John Otway is celebrating fifty years of live performance this year and a great many of those have been in tandem with partner Wild Willy Barrett. This magnetic bond still holds but their partnership was never going to be smooth. Willy was a musical prodigy having learned to play at the age of four and mastering the guitar, piano, banjo and fiddle by the time Otway gave his first performance - drinking a bottle of ink in the school playground, to an audience of schoolchildren who did not believe anyone would go to such ridiculous extremes just to get attention.
Still loved for their total in-yer-face originality, the contrast between the dead pan humour of Barrett and mad onstage antics of Otway are hilarious to watch. Otway is always at ease moving from the sublime to the ridiculous with the choice of songs he plays. An anarchic, shambling performer, Otway nonetheless stands up on his own as a musician and a top class songwriter. He genuinely enjoys himself which rubs off on all who see him perform. Wild Willy Barrett is the perfect foil for Otway, with his deadpan, laconic demeanour and dry, acerbic wit. But this belies the quality of his musicianship, he seems to play almost every stringed instrument known to man, plus a few hybrids of his own making, and is perfect to back a character like Otway.
For any Otway/Barrett virgins out there who don’t know what to expect, be prepared for everything from bare-chested theremin playing to wah wah wheelie bin as the duo jump from one hit and forty near misses to another: An amazing and irreverent performance by two master entertainers.