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Crossfire Club, 229 Great Portland Street, London, October 9 2010
Less than a year since I last saw them - and back again so soon? It
would seem so, but as club organiser Rob Bailey is often keen to point
out, the Grim Reaper has claimed a few of the old boysí network
recently, so while bands like this, who practically invented British
RíníB, garage and psych as we know it, are still alive and well, itís
advisable to see them as often as you can...
founder members Phil May (vocals) and Dick ĎYoung Mr Graceí Taylor
(guitar) have looked like theyíve diced with death for about 30 odd
years now: true rock and roll survivors, and whereas other members have
fallen by the wayside, fallen the way of all flesh, or have simply been
unable to stay the course, Saarf East London/Norf Kentís other premier
vocal and axe duo still seem- at almost 50 years into their career -
unstoppable. That voice, full of American blues influence yet uniquely
English. That shredding, jangling, swirling guitar sound like no other.
this is in any way a two-man band: ace rhythm guitarist and blues
harpist Frank Holland has been there for nearly 20 years now, as has
percussionist/ vocalist/ manager Mark St John, and their harmonies and
instrumentation are as much part of the setup as Skip Alan, Wally Waller
or John Povey ever were.
George Perez looks about 12, especially with that haircut, and youíd be
forgiven for thinking heíd be more suited to playing with Dirty Pretty
Things, but his bass-playing (a Rickenbacker too - top marks, son) is
amazing, his harmony vocals essential for reaching high notes other
members no longer can, and similarly young drummer Jack Greenwood is,
for once, someone who understands the jazzy, freerolling aesthetic
essential to playing in bands of this vintage, eschewing any hackneyed
attempts at stadium bombast or punk thrash. We need more like him in the
world: Blue Oyster Cult could definitely do with one for a start...
most of my friends do seem to agree with me) the band arenít quite as on
fire as they were at the 100 Club this Spring, and maybe the choice of
material might be the heart of it.
forth in spectacular fashion, with 'Iím A Road Runner' 'Donít Bring Me
Down' 'SF Sorrow Is Born' 'She Says Good Morning' and a thrumbling,
Taylor-fronted 'Baron Saturday', all of which seem like a practical
masterclass in how to play music, period.
But a dip
into slow acoustic blues in the middle - fine in a theatre, not so
effective in a club rammed full of sweaty Mods and psychheads - loses
the momentum in a way that, peculiarly light-sounding versions of 'Come
See Me' and 'Get The Picture' (did the soundman temporarily blow a fuse
at this juncture?) canít quite recover, and itís not until piledriving
renditions of 'Midnight To Six Man' 'LSD' (yes, we know itís actually
about 'old money', so donít bother to write in) and 'Old Man Going' give
our ears the sound drubbing they deserve that we get back on course.
at this point are beyond compare, exploding into the stratosphere as
Taylorís majestic riffs swirl and slash thin air, reminding you the
truth of the whole unsung history of British rock in one fell swoop,
conjuring images of a thousand girls in flowery dresses and velvet boots
cavorting in Londonís parks while a film crew nearby shoots a scene
involving a transvestual serial killer. Yes, at their best, they really
are that good.
'Alexander' and 'Cries From The Midnight Circus' were nowhere to be
found this time, but this is, lest we forget, the prelude to an
all-night Mod bash courtesy of the New Untouchables organisation, and
bands here are encouraged to play short, sharp and sweet sets to get the
evening underway, so itís understandable that the encore should plant
its Chelsea boot (via Erith and Slade Green) firmly back in the heart of
British RíníB, with 'Rosalyn' and 'Bring It To Jerome' strutting
cocksurely to the finish. If it wasnít for the slightly overpriced beer
on sale, it could have almost been 1966'.
does the road lead for these almost-septuagenarians and their
androgynous offspring? The good news is theyíre planning something a
little bit special for 2011 - as guitarist Dick Taylor confirms outside,
while 'SF Sorrow' (previously played in its entirety in this venue) may
be the acknowledged classic, the popularity of their seminal 'Parachute'
album hasnít gone unnoticed, and an in-full performance is mooted for
sometime next year.
Best of all,
though, was Phil Mayís comment when I asked him why they didnít play
'Whatís Good For The Goose' as a tribute to the recently departed Norman
Wisdom: 'leave off, it was bad enough working with Ďim the first time
And, no, in
case youíre wondering, they didnít play 'The Monster Club' either -
although if I had my way it would be compulsory'.
Darius Drewe Shimon
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