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The Barfly,London 11 March 2004

This was the first time I've ever been to this venue - a cosy hall above a pub not far from Camden Lock Market. It was fairly full when I arrived and finding myself unable to reach the bar, I went down to the pub below to collect a drink. Upon my return I found that I had managed to completely missed the first support act.

A short while later, the entertainment continue in the form of the strange looking foursome called Performance who seemed to have created a bit of a buzz in the audience. Looking and sounding like a collision between the B-52s, early Human League and Joy Division, they were a good 10 minutes into their set before I could get my head around what I was witnessing. Featuring a male and a female playing keyboards and samplers, a female guitarist and male vocalist whose postures owed a lot to Joy Division's Ian Curtis, they really were quite the strangest looking bunch I've seen performing for quite some time.

However, once they got going, they really did produce an interesting and rather agreeable sound. The drums of course were electronic, but the guitar played a significant role alongside the electronic jiggery- pokery and lyrically they had quite a lot to say. Of course they were a bit rough around the edges, but they delivered a good half-hour's entertainment and I would certainly be interested in catching them live on another occasion.

A little while later, the main act appeared. Lach is a so- called `Antifolk' star from New York, and this was the last date of his short first UK tour. His backing band took to the stage in the form of The Secrets - a rhythm section partnership of ex-Television drummer Billy Ficca and bassist Roy Edroso and the trio performed an hour long set with a good deal of enthusiasm and good humour. While most of the material was taken from Lach's successful `Kids Fly Free' disk, he also previewed a couple of tunes from his upcoming disk, entitled `Today'. One of these was entitled `Former President Bush' and gave a good idea of where he was coming from politically.

Though he has been described as `More Woody Allen than Woody Guthrie', my immediate reaction upon seeing Lach's bespectacled face was to think `Elvis Costello'. That imagery was soon destroyed as he played a home-modified acoustic guitar with a certain violent abandon; so much so that he broke an `E' string only a couple of songs into the set. Vocally, his delivery owed a good deal to Michael Stipe of REM, while the backing duo provided a solid foundation that melded folk, rockabilly and punk influences. The drumming of Billy Ficca, in particular, was always interesting.

Lach communicated well with the audience and displayed some comic ability, making jokes about recent news events in the UK and pretending to channel Jim Morrison at one point. One got a sense that there was a refreshing fluidity to his set, and the rhythm section waited patiently between songs for directions on what to play next. There was also a certain controlled anarchy about his performance yet for all his efforts the crowd never really seemed to embrace this rather crazy American, preferring to keep their distance. Maybe it was just the usual `difficult to please' London audience, but his efforts didn't go entirely unrewarded when the aforementioned `Former President Bush' succeeded in coaxing out some smiles from the audience.

All in all, a rather unusual, but nevertheless very interesting, evening's entertainment.

Review: Charlie Farrell

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