Having dropped the ‘Lennon’ bit from his name (he used to trade as John Lennon McCullagh...genuinely his real name apparently) and picked up a new band (The Escorts...low mileage, furry dice not included) hotly tipped Doncaster troubadour John McCullagh opened up the night with half a dozen or so classic sounding self penned numbers mainly pulled from brand new album, New Born Cry (out today and available right here!). There’s an easy going charm to his performance and even the odd technical hitch doesn’t throw him. Although at just 17 he’s already been gigging like a good ‘un for a few years so that’s perhaps not surprising. Musically there are touches of Jake Bugg, The Coral and Cast (the latter’s John Power produced the album), in other words a bit of a retro cool Merseybeat vibe most noticeably on recent single and one of the picks of the set the jaunty toe tapping She’s Calling Me. At other times when he gets stuck into the harmonica there’s almost a Dylan-ish spirit (albeit a Dylan that hits the right notes in the right order). They save the best till last though courtesy of the New Wavey New York City with its irresistible guitar groove and chorus that practically begs to be sung along with by thousands of screaming fans in Madison Square Gardens.
More informed folk than I have tipped McCullagh for great things (as well as releasing the album Alan McGee’s a fan and he knows a thing or two about picking a winner...) and it’s not hard to see / hear why.
One to watch.
By their own admission Goodnight Lenin perhaps pontificated a little too much on the release of their debut album, the appropriately titled In Our Own Time. Much of the material was equally reflective which made a large slice of tonight’s set – new tunes ahoy! – all the more surprising. Opening number Desire saw Lenin get their groove on like never before. This was swiftly followed by Start Over which replaced the gentler Americana feel of old with an almost Springsteen like primal rock ‘n’ blues feel. Reborn in the USA you could say. It’s harder, faster, rawer and ballsier than before. In fact if In Our Own Time was a gentle chat up line and a walk in the woods album number two could well be a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a quickie up a back alley. It’s the first time I’d heard any of these songs but I’m pretty sure the lyrics for Start Over included the line “When I finally get my hands on you” sung with such gusto by lead vocalist John Fell that oestrogen levels rose by at least 22% in the room. Blimey. After a spirited Old Cold Hands (a stone cold classic) Heart Of Mine’s catchy guitar riffs and repeated chorus simplified the band’s sound further before The Wire added an almost post punk feel to proceedings (some fine guitar playing from Liam on this one) with Fell spitting out the lyrics “I don’t need it, I don’t believe it anymore” like a man on the edge. Last year’s single You Were Always Waiting got a well deserved whoop of appreciation (is it me or has Sam funked up the drums a little more...nice work fella) followed by a good natured heckle from someone in the audience after Fell had raised the prospect of a new album,“It won’t take four years again will it?”. Somehow given the pace of the new tracks and the obvious joy the band seemed to get from playing them happily I don’t think it will.
Standout track from the latter part of the set was Slow Down, a semi instrumental number that give John Joe the chance to get his fiddle out again (always a bit of a crowd pleaser) and the band achieve a Waterboys-ish rock/blues/country/hoedown on speed type groove. Frickin’ EPIC.
Cannily retaining the essence of what they were but adding a lot more oomph (that’s a technical term by the way) into the mix, tonight was a fascinating glimpse into a band in transition. Choppier riffs, rawer vocals, songs that go for the balls not just the heart...yep, there’s revolution in the air for the Lenin and you should be ‘Russian’ to see hear it (oh come on...I couldn’t resist that one).
All photos courtesy of the lovely Mr Richard Shakespeare.