Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Correspondents / The Fire Beneath The Sea @ The Institute, Saturday 17th May

Having formed in 2007 it’s taken a whole 7 years for The Correspondents (DJ Chucks and singer/dancer Mr Bruce) to get around to releasing their debut album. But then again Mr Bruce (aka Ian Bruce) also has a career as an artist to keep him busy so we can kind of forgive them. Besides that given the energy that he expends during tonight’s gig I reckon he probably needs to lie down for a month or six every time they play live...

First up though Liverpool’s The Fire Beneath TheSea, billed as a 16 piece (SIXTEEN! Jeez) Hip Hop/Funk/Jazz/Ska/DnB/Phuxubtlety (not sure what the heck that is) band. This evening I could only count 11 of ‘em but that could be down to my pitiful ability to add up. Even so the stage was packed with 4 MCs, a soulful female vocalist, a bass player, a guitarist, a drummer, a saxophonist, a trumpet player and a dude on the ones and twos. Between them they produce a head spinning mash up kicking off with Hips Go Wild, which somehow manages to conjure up The Destroyers, 2 In A Room and 90s scouse indie oddballs Space all at the same time. 

Once the ska fuelled Poor Little Fishy gets going a decent proportion of the early evening crowd are bouncing up and down and this sets the fairly blistering pace for the rest of the set. They’re ruddy good fun and to be honest I reckon they could start a party in a morgue. Smile Like A Clown with its Gene Krupa style drum breaks and thumbs up dance moves got one punter calling for an encore...even before the set had finished...and anticapitalist anthem We Don’t Need Things...should be adopted as our new national anthem. Sod Metallica, stick this lot on the main stage at Glastonbury Mr E.

By now, after the hottest day of the year so far and some frantic skanking from opening act and crowd alike, it was getting a little moist in there as the stage was set up for The Correspondents (this involved some of those pull up banner things that companies often use in shopping centres which, using the bands distinctive black and white graphic was a simple but pretty effective piece of set dressing). They’re a curious but infectious proposition, I guess best filed under the tag of ‘electro swing’ a fusion of house, hip hop and electronica coupled with the kind of music your great grandmother may well have been getting down to in the 20s. As already alluded to the other big draw is Mr Bruce’s unique style of dancing, something we got to see plenty of this evening. Things started off in a fairly low key chilled out kind of fashion though with What Did I Do?, a fine exercise in crooning existentialism and possibly the best chance to hear the more subtle side to his vocal ability. This was all just lulling us into a false sense of security though. As Well Measured Vice kicked off so did Mr Bruce. It’s frankly impossible to describe the sight of this dude in full flow. Fred Astaire on E? A man attempting to send all of his limbs flying clean off his body in four different directions? Strictly Come Raving? What you can safely conclude is that it’s one of the most astonishing things you’re ever likely to see...and I’ve witnessed Broad Street on a Saturday night. The song itself (it’s easy to lose track of the fact that there’s lyrics and stuff with all the flapping about going on) focuses on what appears to be one of Mr Bruces favourite subjects, specifically that the world’s a pretty dull place without a little...ahem...slap and tickle. I couldn’t agree more. Sadly we live in a world where pretty much anything mildly fun is labelled as a, drugs, booze, a result half of us are going to end up dribbling and wetting ourselves in an overcrowded ‘care home’ at the age of 106. What the ‘government’ should be doing is encouraging us all to eat, shag and drink ourselves silly then end it all in a cocaine fuelled orgy in our mid 40s. Hmmmm...sounds like a plan to me.

Anyway, whilst Mr Bruce is advocating well measured vice he also appears to be warning the powers that be that banning everything will just send it underground. Which is, of course, exactly what happens. Sensible chap...Mr Bruce for Prime Minister...seriously, he’d do a much better job than anyone else up for it right now. Oh yes...back to the now the atmosphere had reached sauna like conditions, stifling enough if you’re just standing there but Bruce continued to dance his ass off, returning to championing vice in What Happened To Soho?, the band’s tribute to what used to be London’s hotbed of sin and depravity but which is now, sadly, a sanitised ghost of its former self. I used to love wandering around Soho and whilst its 60s and 70s heyday had clearly gone until fairly recently it still felt a little naughty, the kind of place frequented by proper ‘characters’, life’s flotsam and jetsam, the kind of people who’d pop out for a pint of milk and then stumble back to their bedsit 6 days later sporting a tattoo and missing at least one digit. Now it...and they...are gone, wiped away by London’s reinvention as a place for the financially rich but soulless elite. Jeffrey Bernard must be spinning...slowly mind his grave. 

At this point Bruce was now more sweat than man and I’m fairly convinced that most of his vital organs must’ve resembled dried figs. And still he danced...Fear and Delight came across as a crazy soundtrack for a scat rap version of Top Hat whilst Say You Love Me shoved Cry Me A River into a food mixer with a bootleg jungle tape and pressed maximum blitz. Some 12 hours later I’m still exhausted just thinking about it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that either Mr Bruce posses lungs the size of an airship or he was miming from time to time (hell, surely no one on earth could dance with that degree of ferocity in that heat AND keep singing throughout...?!) but that’s not really the point of The Correspondents live experience. In a word (a made up word mind you) dance-tastic.

PS: The Correspondents' spiffing debut album Puppet Loosely Strung is out now. 

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