o2 Academy, Birmingham
I was a wee bit nervous ahead of this, uncertain which version I would be seeing. So this tour advertises itself as celebrating 20 years, despite the Rev. D Wayne telling us it’s actually 19. (Or wiki saying 21) But that wasn’t the point, it was whether I was going to get the country blues bottleneck’n’harp gravelly vocals techno band or the annoying bloke talking cod american all over it. As it happened we had both, but the Rev D, for it is he, was restrained enough to be bearable, even amusing, once the image of Vic Reeves disappeared from my mind. After an energetic set by a reincarnation of my school, your school, any school’s 6th form band, playing similar material and the same covers, prompt on 9.20 out went the lights and on strode the 1st 7 of the 3 represented tonight, kicking straight in with a new song from Blues, their new LP, stylistically segueing straightaway into their trademark wail and stomp in a pleasing way, Larry Love sleazing the vocals in tandem with Harpo Strangelove’s, um, harp. Rev D then appeared with a brief epistle and they cantered through a mix of new and familiar, the sound soupy, possibly intentionally, the volume, especially at the lower end, immense. 3rd frontman, another man of the cloth, listed on their website as an associate, Rev. B. Atwell, kicking some southern gospel tropes into the mix. Woke Up This Morning appeared midway, the audience by now shaking and singing. Instrumentations prominents were the country piano and rinky dink organ of the Spirit and the guitar/bass skirl and throb, sometimes on on one, sometimes the other, of Rock Freebase and Steve Finnerty. So far but one name sounds remotely born with. In the background, apple mac open and knobs a’twiddling, vaping away for England, producer and effects man, Wizard. No pauses as such, songs fizzling out as others began, well rehearsed ad-libs littering the links from, mainly, D Wayne, whom I was strangely now warming to. All the “hits” were there, including their version of John Prine’s Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, almost , not quite, forgiven for losing Prine’s 2nd line “curly” with “fucked up”. However cringe-making that original ribsplitter is, it just ain’t right with the cussing, not that there wasn’t a mo-fo of that elsewhere in the show. For it was a show and they do it well. Very well to the extent they seem believable, even now, decades on, when the bluff should be so strung out as to be parody. Off with another new, before making us wait for a delightful Love and Spirit duet of delightful ballad, You Don’t Dance to Techno Anymore. A couple of fulll band and audience singalongs and they’re off. Home happy, new album and T-shirt in my pockets.
Surprisingly varied and much less “curly”, by and large, than I expected, suggesting that their lowlife personae don’t extend much to their audience. Keen and ready for some thursday fun, they were singing and jumping aplenty, or the fella behind me was.
It made me think..
For an apparent one-trick pony, they have become and sustained the idea beyond probably even their own expectations, becoming almost a Viennese Riding School of one-trick ponies and one we should cherish.