Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Yup, it was a bit back, but, for reasons I will outlay, the plan had been a reprise this Friday in Derby, but it’s been cancelled.
I’m on a bit of a Wobble bender of late, lit up by his magnificent guest appearance with Youth’s Dub Trees outfit at Bearded Theory at the Spring bank holiday w/e. True, the full onslaught of Dub Trees is a barely contained cacophony of drums, guitar, fiddles and pipes, noosed together by computersanddeckslectronica, but topped this night, and their last recording, or bottomed more appropriately, by the dubbiest bassmeister in christendom. Sometimes with 2 basses, when Youth could tear himself from a six string and his mac. I was already a Wobble fan of yore, having seen the original Invaders of the Heart back in the 90s, and bought the odd and end along his journey, free jazz weirdness with Evan Parker, english folk in dub style and collaborations with Bill Laswell and Eno, amongst others.
So there I was, parking up outside the H&H at barely 8pm. And he’d already started. Just, but it seemed ever so early. With the first tune being the theme from Midnight Cowboy, in dub, I knew it could be an unusual evening. Then on it was a roller coaster through other covers (Liquidator, anyone?), PiL hits from his time there, songs from his nearly famous years of those 90s, quite a lot of jazz-fusion noodle and a brief tutorial in how a dub version is made. Some was good, some was very, very good and some, frankly was just not my cup of Shakatak. I hadn’t realised he has had a slew of such oriented material amongst all the rest, his prolific muse being nothing if not cast wide. His vocals are not a thing of beauty but can be effective on occasions. They worked for Public Image but not Visions of You. The band, all younger than he, bar a grizzled guy on computers and 2nd keyboards, were more than competent, with a special mention for the drummer. The guitarist, excellent on clipped ska/reggae chops clearly enjoyed more the fretwankery the more fusiony stuff demanded, doing all the taps and tropes de rigeur in this field. Keyboards a little more restrained.
But, and this was a huge but, the overall sound was largely shite, a loud hum marring much of the show, despite efforts to fix that seemed beyond the mac man and the local soundman. That and the fact is was all over by well before 10: apparently a party was following and took precedence. Not a party for Wobble, or one he was going to, and he, fairly good naturedly made a comment about the apparent pecking order in place. I was less forgiving.
So that’s why I wanted to give him another go.
No reason for the cancel or any replacement date. Hope he’s OK.
Sparse. Maybe 45 or 50, largely aged a decade more than their number present, 3 to 1 male to female and enthusiastic. The PiL stuff seemed most anticipated and received, putting me in a minority, preferring his worldly dub myself, but gaining a latter-day appreciation for it nonetheless, that may see me getting the Wobble/Levene revisitation of it EP, never being a fan of the butter disbeliever.
The Hare and Hounds seems to have stopped selling real ale, in favour of cider and draught hip pales at a premium price. Pity.
It made me think..
He’s bit of a national treasure, genial old cove that he seems now to be, albeit with a ferocious glare he can now turn on and off at will. Looking a bit like a potato in his trademark porkpie hat, he comes over a bit like a bald cockney Boris Johnson, without the knowingness, a bit baffled by how it has all turned out. But that bass, those fingers. Plunging the depths of the depths, with the room vibrating, I was in fear of his hitting that mythical note, the assembled hipsters being of an age where anal tone may be laxer. (He didn’t.)