LIVE REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2019
JOHNNY STINGRAY BAND. Bad Idea Factory, Leytonstone, 4/7/19. The Bad Idea Factory is a new Bar / Gallery at the top of Leytonstone High Street and it seems like a very nice place indeed. Johnny Stingray is a former member of The Stingrays (you’d never have guessed) amongst others, and an artist whose work veers towards the darker, Voodoo-esque aspects of Americana, much of which has been appropriated by various bourbon-soaked bands. This evening is a launch event for an exhibition of his work and, as befits the occasion, he’s brought together a selection of musicians, including Urban Voodoo’s, Revillos and Pork Dukes, for a shambolic but highly enjoyable celebration. It didn’t have to be over-rehearsed as rock’n’roll was never meant to be too technical and the important thing is that everyone, the audience, bar staff and musicians, all had a great time. Admittedly, the frequent-beers probably helped, but that’s no reason to complain ! Great new venue, great Art, great music. What else could you want for free ?
KISS. O2 Arena, London, 11/7/19. This was something I wanted to see but wasn’t going to pay £75+ for a ticket. Fortunately, at the last moment, Tom Phobic and I discover some tickets available online for less than £20 each which seemed like an offer we couldn’t refuse ! Supposedly their final tour, although they also announced a farewell tour nearly 20 years ago, so who knows ? Whatever the deal, you should know that it’s going to be entertaining. I can understand those that don’t like their records, but the live spectacle is so ridiculously over-the-top that it reaches almost surrealist proportions. Even Spinal Tap didn’t go this far and you’d have to be a professional cynic not to enjoy this show. There’s a fireworks display beyond-belief (everything blows-up !), silly costumes, between-song banter that verges on stand-up, and plenty more to keep you laughing. Plus, despite those naysayers, they do have some great Glam-stompin, hard-rockin’ songs as well. Only the most pretentious could fail to enjoy ‘Detroit Rock City’, ‘Deuce’, or the magnificently-pompous ‘God of Thunder’. Gene Simmons struts, breathes fire and spits blood whilst Paul Stanley acts as self-appointed ring-master, condemning the crowd when they don’t make enough noise, but ultimately flying above their heads on a zip-wire to perform two songs on a special podium in their midst, up close and personal ! Things do get a bit weird when Paul, clad in tight black spandex, sings ‘I Was Made For Lovin’You’ to a mostly sweaty male audience, but we can get past that….The main set ends after nearly two hours and, of course, the encore has to go even further. It begins with Eric Singer performing the ‘sensitive’ ballad ‘Beth’, complete with grand piano (at no point could we see if he was actually playing, but that’s not really important…) Then we have ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’, complete with giant balloons (borrowed from Alice Cooper) and glitter bombs, followed by the inevitable ‘Rock’n’Roll All Nite’ with Paul and Gene hovering above the audience on crane- platforms. And fireworks. Always more fireworks ! Will I go out and buy any of their records ? No. But I’ll be laughing and talking about this show for ages. As the lights go up and the crowds file-out, they play ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You’ over the PA… the precise details are debatable, but somewhere, the sentiments abide.
NEGATIVE APPROACH / STIFF MEDS. Venue 229, 12/7/19. In one of those weird bits of synchronicity, the day after seeing Kiss playing ‘Detroit Rock City’, I’m going to see a band from that very place ! Negative Approach are, of course, an important part of the Detroit Hi-Energy Rock’n’Roll heritage and it’s always great to see them. This time, they’re playing the smaller room at the 229, which is just about perfect for them. It has a good stage, a decent stage and it’s just about the right size… the audience comfortably fills the place but there’s still enough room to breathe ! I get there early to catch up with the chaps. It’s always good fun hanging out with them, talking about great music and sharing some beers. And this time there’s a bit of a bonus as their original bass player, Pete Zelewski (who lives in London these days) has come along to catch his old friends, so it’s nice to meet him as well. Anyway, there’s a couple of support bands but I only manage to see Stiff Meds, a relatively young band playing fast, aggressive hardcore with their feet in both US and UK camps. They’re actually pretty impressive and I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing / seeing them some more. A really good way to warm-up the proceedings ! Once they’re done, Negative Approach take to the stage to get ready and whilst Ron is setting-up his equipment, we’re briefly treated to the sight of a (possibly drunk) girl Go-Go dancing to the PA tapes right in front of him… I can only say that he looked bemused ! But once they’re ready to go, the place goes off. The band tear into the first song and the audience go berserk. Bodies are flying across the pit and onto the stage, it’s as close to utter chaos as things can get without it all falling apart. But this is what Negative Approach are good at – they push things to the limit but somehow keep it all together. In the true Detroit tradition, they kick out the jams and leave the rest to the audience. They never disappoint and I’m sure that if they ever thought they might, then they just wouldn’t do it. They run through all of the classics from the original album and EP, this time adding the bonus of a guest appearance from Pete, playing bass on ‘Ready to Fight’, a song that he co-wrote. Not that many can see him playing as his arrival prompts a massive stage invasion… There’s a great cover of ‘Borstal Breakout’ and, right at the end of the set, a cover of the Weirdo’s classic ‘Solitary Confinement’. It’s a great finale, but unfortunately we don’t get an encore… I think this was down to the venue rather than the band, turning up the lights far too soon, but then again it’s always a great feeling when a gig leaves you wanting more rather than less. I can not recommend Negative Approach enough. I know that it’s easy to be cynical about bands reforming after such a long absence, especially when they do it without all of the original members, but the fact is, there are few hardcore bands you can still see who can play as well as this. Just go and see them, then try to tell me it isn’t the real deal…
PETER PERRETT / OH GUNQUIT. Somerstown Festival, 13/7/19. Somerstown Festival has been happening for quite a few years, but it’s only been in the last few that it’s expanded and become more ambitious. It has to be careful because, as a local community-based festival, it wouldn’t be able to cope with huge crowds, especially as it’s a free event, but so far it seems to be managing to keep the right balance. Basically, Chalton Street (halfway between Euston and Kings Cross) gets closed-off for the afternoon and the organisers fill it with stalls, several stages, funfair rides and places to buy food and drink. There’s a real mix of people but the important thing is the genuinely friendly and inclusive atmosphere. I really hope they can keep this going for a long time. Today, there are several bands that I’d like to see but some of them are playing early in the afternoon and, with the best intentions, I don’t manage to get there until 3.30. But at least I do get to see Oh Gunquit who play their set with all of their usual frenetic sense of fun. Always an act that will put a smile on your face. After they’ve played, there’s a gap of an hour or so, which gives me plenty of time to catch-up with various friends and have some food and drinks, before heading down to the main stage to get a good vantage point for the headliners, the Peter Perrett band. They seem to be having a few problems as they set-up, but eventually they’re ready to play and, despite some PA limitations, they sound great. Starting with an older song, ‘Baby Don’t Talk’, they then delve into songs from the previous album with the title track, ‘How The West Was Won’, slowly building but drawing-in the audience and their attention as it does so. This is a truly classic song, one that will go down as one of the best he’s ever written (and there’s plenty contending for that place already !) Further tracks from the last album follow, before the real treat of the day, as Peter welcomes John Perry and Alan Mair onstage for an Only Ones reunion ! They only play four songs together – ‘From Here to Eternity’, ‘The Whole of the Law’, ‘Another Girl,Another Planet’ and ‘In Betweens’ – but it’s a pleasure to see these guys playing together again (and in many ways, even more cool that they did it at a low profile event like this !) Sadly, Mike Kelly is no longer with us, but I wonder if this event was an indication that the material they recorded during their last reunion may finally see the light of day ? Fingers crossed ! Anyway, after these songs, Peters’ current band return and this time we get a selection of songs from the current album, ‘Humanworld’. This is really such a great record, with songs like ‘Once is Enough’, ‘Love Comes on Silent Feet’ and Jamie’s song ‘Master of Destruction’ perfectly fitting alongside his fathers’ work. My only complaint is that they didn’t play the excellent ‘I Want Your Dreams’, but I can wait for the next time. They finish their set with one of their more uptempo songs, ‘War Plan Red’, followed by a cover of the Velvet Undergrounds’ ‘What Goes On’ and, much that I still wanted to hear more, the finale couldn’t have been better than that. Peter Perretts’ return to the world of music is as good as it gets. There are many occasions when an ‘absent-legend’ gains credibility just by releasing any old waffle after a time away, but Perretts’ two solo albums have both been full of great material and it would take a real charlatan to claim otherwise. At present we have an opportunity to see him live with a great band and hear new records that add to his legacy. Be sure that you don’t miss your chance.
SCREAMING DEAD / THE PHOBICS. The Birds Nest, 13/7/19. As the Somerstown event ends by 7.00, it leaves plenty of time for more activity in the evening. I get a lift from Tom & Charlie of The Phobics as we’re all heading down to Deptford, where they’re scheduled to play with veteran horror-punks Screaming Dead. We get there pretty early, so I wander off to get something to eat while the bands are setting-up. Back to the pub and a decent-sized crowd is there to see the bands. It’s going to be a little different tonight as Moyni can’t play (the old war-wound is playing-up…) so Jeff is playing bass. Despite the staff-shortage, it still goes well and they play a great mix of older songs and tracks from the upcoming album. You gotta love dem Phobics (as the graffiti used to say…) I haven’t seen Screaming Dead since the mid-Eighties, but they used to be a decent band and I’m intrigued to see what they’ll be like now. Well, they actually sound really good and certainly play with as much energy as they used to have. They run through their songs at a convincing pace, including older favourites like ‘Valley of the Dead’ and ‘Night Creatures’ along with more recent material, plus covers of The Damneds’ ‘New Rose’ and ‘Love Song’ (they always reminded me of The Damned anyway) and towards the end of the set, ‘Paint It Black’ (which they’d released as a single back in 1984.) Only singer Sam Bignall delves into the more theatrical looks these days, with face-paint giving him a sinister appearance which perfectly matches the themes of the songs. The set goes down really well and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this band again. Anyone with a taste for The Ramones, Misfits and Damned should definitely check them out.
JOHNNY MOPED / BITE. Brighton Pipeline, 19/7/19. This was an event that I wasn’t going to miss, even before I knew who was playing ! My old friend John Roundear was about to reach his 70th birthday and his son, Chayre, was setting up a surprise party / gig for him. It took a few months to set-up, but Chayre had done a great job and had managed to keep everything secret. Initially, several Brighton bands were due to play but then Slimy Toad also volunteered the services of the Mopeds and the whole event became even more special. Anyway, everything worked out surprisingly smoothly for me as it’s possible to catch one of the late trains back to London and then the N89 night bus stops right next to Blackfriars station, which will take me all the way home to Erith. It’s a pretty long journey but as I had things to do over the rest of the weekend, it was pretty convenient. So, I catch a train down to Brighton and arrive at the venue just as John has turned-up and found out what was happening. He looks genuinely chuffed and everyone is buying him drinks, so I don’t think he could imagine it getting any better ! The Pipeline is a nice but fairly small venue (run by the same people who used to run The Pipeline in East London.) The place is very busy and there’s lots of people to talk with, so I have to admit that I miss a couple of bands, although I do see one called Bite, who apparently feature John’s grandson on drums (that’s three generations of Roundears who have played drums, don’t-cha-know ?) They’re all pretty young, but they play rather well and have some interesting songs, so not bad at all. But when it’s time for the Mopeds to play I make a point of getting a good vantage place as I know it’s going to be great seeing them in such a small place.
The big surprise is that some of the Mopeds haven’t turned-up and, for once, it isn’t Johnny ! Jacko and Martin have been unable to get to Brighton this evening, so Chayre has been drafted-in to play drums while former drummer Dave Berk is going to play bass ! You would think that this might be a recipe for disaster, but they actually play rather well, running through a set of mostly older songs with their usual panache. There were a few mistakes along the way but nothing horrendous and, well, it was a party-atmosphere so no-one was being critical. For some reason, Toad has brought an old crash-helmet and tries to get Johnny to wear it onstage… the reason for this was unclear and it didn’t last very long (it was a sweaty, crowded room, so a crash helmet would hardly be comfortable stage-wear !) Ahh, what can I say, it was really good fun and it also ends early enough so that there’s time for one more drink (and some cake) before we have to leave. This is when it gets a bit weird… despite it being a nice, warm evening upto about an hour ago, whilst we’ve been watching the Mopeds, a torrential downpour has developed. It’s only a short walk back to the station, but even with an umbrella I get soaked. Anyway, Johnny and Rob are also catching the train (in their case, back to Croydon) so I buy some beers at an off-license in case any of us felt thirsty on the way home… It just seemed like the right thing to do. So, I don’t get home until about 3.00 and I’ve been drenched, but what a great way to spend an evening !