Monday, 30 July 2012

853 GAZ BROOKFIELD, Swindon Rolleston, Sunday 29 July 2012

Another gig in “The ‘Don”, and yet another new venue, namely The Rolleston pub, perched invitingly atop my 1980’s and 90’s “spiritual home”, Level 3 nightclub, and consequently scene of many a drinky evening in preparation of bopping down at Lev, but never of a gig before. Until this, the return to the Shire for Swindon native Gaz Brookfield, the forthright and articulate singer-songwriter who impressively turned my head in support of The Psychedelic Furs at the Fleece earlier this month. Since then, I’d sent off a contribution for his video project for his “Be The Bigger Man” number, soliciting a nice e-mail response from the man, so was looking forward to catching up and seeing him play again!

Took a drive up after the kids went to bed, parking up and wandering into the very quiet early doors pub about ¼ to 8, meeting up with Gaz at the bar and having a nice chat with a very personable and open chap, before he set up in the raised area by the front entrance, and I plonked myself on a barstool for his first set at 8.

Gaz has been compared to the likes of Frank Turner (who I confess I’m largely unfamiliar with) and Sam Duckworth of Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly (star of gig 721 and a band whose first album I thoroughly enjoyed), and tagged with a “Nu-Folk troubadour” label. I dunno, if “Nu-Folk” means bashing the living Bejeezus out of a road-weary acoustic and baring your soul, voice and opinions in a witty, well-considered and enjoyably articulate way, then I’m all for it. Particularly when this is coupled with self-effacing honesty (Gaz concluded an early Loudon Wainwright cover by admitting he, “totally fucked up that last bit, but that’s OK, it’s folk music – you’re allowed to!”) and neck-vein bulging effort. Another cover (“anyone remember a [early 2000’s melodic hardcore] band called Movielife? No? Just me? OK, this is a song that I wrote…!”)revealed Gaz’ pop-punk roots, and his own “Tell It To The Beer” was a touching, aptly named tears-in-the-beers ballad of male camaraderie on a journey through the lower rungs of rock’n’roll. Arousing “Thin” got the crowd singing along with the, “It’s not oh-ver,” hook to round off set one very nicely thank you, by which time I’d been joined by DJ Darren Dust.

After a pause in proceedings and another brief chat with the man whilst he flogged a few CDs, Gaz kicked off set two with a slightly taken aback, “where did you all come from?” at the larger numbers now in attendance! However the increased crowd and attention served to spur Gaz to step up the performance and intensity levels a notch. Indeed, this was the angrier set of the two, Gaz commenting about the crowd “just [having] come out for a quiet Sunday night and there’s this bloke shouting at you,” with “Death Bed” a bilious, galloping anti-religion rant recalling The Men They Couldn’t Hang, setting the tone. Billy Bragg’s “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward” followed, and then the anti manufactured pop rant of “Diet Of Banality” was venomous yet very funny at the same time. In full flow by now, Gaz then delivered a searing rendition of “Be The Bigger Man”, an angry, passionate and perfectly delivered version of his best number, soliciting a large roar of approval. A slightly inappropriate run-through of “It Must Be Love” followed, before we were back on the metaphorical soapbox with a fine, pointed “It Doesn’t Matter Who You Vote For, The Bastards Always Win”.

Closer “The West Country Song” was a fitting finale, the whole pub by now seemingly singing along and totally engaged in Gaz’ performance, the man totally on form and on fire. A splendid way to spend a Sunday evening, in the company of a talented, articulate and committed wordsmith surely destined for a wider audience than tonight’s. Hit the road after a lengthy chat with Mr. Dust and farewells from Mr. Brookfield. He’s supporting Miles Hunt at the Vic in September – that’ll be a good one!

Friday, 27 July 2012

852 ADAM ANT AND THE GOOD, THE MAD AND THE LOVELY POSSE, Poussez Posse, Swindon Wyvern Theatre, Thursday 26 July 2012

Swindon is really coming up trumps for me gig-wise at the moment, with this one following hot on the heels of the recent Biffy Clyro gig, and due to be followed by another local one this weekend… This, amazingly, was my first gig at the Wyvern, a well-established local Theatre which rarely puts bands on, less a band - or name - of the stature of Adam Ant, 2011’s Comeback King after a couple of stellar performances centring thankfully on his vintage pre-pop hit “Sexmusic”. This one promised to be interesting, particularly given the Wyvern’s seated venue status!

I persuaded Rach to join me for this local one, then my brother Paul came into possession of a last minute ticket for this long sold-out show, and bravely accompanied us for a drive into town on a scorching hot night. I eschewed the shorts, anticipating an air-conditioned and cool theatre, which would prove to be a mistake… Bumped into a couple of old Level 3 faces, Robynne and Andrea (hi guys!) before wandering in to check out support Poussez Posse. Comprising Ants backing singer, “Sachsgate” girl and possessor of a fair set of, erm, lungs, Georgina “Georgie Girl” Baillie, leading an all girl troupe, they were better than I’d feared. They featured 3 covers in their 6-song set – Ants oldie “It Doesn’t Matter”, 70’s girl-power ballad “Only Women Bleed” and a fine, toughened up version of Penetration’s punk classic “Don’t Dictate” – interspersed with their stomping, grunge sleaze originals which, Rach remarked, “made me miss Heavy Stud”!

We wandered back outside, bumping into various folks and chatting away, before the very helpful 3 minute warning saw us scurrying back into the auditorium, again taking our splendid stage left seats, 3 rows from the front, for Adam’s entrance at 8.30. The palpable anticipation erupted as Adam took the stage last, to huge squeals of delight from the audience which made me wonder if I’d stumbled into a girls Hockey International! He raced through punked-up opener “Plastic Surgery” with a verve and venom beyond his years, a riveting stage presence already delivering a proper “performance”. That said, the audience, despite the initial reception, didn’t reciprocate until “Beat My Guest”, at which point I stood up, started rocking out, then promptly sideswiped the head of the still-sitting bloke in front of me! Profuse apologies later, I revelled in the vintage Ants segment of the strident “Kick”, a sublime “Cartrouble” and an unexpected, creepy “Ants Invasion” before Georgie Girl joined Adam onstage for a swaggering march through “Deutscher Girls”. Then, an unannounced “Stand And Deliver” which finally got the “pop” Ants crowd up and rocking, soliciting a huge reception at its’ climax.

“This always feels like the first time I play this,” the hitherto taciturn Adam announced before a brilliant “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, the interweaving double drums and strident chanting embellishing a set highlight as Adam, fully committed and really meaning it, maaaan, gave his all, receiving a deserved and lengthy ovation (even bigger than for “SAD”, I was pleased to see!) for his efforts. “Wonderful” diffused the mood before Adam announced a song about, “a different kind of love story,” the menacing oldie “Whip In My Valise”, Adam again delving into his old Sexmusic back catalogue with the grinning zeal of a teenager eagerly burrowing into his porno mag collection under the bed. “Desperate But Not Serious”, the only other song, along with “Ants Invasion”, which was “new” into the set (despite rumours to the contrary, Adam remained faithful to his recent set lists, pandering only to himself and rewarding the long-time Ants connoisseurs; good man!), featured a lengthy pregnant pause, which was nice. I like those.

Then; “Zerox”. Shunted later into the set this time, the familiar staccato guitar intro and off-kilter rhythm saw me “giving it loads” as this, Adam’s finest hour, swooped and soared, and built to another all-too-short climax. Brilliant, brilliant stuff, but almost eclipsed by set closer, the rambunctious, cheeky “Lady” (“true story!” claimed Adam by way of introduction) which again segued into a thumpingly powerful “Fall In”, the “bop shoo-bop”s resonating around the hall.

Time was with us, so we got “Red Scab” in the encore tonight (yay!), the slow, riff heavy mutant sleazoid number actually getting slower, then speeding up for a manic finale with Adam whirling like a dervish onstage. The sadly inevitable “Prince Charming” got the crowd throwing shapes before a T Rex homage, then “Physical”, to end another sweaty, breathless and swift, but utterly brilliant evening in the company of a born performer, playing what the hell he likes from his dusty back catalogue and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. Running into my cousin Sharon and her be-striped friends, then getting hastily-grabbed set-list signed by Adam’s bass player Joel, were nice punctuation points on the night. And to paraphrase my equally elated brother, “the man is living proof that, even if life takes you to hell and back, class is permanent”. Nuff said. See you at the O2 Academies in November!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

851 THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, Gaz Brookfield, Bristol Fleece, Wednesday 4 July 2012

They’re back,and this time it’s like they’ve not even been away….It’s The Psychedelic Furs, titanic 80’s rockist purveyors of delicious late night glam sleaze rock’n’roll with a New Wave sensibility and a Bowie/ Velvet Underground twist, who celebrated their classic 1981 “Talk Talk Talk” album barely 20 months ago with a superb Frome show, and were this time announcing some dates because… well, just because, really! And at the relatively tiny confines and inevitable close quarters of the Fleece; this one was not to be missed. I pounced on a ticket immediately, and so, it appeared, did everyone else, as by the time I’d managed to get in touch with fellow Furs devotee “Mad” Doug about joining me, they’d sold the damn thing out!

So it was a solo jaunt down to Brizzle, thankfully in decent weather this time, hitting this, my most visited venue, for my 49th gig here, just after 8. Didn’t have long to wait for support, which turned out to be a revelation; Gaz Brookfield ,a chap who I’d seen feature on a few Swindon Vic gig listings, but had never got off my arse to go check him out before. My mistake. Armed only with a battered, road-weary acoustic, a head full of opinions and, more importantly, the wit and wherewithal to articulate them, he set about winning over the early doors punters with some forthright and highly entertaining diatribes, targeting politicians, Simon Cowell and the like, and clearly relished and fully exploited this opportunity. Using mundane yet familiar reference points (the hard shoulder of the M4 corridor got a couple of mentions!) in his wordy numbers (that’s OK by me, I’ve always been partial to some excess verbiage in my songs, hence my love for The Hold Steady!), he nevertheless made his points with a venomous yet considered and splendid set. I wished I could have taken his essay about bullying, “Be The Bigger Man”, back 35 years or so and played it to my 12 year old self, and I certainly won’t make the mistake of missing him in “The Don” again, a point I made afterwards to the former Swindon native Mr. Brookfield!

Bumped up at the front between acts, stage right in this packed and anticipatory crowd, leaning on a pillar right up against the Fleece’s raised stage. Butler’s going to look about 9 feet tall from here… At the witching hour, the intro white noise track kicked in and the Furs, dressed in obligatory rock’n’roll black and sporting sunglasses, took the stage. No messing about or easing in for this lot, which might have been excusable in deference to their vintage, they were straight into the tumbling, ramshackle rollercoaster ride of “Into You Like A Train”, Richard Butler’s trademark nasal London drawl already a standout feature. Indeed Butler, a dapper be-waistcoated rake in Bowie Berlin chic and heavy-framed glasses, was a riveting stage presence from the outset, throwing angular shapes with the verve and audacity of a man half his age, and giving a proper performance, a consummate lesson in the art of the frontman. A rambunctious “Mr Jones” segued into the sleazy late night NYC groove of “Heartbeat”, Mars Williams’ enthusiastic virtuoso sax playing already dominating the sound. “Pretty In Pink” was thrown in early and got a huge ovation which took Butler aback somewhat, replying with a surprised, “thank you!”

A few lesser known Furs tracks took centre stage thereafter; a menacing “Only You And I” was an early highlight, and following a wonderful “Heaven”, which featured the kinetic Butler doing skits from the video and shaking punters hands down the front (including mine!), a gorgeous and melancholy “My Time” was also a late set highlight. A massive, seething “India”, featuring towering and somewhat intimidating bassist Tim Butler leaning into the crowd so closely I could have picked his pockets, rounded off a powerful, sweaty set perfectly, before the encore brought my highlight of the night; a soaring, anthemic “Forever Now”, Butler the glacially cool superstar finally disappearing with a heartfelt, “thanks,” after the perfect climax to another superb Furs performance. Grabbed a set-list and got it signed by Williams and guitarist Rich Good afterwards, just to round off a great night. The Psychedelic Furs; colossal, yet again!