1998 some benefit gigs

LONDON Camden Centre

Omar Puente, Raices Cubanas
Omar Puente, Raices Cubanas

February 14, 1998. Valentine’s Day in London : Dance for Cuba. Set List: ‘ Free world; Don’t come the cowboy with me, Sonny Jim; A new England; Hasta Siempre; My affair; Days; Eso es asunta de ella; Donde va y lo que hace; Aqui se queda la clara; La eurtreuable transerencia; De tu quenda preseuiq; Commendante Che Guevara’

Kirsty headlined a benefit gig for Cuba (with guest Cuban artists) in the Camden Centre in Bidborough Street on Valentines Day. There were also ‘alternative‘ comedians such as Mark Thomas and, here’s the tricky bit, Salsa dancing ‘into the night‘.

“It was rather good, actually. Kirsty seemed relaxed and happy to be there. Her appearance began with her and three acousitic guitars (one bass) played by Pete Glenister, her brother Hamish and Sara Lee. The real value of the acoustic accompaniment was that you could actually hear her for a change. This isn’t always the case with her live gigs. Short break, then the fabulous 9 piece Cuban Band Rai Ses Cubanas which whom Kirsty sang a few (presumably Cuban) songs in Spanish. Kirsty seeemed to enjoy herself and clearly got a kick out of playing as part of this big band ensemble, possibly because it gave her a chance to sing counter-melodies and harmonies which I think interest her more than melody lines. A bit of a shame that Raises Cubanas didn’t back any of her songs. I remember seeing her at the Mean Fiddler quite a few years ago when she had a very versatile band with a great latin percussionist and it was terrific. Anyway great to see her again, and nice to be able to get close.” Source: AR

“The concert was quite brill. Kirsty came on with three acoustic musicians and did a 6 song set. Then she came back on after a break with a Cuban band, about 9 players, and did three songs in Spanish. Way cool. The cuban band played on for a bit after she left, until they were replaced by a nasty speed Latino band (I can only describe them as this). I went home to drink cider with “the lads“ and listen to Janis Joplin.” Source: MS

As a coda to this review, we can hear from violinist Omar Puente who reminisced about arriving in London in the Observer’s Life section in December 2001.

I saw my future wife Debbie at a gig I was playing in Singapore and thought, ‘I want that.’ She had a gorgeous, huge, massive bottom. She had come to interview me that day for a music magazine and was all dressed up for the gig. It was great at the very beginning because my English and her Spanish were zero, so we couldn’t fight. We could only say, ‘I love you,’ because we didn’t know how to say, ‘I hate you.’

She had to go back to England for tests and phoned me one day from there, crying, and saying she had MS. I said, ‘Everything will be OK. We’ll live in England, it’s your own country, your culture.’

All I heard on the flight from Heathrow to Leeds was, ‘I’m sorry, excuse me, do you want a cup of tea, please, I’m sorry, are you all right?’ Debbie used to say the same kind of thing and I thought it was just her, but I realised it was all the English. I was thinking. ‘What am I going to do here, it’s crazy?’ The first thing Debbie asked me when I got to the house was. ‘Are you all right?’ and of course I wasn’t all right. It was freezing cold, I had no friends, no family, a girlfriend in a wheelchair, and there wasn’t very much work for Latin violinists in Bradford.

The main thing was I had to play, but I had hardly any connections. I got some invitations to sit in on gigs, which means you play one or two numbers for no money. I used to drive 600 miles just to go and sit in. My weeks were spent going to London, sitting in. playing, going back to Bradford. I had a sore bottom from sitting in the car, but I couldn’t afford not to. I once got a gig where they wanted me to play reggae. I kept telling them, ‘I’m not Jamaican,’ but they said, You’re black, aren’t you? Play reggae or you don’t get paid’. So I got on the phone to Debbie. screaming, ‘Help me!’ and she typed out all the Bob Marley lyrics and faxed them to me. I ended up singing ‘Buffalo Soldier’ all night.

At the end of the first year, though, we got together a band with all the immigrants, called Raices Cubanas, and Kirsty MacColl volunteered to front us, because she wanted to support Cuba. I had never heard of her. But she was brilliant. I had to sleep in the car when I came down to London, but she gave me the key to her house so I could stay in the spare room any time I wanted. Staying in Kirsty’s spare room wasn’t a bad way to end my first year in freezing Britain.

released28 February 1998
‘What Do Pretty Girls Do’ radio session compilation released on Hux.


May 2, 1998. Lavender Trust benefit concert at the ICA in London: Kirsty played at a benefit concert to mark the launch of The Lavender Trust (breast cancer charity) in front of an audience of 300 people. Other artists included Dave Gilmour and Brian Kennedy and Annie Lennox/Dave Stewart.