+ SOLEDAD BROTHERS
+ THE INFIDELS
August 31, 2003
And so, the first headline gig of the tour. I’d been at a wedding reception elsewhere in the country the night before, which had necessitated this correspondent to indulge in the consumption of copious quantities of booze, and then some. After a bit of a lie in on Saturday, I roused myself from my hotel pit, drove 140 miles home, and did as little as possible for a couple of hours. Into the motor again and 165 miles to Nottingham.
Interesting town. Home to some seriously twisted minds. Or at least one, and he was in charge of designing the one way traffic system in the town centre. Got to “about” the right place (i.e. recognised a couple of street names) and wandered off in search of the venue about 7.15pm. Fifteen minutes later I found myself re-covering my tracks but still none the wiser. I did however see two couples, one sporting a Birdman logo, and asked them if they knew where the venue was. Turned out they were as clueless as me, but as we walked along lamenting our plight, we found it within 15 seconds. Now if I’d only turned right originally…
As I walked up the drive to the venue I saw the familiar forms of Mr and Mrs Keeley, and also realised that Mr Masuak was also in presence. Turned out that they’d just finished the soundcheck and were off to the hotel for an hour or so. The venue has a concert venue and a bar, so I availed myself of refreshment and retired to an a table out front. Questioning the doormen about buying a ticket, I was informed that the doors, scheduled for 7.30, had been delayed until 8.15 (although it ended up being more like 8.30). Sat outside and supped slowly, and watched as Birdman fans arrived, singly and in small groups.
This was an event that dragged out the committed from whatever far-flung part of the country they reside in, especially those from the northern half of the country. I was reminded of that great quote of Jerry Garcia’s about fans of the Grateful Dead: “"Our audience is like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice REALLY like licorice." And obviously the word had spread amongst that small but select band that constitute UK Birdman fans that for tonight, Nottingham was Licorice Central. Even shy, retiring me, burnt out from the road struck up a couple of conversations. It was obvious watching the faithful arrive that this was a gig for the faithful individuals, who’d come, often alone, from points far and wide.
I apologise for not circulating/schmoozing/networking more, but I was feeling a bit burned out from the night before and the driving to get there. Here’s a thought for London – meet in the Cambridge pub beforehand; it’s at the bottom of Charing Cross road on the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue – I’ll try to remember to wear my new red Euro tour Birdman T-shirt.
Anyway, we started off with the Infidels, an apparently local band who were not bad, and young enough that three of the four of them look like they still have newspaper rounds. Good and passionate, but lacking in memorable songs.
Next up were the Soledad Brothers, who had a huge array of merchandise, and apparently are from Deniz’s hometown as he announced from the stage later. Very good and polished, they were two guitarists (one often playing slide) and a drummer, so another in the increasing numbers of bass-free bands. I say polished, by which I mean practiced rather than Journey-soundalikes. Impressive, but for my liking too much of their set sounded like "Exile On Main Street" with different lyrics.
And so finally the Birdmen took stage at 10.25, a little late but still eagerly awaited.The main change I noticed in the set-up from last year was that Pip had a mic, but Jim didn’t (maybe Nottingham didn’t have a mic stand that reached high enough for Mr D!) No intro tape, and no intro, the guys just walked on stage, and after a briefish tune-up, roared into "Burn My Eye". For those that aren’t subscribed to the divinerites mailing list (and why the hell not?!), they then played "Smith & Wesson Blues", "Do The Pop!", "I-94", "Non Stop Girls", "Love Kills", "Descent Into The Maelstrom", "Alone In The Endzone", "Aloha Steve and Danno", "Hanging On", "455SD" mutating into some diminishing feedback before launching into "Dark Surprise" (a huge song, perhaps the most underrated in the RB canon to my mind), "Crying Sun", "Murder City Nights", "Anglo Girl Desire" and "What Gives?", before Deniz offered: "Er, that's the end of the actual set, so we're going to have a vote up here what we're going to play now"(!) They then went into "Time To Fall" (first time it's been played live) and "Route 66".
Throughout the set Rob looked happy, responding often sarcastically to shouts from the audience. Funniest Younger aside of the night was in response to some crazed audience member bellowing "Rock'n'roll!!!!" - a slight raising of the eyebrows with a deadpan, "Yeah, we're considering it". And it may just be me, and the fact that I was driving (rather than trying to drink my own weight in VB as I was last year) but I thought there were a few slightly different arrangements…
Anyway, there’s fire, there’s commitment, there’s inspired improvisational guitar fills, and goddamnit there’s Pip Hoyle woo-ooh’ing on “Aloha” like a long lost Beach Boy. After a couple of minutes the guys re-appeared to treat us to "Man With Golden Helmet", "Transmaniacon MC", "Waiting For The Man" (“continuing the practice of messing with other people’s songs”) and finally "New Race". 11.50 and they were gone, with only some impressive memories ringing in our ears.
I reckon this was a four-and-a-half-beer-bottle performance, marred only, in my opinion, by the absence of "Hand Of Law" and "You’re Gonna Miss Me" ("Waiting For The Man" is an OK cover done well, but it’s hardly unique, whereas the Birdies' version of "You’re Gonna Miss Me" is a thing of awe and wonder).
So what did I think? Birdman were on fire that night - great sound and full of passion, even if the venue wasn't full (maybe 350?). Ron Keeley reckoned that with a few more gigs they'll be absolutely incendiary. I'd say that in the nine times I've seen them in the last 15 months they are definitely the greatest performing rock'n'roll band in the world at the moment. I hear Rob Younger reckons they’ve played some real stinkers; but not that I’ve seen Rob, and I’m giving them a week to blow off any odd problems in France and Italy before I catch up with the second half of the tour from Germany on.
The European economies may have been a bit sluggish of late, but I’d be investing in building repair companies. ‘cos I reckon the Birdmen will be blowing the roof off a few establishments in the next week or so. - Jelly
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