On the 2010 European tour.
Saturday 20th August 2011.
This evening, at a festival in Northern Germany, Colosseum will go onstage for the last time. For a combination of reasons, Jon Hiseman, Barbara Thompson (who took over founder-member Dick Heckstall-Smith's role when he died in December 2004), Clem Clempson, Dave Greenslade, Mark Clarke and lead vocalist Chris Farlowe are finally calling it a day.
The primary ( but not the only) reason is almost certainly the increasing severity of Barbara's Parkinsons condition, which makes playing ever more of a struggle for her. Even with the band tailoring the programme so she could pace herself, it has become just too arduous for her to play lengthy tours. Another likely factor was how much longer the band could keep up the flow of new material vital for it to continue playing and recording its own music. It's pretty astonishing that they have managed to keep it going for 17 years, following their reunion in 1994 - after a break of 23 years! This has to be down , initially a least, to their shared desire to revisit the music they played between 1968 (when they first formed) and 1971, when the original group disbanded to go their separate ways. In due course, Dick Heckstall-Smith, who inherited the material from the partly-finished third Colosseum album; went on to complete it and release it under his own name, with the apt title: "A Story Ended".
The original line-up, with James Litherland, playing poolside
at the Montreux Jazz Festival, June 1979
Colosseum will be sorely missed, though it has to be said, more in Germany than anywhere. Yes, they still have their loyal fans in the UK, though thinner on the ground now than back in '68-'71 (the first incarnation), when they could fill the Albert Hall. When they re-formed 23 years later, in 1994, it was exactly the same line-up as the one that disbanded in October 1971...not many 'reunion' bands from that era could make this claim! As well as that, the maturity that those 20 plus years had brought to everyone's playing just added to the band's cohesion and spirit... in short, they were better than ever! The German audiences welcomed them back ecstatically...and continued to give them one standing ovation after another...and I'm willing to bet tonight will be no different.
Jon told me he isn't planning to make any announcements about it being the final appearance, preferring to let the band bow out quietly, without any fuss or drama...typical of his 'n0 nonsense' approach to nearly everything he's involved with. Of course, the rumours have been around in Germany for a while, as Jon has never tried to cover up Barbara's worsening Parkinsons condtition, which even with the latest drug therapy, steadily erodes her ability to play (though she still wows the audiences with her solos, inspite of this).
So, that's it then...Jon and Barbara plan to take things a bit easier...though knowing Jon as I do, I doubt this will mean him putting his feet up! He's hard-wired to keep doing stuff...and my guess is, his feet won't be touching the ground much more they ever have in the past. The Temple Music studio will still be busy, Paraphernalia's new DVD, "Live '05" which is just out, will require promoting, meaning the organising of interviews etc. and there's the BBC TV documentary about Barbara's fight with Parkinsons, "Playing against time", which is scheduled to be shown in October or November this year.
What now? Well, maybe the pace of life will eventually slow down a bit and the Hisemans will take some time to enjoy their new-found leisure time. The others, Clem, Mark, Dave and Chris Farlowe will keep on 'truckin' for as long as their health...and 'chops'..allow!
So...Colosseum, one of the first British bands to fuse jazz and rock, with a chunk of blues thrown in, will be 'truckin' no more...but it was great while it lasted!
A momentary pause for reflection at an early rehearsal, c.1968
On the other hand....maybe a 'comeback tour' in 201...? Well, Jon has been known to say things like"never say never", but don't hold your breath!