rare records signed, including records that Marty himself doesn’t have in his huge archive of vinyl records, before the second half of the set commenced.

Marty has often been photographed in a Big Star t-shirt, and he and Olivia ended the set with a cover of Thirteen from Big Star’s #1 Record, after which Marty and Olivia left the stage to well-deserved applause.

As ever, Marty, Olivia and the Foxlowe would like to thank everyone who came to the show, and we hope to see you again soon.

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.