Given the fact that an early doors conversation starts with me saying I love a good Brian Martini, it’s of some surprise I’m still upright to report back. I think I’m still suffering the effects of a marathon Gin tasting. Four days before. Mind, a Brian Martini is definitely a cocktail waiting to happen. Family Guy woofer, stirred not shaken.
Early one tonight and though pretty bloody freezing outside it is sunny so slithering into the dark confines Audio for the first time, I’m minded to think, “This better be ace”. And lo, it comes to pass. A last minute gig for me but this is a rather excellent affair all round.
First up we have Glasgow band, Lola in Slacks – fronted by the shades-wearing, slinky songstress Lou Reid. With that moniker you pretty much have to make music don’t you? A four piece this evening, it is stylish as hell, moody as you like and smoky in the best, most Marianne Faithful hanging out in Tribeca, kinda way. You can hear the main lady’s namesake seeping in from the background but it’s not derivative. Just a knowing, velvet nod whilst oozing down a singular and seductive furrow. Darkened torch songs for the voguishly dispossessed.
As far as I know there are only three demo tracks circulating but there’s no doubt about it – they have ‘it’. Enough to have me musing that McNabb is gonna have to be damned impressive to leapfrog the support. See them. Immediately. They are very very good indeed. The future’s so bright they gorra wear shades.
Does McNabb kick the preamble into the proverbial net? Well… not quite. He is excellent, don’t get me wrong. A charming and highly amusing stage presence he is the equal of the support without perhaps looming over from above. It is a thoroughly different shaft being mined however.
With no great flourish he zooms on stage, picks up the acoustic, straps on the mouth organ and we’re off. Classic Liverpudlian songwriting with many telling stories of love, loss, childhood and the like. But, as is the way with many from that enclave, having enough killer pop hooks to make one’s toes waggle. A devoted crowd sing along loudly, the lyrics following the narrative of their own lives.
From the opener ‘Merseybeat’ entreating us to be “Funky and Free…” swiftly followed by a rousing, communal celebration of possessing ‘Fire Inside My Soul’ it’s an intimate yet rowdy affair.
The sentiments therein illustrate things perfectly. This is about being funky and free. Forever. Until the mortal coil flicks us into the guitar case of doom. It’s avuncular and impassioned and, lets face it, often bloody hilarious. I’ve been primed for the songster’s asides and they do not disappoint.
Do not mistake the easy-going banter for lack of craft however. This is beautiful songwriting at it’s most deceptively simple. ‘Little Girl Lost’, a minor hit, a major piece of beauty attracting adoring gazes from the throng.
That juxtaposition and almost central contradiction is a running theme. A number about the first Gulf War is prefaced with the wry observation that, “People talk about prescient songs only now being appreciated. What we mean is that it didn’t sell fuck all back then”. It’s sincere but it has wit. He wears his skills lightly. As it should be.
McNabb has ploughed a singular furrow from his time with Icicle Works to collaborating with Crazy Horse – on loan from Neil Young presumably. And though I’m not obsessed with lyrics as some are – the voice is as much an instrument as anything else – it’s hard not to get sucked into the vivid world he creates. Alongside the skilled musicianship, if nothing strikes a delighted chime with you, you are either dead or have lived your life in a cardboard box in a darkened room. Though he probably has a tune about that in his extensive repertoire to be honest.
My favourite is his recollection of having been taken to see ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by his dad. I too was flung into a cinema to view that film at a formative age. I feel certain my song relating the experience would not be filled with quite the wonder it instilled in him. But then, I spent two hours waiting for the light sabres and Millennium Falcon to appear so whadda I know? I blame the parents.
All in, a rather delightful start to a long evening. Which ends up at dawn wrestling with a bag of noodles and a plant pot. But don’t these things always.