The Psychedelic Furs, Leicester 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018. An epic day.

In simple facts, I drove 2 hours to Leicester, went to a gig, caught a few hours sleep in a B&B then drove back home the next day. The truth, however, is so much more…

First of all, when I arrived I had to locate another place to stay, as the first one stank as if someone had died there. Literally. A quick search on booking.com found a cheap, but clean alternative. after checking in, a short walk through the park bought me to the O2 Academy on the Leicester University campus.

It was there that the day turned awesome. I met up with my good friend Paul Garisto, who had invited me up for the day. For those who may not know, Paul is not only an excellent chap, but he’s one of the most solid, creative and brilliant drummers around, plying his trade with The Psychedelic Furs. More about them later.

Paul and I sat in the park for like an hour, just chatting. Music, family, drums, politics, drums again, (quite literally ‘All Of This And Nothing’) which is the way I like to be – doesn’t matter if you share earth-shattering philosophies or complete nonsense, it’s about spending time. Thanks, Paul – it meant a lot to me that you’d take time out for me.furs 3

 

Back inside at 4pm for sound-check, and I met others from the band and beyond. The lovely Amanda Kramer, the awesome saxophonist Mars Williams, and Rich Good, a really great, really cool guy who was also so nice in taking time to talk with me.

I also met a couple of other guys who were such great company and whom I enjoyed spending time with – Jude Rawlins ( former Angelhead and Subterraneans frontman and current guitarist with The Lene Lovich Band – see HERE) and Kevin Hewick, a great singer-songwriter in his own right who works with artists on labels such as Sorted, Pink Box, and Botheration.

Sound check over (it was a little strange stood in the middle of the venue listening to the band at full volume) we had a little time to hang around, swap stories, me to grab a burger, and then it was time for the gig and the arrival of my great mate Pete Galer, who drove up to meet me.

First up –  The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange.

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Richard’s stage show was more than a show, more than a collection of tunes. It was pure theatre at its best. His roots go back a long way to his first band, Doctors of Madness. To give you a hint, they were supported by The Sex Pistols, The Jam, and Joy Division. Yes – supported. The album he performed with his band was originally written in 1981, but has eerie connections to modern day US Politics.

Then…… it was time for the main act.

I’ve said this before, but there’s something about this band, this group of brilliant musicians, that I really… get. There’s great songs, with lyrics that appear at once simple and then phenomenally deep. There are driving rhythms and haunting melodies, unbounded energy and vibe, and the whole thing is sewn together by the two Butler brothers, Tim on bass and Richard with his unique vocals. These are guys who know their art – and it is art – and you never get less than everything.

Starting off with the seminal Dumb Waiters from the great Talk Talk Talk album, through songs such as President Gas, Heartbreak Beat, India, Heaven, Mr Jones, Into You Like A Train, and finishing with the iconic Pretty In Pink, they held the audience in the palm of their hand all night long.

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After the gig, I had the pleasure of catching up with Richard and Tim, along with their guest for the night, Roger Morris – an original member of the band way back in 1977. It’s true – hanging with your heroes is an awesome thing, and they are all just well-grounded, normal people. Although I had heard Richard’s joke about the hairdresser before – it just seemed polite to laugh…

They even signed my vinyl copy of Talk Talk Talk for me…

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Thanks guys – an excellent day, a brilliant gig, and a memory made for life. Until the next time, safe travels, my friends!

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Man-buns and Beards – punky folk on Facebook

So it’s seven thirty in the evening, and I’m in that hiatus time between eating a pasty and going out to rehearsals, and what do I find to fill an hour?

My old mate Laurence Crow (a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known as Wolfe Sunday) sat cross-legged on the floor with his friend Brandon Neal, throwing out some acoustic tunes in lieu of their evenings gig, called off because the Beast from the East snowed them off.

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Although I’ve never reviewed a live Facebook event, this was actually pretty cool. New songs and old favourites, plenty of well-groomed facial hair, barnets that suited an early-2000’s David Beckham slightly less than they do Laurence, and some great laughter with the online audience. If it were possible to throw some digital underwear, they would be drowning in Marks and Spencers’ finest!

Nice one guys!

Find them on facebook at either https://www.facebook.com/billytalented and https://www.facebook.com/brandon.neal.5201

The Small Fakers – Jagz, May 5th 2017

Picture the scene. The venue is intimate, the ale is flowing, the place is packed, and onto the stage walk four blokes with distinctly retro clothing and hairstyles.

Your mission – should you accept it – is to either dance or get the hell out of Dodge. So what do you do?

If the four blokes are Matt, Neil, Dean and Dan, and the band is The Small Fakers, then the choice is easy. Shut up and dance…

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As the UK’s one and only tribute to The Small Faces, the Fakers have built a huge following on the Mod scene and beyond since forming in 2007. Their stage presence is mighty, their attention to detail awesome, and every familiar song is quality.

I’ve known some of the guys for years from previous bands and other music events, and can vouch for their love of music, their drive, and their delight in getting so very close to the brilliance of probably the best british band of the late sixties. Yep – I said it. I know they were up against some other four-piece from Liverpool, but at a time when Beatlemania owed more to the Mararishi than to Merseyside, Steve Marriott and the boys delivered a mix of mod, soul, and psychedelia that stood them apart.

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Of course, all the favourites are there.  Sha-La La-La-Lee.  All Or Nothing.  Whatcha Gonna Do About It.  Lazy Sunday.  And obviously, Tin Soldier.

Amazingly, I’ve only seen the boys twice – earlier this year in London, and then again at Jagz, a cool little venue tailor-made for the boys and their sound. They put on an incredible show, and their audiences are mental – in the best possible way.

For those of us too young to have seen the Small Faces at their height, this is a trip into the kind of memories we all wish we had.

Make a point of catching them when they are near you. You’ll not regret it. For gig dates and more details, pop on over to http://www.smallfakers.co.uk/

Train / Magic Numbers / Natasha North – O2 London. 24 March 2015

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Picking my daughters’ favourite band? Easy. Whilst their friends are all boy-band crazy, or turning a little bit Emo, my girls are huge fans of US rockers Train. So when we saw that they were appearing at the O2, of course we were going to be there.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of huge arena gigs, preferring the smaller, more intimate venues where you can really engage with the artist. So I went with a mix of expectations: excited for the girls, looking forward to Train (they are very good) and apprehension that the size of the venue might dwarf the experience.

First on was a singer unknown to me. Natasha North hails from Beaconsfield, in the rural commuter belt just outside London. Her blend of acoustic guitar, synth strings, and rhythmic percussion filled the arena, and her haunting vocals really kicked the evening off well. She declared to the appreciative crowd that this was ‘the biggest gig of her life’ which made her performance all the better, as she really stepped up to the plate. Check her site out at http://www.natashanorth.com

Following on from Natasha were The Magic Numbers. Hailing from my own home town of Hanwell, I was looking forward to a blend of rock and pop delivered with style and setting us all up for the main event. So I was a little disappointed to find their set comprised a very formulaic blend of bland, uninspiring tunes delivered in a style that suggests they had watched ‘How To Play Rock On Stage #101’ before stepping out. I saw all the poses, all the wide-legged stances, and all the guitar-waving, but the music didn’t live up to the billing. They weren’t bad as such, just a bit… well, meh… Check out http://themagicnumbers.net

And so to Train.

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Formed in 1993 in Los Angeles, Train have consistently delivered well-crafted, catchy rock tunes for more than two decades. In Pat Monahan they have the secret ingredient every successful band needs – a charismatic frontman. Pat’s ability to engage fully with the audience, and his flawless delivery of their catalogue, set the arena alight. This I know to be true, because from the word go, my girls were utterly enthralled. yelling the lyrics to every song at the top of their voices, taking pictures and selfies, they were in heaven.

With songs such as Angel In Blue Jeans, Hey Soul Sister, Bruises, 50 Ways To Say Goodbye and Drops Of Jupiter, Train have identified their sound, and deliver their songs with confidence and energy. And it’s clear that they love what they do, an emotion that spills out to the enraptured audience.

I can pay them one more compliment, which for me shows their skill: They made a huge auditorium feel like a small club. You don’t get better than that.

Train‘s website is http://savemesanfrancisco.com – check it out for more information about my girls’ favourite band!

The Psychedelic Furs – London 2012

There’s something about going to a decent gig that gets your pulse racing and cheers the soul.

When the music is pounding, the crowd responds, and for a while, a short while, you’re taken on a journey to a place where your work worries, your family woes, your money troubles, whatever else ails you just doesn’t matter.

People have long believed that music has theraputic properties, and every time I hear a great tune, played brilliantly in an atmosphere that’s rocking, I believe it.

On a recent Thursday evening in July, I was one of a great many people packed into The Garage, in North London, to see one of the bands I grew up with as a child. The Psychedelic Furs may only be known to most people purely for the association that their 1981 hit Pretty In Pink has with the 1986 John Hughes movie of the same name, but those whose understanding starts and ends with Molly Ringwald and Duckie are missing the entire trick.

As a live act, The Furs are simply superb. More than 30 years may have passed since the Butler brothers first formed the band, but their enthusiasm, energy, and sheer love of the job is undiminished. The music is timeless, the musicianship flawless, and the performance peerless.

OK, let’s discuss the line-up.

My start point has to be my friend and fellow drummer, Paul Garisto. I’ve spoken with enough people that know Paul to understand that he’s acknowledged by all that know him as a real gentleman, a lovely guy, and one hell of a fine drummer. We’ve chatted online for a number of years and I have had the pleasure of seeing him play both here and when I was stateside in 2011. Both times, Paul went out of his way to give time to chat and catch up, and it was a pleasure to be able to spend time after the gig with him, chewing over drum stuff, talking about the vintage kit he’s just got, and the stuff he’s selling to make room. The Furs have a real gem in Paul, and it’s clear to see from their performances and the way they interact on stage, that they know and appreciate this all too well.

Next, I have to mention lead singer and founder-member, Richard Butler. Richard brings his full personality to lead vocals, with a voice oft-described as ‘nicotine-filled’ and certainly uniquely distinctive. To see Richard perform is to understand the heart of the man and to get inside the song. He’s an object lesson to any wannabe singer on how to engage with an audience and make them love you. I was able to cach up with Richard for a few minutes after last week’s gig, and once again, a genuine and lovely guy, clearly still very much in love with his music and the buzz on stage (even if I did point out, to his amusement, that he’d just succeeded in generating London’s oldest ‘mosh-pit’!)

Alongside Richard, at the start as now, is his brother Tim on bass, singing away and bringing bass excellence and so much more to the mix. I swear that at times, Tim was getting closer to the audience than Richard dared to! These two guys so obviously love their job, as well they should, and this infectious joy of performing hits the audience across both cheeks and dares them not to join in with the glee.

As well as the three above, we have the wonderful Mars Williams on sax, bringing his love of Rock and Jazz to create those distinct licks that fill and stir around both the guitar track, which is delivered with energy and passion by Richard Good, and the keyboard fills, which Amanda Kramer weaves in and out of the musical narrative with consumate skill and feeling.

I have to use the phrase Musical Narrative, even though it sounds pretentious, because that’s what The Furs do with their music. Every song tells a story, every lyric introduces a new character, and you cannot but be picked up and carried along with everyone around you.

And so to the gig.

I went with my younger brother, who I have watched from afar as he grew up as part of the mix-master generation, believing that turntables and segues are the key to good music. He’s been a DJ, he’s run karaoke clubs, he’s done a bit of singing, and now, at the age of nearly 40, he’s just joined his first ‘proper’ band. I took him along and advised him to watch and learn, my boy, just watch and learn. I admit to feeling a little like Yoda introducing the young Jedi student Skywalker to the ways of The Force. Suffice to say, he keeps telling everyone how great the night was, that he has a new favourite band, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect watching Richard’s delivery will have when next he performs with his band!

Musically, you won’t get much better than an evening with The Psychedelic Furs. There’s a freshness and a vibrancy about their music that makes me wonder how anybody could willingly listen to anyone called Beiber. There’s just no contest.

Whether they are playing tracks with a driving beat, such as Mr Jones or Into You Like A Train, or whether it’s a slower, more melodic track such as Heaven or All Of This & Nothing, the audience reaction is the same – utter entrancement. They sound like the end result every other live band is aiming for, and deservedly receive the adulation the audience pours out.

The Psychedelic Furs are back in the US now, but next time they are over this side of the pond (or next time you are over there, anywhere near a gig) be sure to grab your tickets and be there – you will certainly go away happy. I did, the Furs did, and so did everyone else who was there, on that special London night.

Thanks for a great one, guys!

Text copyright Paul Shrimpton, 2012.