An interesting night.
The GOO, as it’s not known, has hosted occasional gigs over the years from artists outside the southern cross and good ol’ boys theme of the club, most recently Mogwai attempted to put the “sea with three stars” (as Davy Henderson would put it) back into country music earlier this year, with some success (see previous Betty review).
Tonight it was the turn of KC and the less than sunshine band, but first, some unexpected French diversions…
I have previously described the venue but let’s just summarise it as American tack, gaudily idealised desert backdrops, various flags, guns, cowboy boots and other assorted paraphernalia, without a hint of irony. The bar is cheap but the queues, on a night like this (sold out I think) are long and carefully chaperoned by the GOO stewards, into snaking lines of bemused punters.
A couple of cheap but warm and flat pints later, the support band take the stage. They are very French, straight outta Bordeaux in fact (a bit of backstory however, they are now signed to Domino and played the Fence Homegame earlier this year). Invited to play this short tour by none other than KC himself, they have an eccentric stage set-up which after a few “what the ???” completely makes sense. Drummer side-on, playing a bizarre giant drum and tom tom set up with a shaker on his leg and another electronic bass trigger thing providing a bit of, yes, bass. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Francois, then two other keyboards, at least one of them doubling as a sampler/mixer and some bass lines being played on them too. The songs, around six or seven, are sung in French and English, and they groove. The sound recalls some mid period Talking Heads (‘Born Under Punches’?) along with more contemporary things such as Wild Beasts, possibly Foals or the like.
There’s some nifty musicianship, very organic/electronic, and the last number sounds a bit like the long and rather rough at the edges sounding mix of ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ on the 81-82 New Order mini-LP – a compliment indeed, I’d say. The whole set met with a pretty good response from the audience – support act bonus!
The interlude was punctuated by one queue for the bar which went out the door of the venue and another which snaked dangerously close to the stage, however they were pretty much cleared by the time Kenny Anderson and John Hopkins took the stage – no great build up, in fact the crowd only cheered when he came up to the mic, he’d been arranging things onstage for a couple of minutes before that.
Banter started straight off: “Sorry we’re late, we were arguing with PJ Harvey about who should have won the Mercury Prize”. It had been a long and strange day in London yesterday so I’m sure that KC and Jon were looking forward to a relaxed but sombre run through the Diamond Mine album and a few other arrangements before a devoted crowd; however, things are never quite that simple if you’re playing an acoustic gig.
Starting with just KC and Jon on acoustic guitar and piano respectively, they moved through the album track by track initially, although I think ‘Running On Fumes’ was missed out and one other song which required a bit of percussion was returned to later in the set. A couple of songs in, the main talking point of the gig manifested itself – a white-haired gent in the front row, over-enthused by the music, began singing along, out of tune. Singing along is all very well, but in the initial numbers from Goldmine you could have heard a pin drop, and this over-enthusiasm from one individual was very noticeable both to artist and crowd. KC, who I’m sure has had to deal with far worse distractions in his time, initially made light (“I want to be on what he’s on”), then picked him out (“I’ve got a superfan”), then threatened in a friendly way (“there’s people on the balcony who are watching your very carefully”), then made up when the chap decided to leave (“come back, I miss you already”), so he came back and continued to do this thing (at one point someone shouted “he’s spoiling the gig”, and I kid you not, a GOO-worthy suggestion. “let’s lynch him” was jokingly made) – eventually the chap made his way to the back, he just couldn’t help himself, but it did detract a bit from the part of the gig where I’m thinking – well you’ve done the album (mostly), what happens next?
What appeared to happen next was a selection of numbers which fitted tonight’s line-up of acoustic guitar, piano and one acoustic drum. A couple were familiar, one was not, ‘Spoke’, introduced as an unfamiliar number. At least one or two were from recent albums but given a different treatment with the limited instrumentation on offer tonight. The encore was a bit half-hearted I thought – closing cover (Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’) was nice but it wasn’t exactly the greatest hits – the thing is that this is an artist who seems to want to constantly change their musical set-up and collaborators so you have to bear with them.
As I said, an interesting night.