It’s always an odd time between Christmas and New Year. Most of us are still recovering from turkey overdose (quite literally going ‘cold turkey’) and desperately necking those chocolate liquors that always seem to find their way into the house somehow (who buys those things?!), eager to stave off the inevitable return to work and the horror that is...JANUARY. Urgh. Bears have the right idea, hibernate through the whole darn thing and wake up just as the daffs are daffing and the bees a buzzing. That would certainly explain the absence of bears at last night’s gig but a surprisingly decent number of humans managed to rise from the sofa...and ruddy glad they were too I bet.
Openers Jack The Lad are a relatively new name in B-Town but after just a handful of gigs they’re remarkably polished with, as one member of the audience enthusiastically announced to me after their set, an album’s worth of material that she’d happily purchase. And we all know how rare that is these days. Lead singer and songwriter James O’Gorman (21 years old...I said he was 18 the last time I reviewed ‘em a couple of months ago...blame my dodgy research assistant) has a natural knack for penning catchy tunes with a pop sensibility that simultaneously embrace a pretty wide range of influences, from full on rock right through to rub a dub ska. Lyrically he neatly captures some of the joy and pain of today’s youth without coming off all Morrissey, in fact there’s a joyful soul tinge to his vocals especially on two of the set’s best numbers, In It For Himself and the hollered for encore Welcome To My City...both of which you can catch on their fledging website.
You know what? If Birmingham had one of those Sounds of 2013 list thingies Jack The Lad would unquestionably (blimey, that’s a big word for me...) be right up there. Ones to watch...
Writing about George Barnett makes me sound a little like one of those nutters who stand on street corners preaching the apocalypse. He’s good. He’s damn good. Lordy raise your hands into the air brothers and sisters he’s the second coming! Oh alright, maybe that’s going a little too far but last night, in the distinctly compact Sunflower Lounge basement, he and his band (big up the Ninth Wave!) delivered yet another of their stadium worthy performances dishing out tracks that already sound like classic hits to the faithful. Musically and lyrically George is a mercurial (in a good way) talent, a child of the shuffle generation who’s happy mixing bits and pieces from a dozen different genres and dropping in all sorts of references from the cultural (Debussy) to the more mass appeal (Glastonbury in June). What’s clever is that he does it all so well, creating a music that’s capable of lifting the soul (if you’re feeling particularly poetic) or just getting your head nodding like a Churchill dog (if you’re not). Kicking off with a sprightly Lone Rose (which tonight culminated in a particularly enthusiastic cowbell and drums freak out) and ending with the reflective message to future 17 year olds (the age George was when he penned all this stuff), 17 Days, all it took was for you to shut your eyes and you’re right there in the O2 Arena surrounded by several thousand mobile phones waving in the air and a bloke selling programmes at £20 a pop. Don’t believe me? Listen to the debut album, full blast right now.
Each time I see him something else catches the ears, tonight Light That Fire, tribal drumming meets Queen-esque sing-alongs and Chic funky guitars, stole the crown. Great to hear College Kids again too (originally written and recorded when he was just 16), a bombastic rock ‘n’ rap rebellion against some of life’s not so great expectations, “If you wanna waste five years baby you can do it with me”.
Trust me my friends, five years with Mr Barnett would be anything but a waste of time. I doubt any record labels will read this but if, in the unlikely event that it somehow gets through to them, here’s a New Year’s resolution for you. Sign George Barnett and the Ninth Wave right now before someone else does. In return for this tip all I ask is a private jet and unlimited supply of peanuts and vin rouge for his first gig at Madison Square Gardens. Just for once do believe the hype...
PS: Just a last word on the sound last night, courtesy of soundman Greg. A good soundman can make or break a gig and Greg undoubtedly made last night as great as it could be.