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Gig review

Amplifico / Fortunate Sons / Billy Bates

Stereotypically, Billy Bates is a big bloke with a big voice. Which he uses to great effect in the tunnel-like Cabaret Voltaire, his opening ‘number’ more like Thom Yorke calling from a minaret – a rambling, nagging vocal sound, over stuttering flamenco guitar. Alan Elmslie is enlisted to add some rhythmical structure to the tunes, the percussionist plays strange percussion (a gamelan? a soil-sieve?) and his weird techniques draw great whoops from the rapidly growing crowd. With Bates’ fractured singing style it’s intense, including the jam ‘Rwanda’ which verges on free jazz but is for the musos present a great spectacle – like most of the set it’s not one to get the postie whistling, but that’s no bad thing.
After all, you can have just too much of a good thing. The Fortunate Sons are the complete package – if you like country-tinged blues rock. With perfect 3-part harmonies, a fiddler that does train impersonations, and some ‘tasty’ ‘licks’, they have half the audience dancing and the other half shaking their heads in bafflement. Retro rock is has its place, but maybe not when young impressionable kids are watching.
As they are, since Amplifico have brought a fair crowd with them, perhaps because internet viewing isn’t possible tonight – the band having famously embarked on a ‘`webathon’ as their last Edinburgh show, in an (successful) attempt to raise funds to record their album.
And it seems that whoever can’t squeeze into the crowd has grabbed an instrument and jumped onstage. The nominally 4-piece have 2 brass/woodwind players and a cello to add to their usual complement. Oh, and a backing singer. And this full sound, driven by Donna Maciocia trademark piano, somehow makes this reviewer (if no-one else) think of Arab Strap – and to compound this, they freely admit to a Black Sabbath rip-off on one new tune (‘”fico flippin’ ‘fico” – some un-Strap-like censorship there), though inevitably it’s the oldies including ‘The Red Song’ which go down best. Given that it’s their Xmas show they wheel out their Mariah Carey cover which includes all the songstress’s squeals and yelps as articulated by Donna. However, pride of place goes to a new song which the band confess to being scared of, and since it features a Truax/Tunstall-style looped backing vocal which is adds to as the song progresses you can understand their trepidation. All goes swimmingly however, and they punch the air in triumph at the end.
The inevitable encore is ‘Comedy Stops Here’, and at this time a year ago this seemed to be the major part in the Amplifico jigsaw. However, they’ve added to this in spades, and when that album does eventually appear it should launch them to much bigger things.

Stuart McHugh

By Stuart McHugh

itm? head honcho

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