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Highbury Corner, London 6 December 2009
On June 27,
1944, the former gothic Victorian beauty of Highbury Corner was
obliterated by a German V1 flying bomb. The resulting nondescript
redevelopment hardly restored the area to its former glory, although a few
Art Nouveau style entrance to the now-defunct Highbury Station stands
proudly next-door to a large but lacklustre commercial property, whose
large main space with arched ceiling was well suited to a car showroom and
In the 90s,
the name remained, but the space was crudely refashioned into a
warts'n'all music venue hosting both the up-and-coming and the
was my first return visit to the Garage, since the much heralded £3m
descuzzification that saw the venue closed for 3 years, after over 10
years of hard partying.
I'm happy to
report that they've done a pretty decent job of sprucing the place up,
replacing floors by Bostik and toilets by Rentokill with formal
endorsement by Coca Cola's Relentless 'energy drink'. You almost forget
that you're on Holloway Road.
complain that the corporate branding is a little in your face for a
supposedly cool venue, but I can't say that I noticed. Then again, all I
can see was bathed in gloriously vivid living colour for almost two hours.
over 25 years of genre-busting, sonic innovation with a political edge,
the four guys, definitely not called Moe, tore the place up with an
unpredictable but always compelling display of virtuosity.
particular, guitarist Vernon Reid, whose relaxed and cheery manner belied
a frantic and intense playing style that time has not diminished.
With a new
album (the Chair in the Doorway - just buy, OK?) to promote, this was no
lazy amble through the greatest hits, with over 6 new songs delivered in
neglected their accomplished second album (1992's 'Time's Up'), preferring to
focus on tracks from the excellent darker third album 'Stain'.
Grammy and Gamer fave the uber-riffed 'Cult of Personality' and sarcastic
confection 'Glamour Boy', but the vibe of gig was true to their original
eclectic template, back when their East Coast steely urban funk was pitted
against the Chilli's West Coast surfer punk.
delved into their tentative first come-back album (2003's 'Collideoscope')
for 'Flying' a darkly ironic 1st person perspective of the WTC 'jumpers'
on 9/11. Charming and disarming in equal measure and delivered with power
and sensitivity by Corey Glover. If there was a song that ensured that you
didn't confuse him with the singer from Slipknot, this was it.
their individual capabilities, you might expect some degree of ego-driven
competitiveness, but there was none. All I saw was collective passion and
exuberance that extended to the 500+ in the packed forecourt.
slightly-indulgent Will Calhoun drum solo, was fun, interspersed with
triggered samples and hip-hop beats, only sleighbells could have made it
was Doug Wimbish, who used his solo slot as an excuse to wander down to
floor level to perform eyeball-to-eyeball to the people from the pit.
conventionally enough with some plucking fine tasty bass. Then with a
flick of a switch, he'd scaled the octaves and was getting all Hendrix
with screaming lead-lines seldom heard from a bass, culminating in the
most rocking excerpt of 'favourite things' from 'Sound of Music'. Andrew
Lloyd Shredder, would've liked that...
climaxed with the rather fine 'Elvis is dead' (sorry to have to break the
news to you) segueing into a verse of 'Hound Dog' in deference to the
Sunday night curfew to contend with, the band had stayed on stage
throughout the show and were clearly touched by the energy generated by
the crowd; barely 10 minutes after the show finished, they were good on
their promise to 'meet us all at the back and sign anything your got'.
Which we did.
A great end
to a truly technicolor evening.
(and source album) Ignorance is Bliss (S) Which Way to America? (V) Auslander (S) Burned
Bridges (TCITD) The Chair (TCITD) DecaDance (TCITD)
Go Away (S) Funny Vibe (V) Flying (C) Bi (S) Bass solo (inc Favourite
Things) Drum solo (inc kitchen sink) Young Man (TCITD) Papa was a Rolling
Stone (cover) Glamour Boy (V) Behind the Sun (TCITD) Bless Those (Little
Annie's Prayer) (TCITD) ??? (either Type (TU)/Desperate People (V)) Cult
of Personality (V) Elvis is Dead (inc. Hound Dog)(TU)
(1988) Time's Up (1990) Stain (1993) Collideoscope (2003) The Chair in the
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