Bit of a last minute deal this one. There was I, luxuriating in my mock Victorian bed on Sunday morning (now there’s a vision eh?), chomping on a mouthful of toasted muffin and reading the Sunday Times Culture section when I came across an article about tonight’s headliners (named after Erykah Badu’s second album fact fans). The thrust of the piece was that they were ‘big in Japan’ but unknown over here. Perhaps I wouldn’t normally bother checking them out based on this somewhat backhanded compliment (‘big in Japan’ was something that people often used to describe bands who weren’t much cop) but as the article name dropped influences like Sly Stone, classic era Stevie Wonder and Shuggie Otis I was sufficiently motivated to log on, tune in and...blimey...this is rather good. So...
Making our way to the Academy 3 on a decidedly moist Tuesday evening we arrived in time to see most of local support 1EYE’s set. They played a pleasing mix of Reggae, Latin and Soul (the Latin stuff worked best for me...I do ‘amo’ a bit of Latin) with a tight brass section and a complimentary pairing of male (Alek) and female (Leoni) vocalists that warmed me up nicely. It’s always nice to see something other than indie or rock coming from the streets of Brum and 1EYE gave us some really good tunes. ‘One Call’ in particular, which made a nice use of the word ‘ejaculate’, stood out (or should that be ‘shot out’), especially the wonderful Latin instrumental break in the middle of the song that made my nether regions twitch.
Next up (all the way from Coventry) Arabella. Blending Red Hot Chili Peppers funkiness with a little old skool blues they got a nice groove going especially on tracks like ‘Overdose’ and new single ‘Out of Love’. Lead singer James has a really strong voice when he lets rip and despite protesting that they felt they didn’t deserve to be sandwiched between two such strong live acts they more than proved themselves worthy. I’m really liking some of the bands coming out of Coventry right now and this lot, along with LP45, are well worth catching.
Finally Mamas Gun invade the stage like men on a mission...and I really can’t blame them. In a country that’s overrun by ‘talent’ show muppets and singing fishermen (whatever next...singing gynaecologists...don’t laugh it’ll probably happen) it must really piss off bands like this...people who can sing, play, write and produce their own insanely catchy music...when they seemingly get ignored by the masses. Still, it doesn’t seem to bother them tonight, no petulant displays and ‘we should be playing somewhere bigger than this’ attitude from a band who could arguably sell out the Tokyo Dome. Far from it in fact, they seemed delighted to be here performing for a healthy but not capacity crowd. From opening number ‘Rico’ right through to encore ‘Supa Sneakers’ it was nothing less than a master class in soul, funk and pop, summoning up the spirits of Prince, Sly, Beck and the Godfather of Soul himself...Mrrrrr Jammmmmmes Brrrowwwwwnnn. Sure, you could criticise them for coming up with tracks that sound a little like existing classic tunes, but when it’s done with as much love and style as they do it that’s just bitching for the sake of it. I’ve read a few snooty reviews of the album too that witter on about it not being ‘pimp’ enough (good grief...what the hell does that mean?). Balls to musical snobbery I say. Short of digging up dead soul stars and reanimating them it’s time we starting embracing the living ones a bit more. Lead singer Andy has a stunningly good voice and on the Marvin Gaye-ish ‘Let’s Find a Way’ tonight you’d be hard pushed to find a better soul performance. Anywhere. Kudos must go to the rest of the band too though. Putting the show firmly back into show business and the fun back into funk they’re all clearly experienced musicians and characters in their own right, especially ‘The Professor’, a blonde, moustache and dreads (well on the back part of his head anyway) sporting bass player from Perth. At one point he demonstrated just how low his voice could go...suffice to say that the man’s balls must still be in Oz...that’s some deep shit there. Like I said at the start of this review I’d never heard of them before and I’m guessing a fair number of the crowd here tonight were new to the band too. The whoopin’ and a hollerin’ at the end of the gig told me all I needed to know about how well they went down though...that and the fact that I couldn’t help reaching into my pocket to buy an album (and that’s a very rare thing these days). If there’s any justice in the world they’re ‘Gun’nabe huge.