The Islington, London
Many Afterworders will know The Islington well, home of the Word podcasts and hosting as it does many Massive-approved acts. I’m here to see my friends (and occasional clients) Jimmy Regal and the Royals – so, interest declared, take my review of them with as much salt as you fancy. Jimmy Regal play old-school blues without a bass player. Where most modern blues guitarists echo Stevie Ray Vaughan or 60s Clapton, guitarist Corin channels ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, T-Bone Walker and Hubert Sumlin – clean-toned and heavy on the rhythm. Singer Joff Watkins has the authoritative bark of a Howlin’ Wolf and, most impressively, has The Gift when it comes to playing harp. Jimmy Regal come onstage to about five people and leave a room full and happy.
I thought I’d stick around for the headliners, and this turns out to be a good choice. Until they replace Jimmy Regal onstage, I had never heard one note of Jeremy Porter and the Tucos. The first effect is visual – the rock’n’roll look that tells you synth solos and sequenced beats will not be forthcoming. The Tucos’ bassist is called Patty Two Shoes, which also bodes well. The music is as the Tucos’ bearing promises – Replacements, Johnny Thunders, the Clash – three-minute bursts of energy with witty lyrics. The songs tell of everything that is wonderful – and deflating – about being a rock’n’roll band who tour in van. Two-minute ‘Patty’s Not Impressed’ is a choice example, a gentle ribbing of the bass player and his prejudices: “Patty didn’t like the opening band/Even though they did their best/Patty’s not impressed”. Following this, they take pains to point out that they quite liked the opening band (who I didn’t see).
It’s not all fantastic – ‘Huckleberry’ is a bit too punk-pop for me, but even though songs like ‘Bottled Regrets’ have a Hold Steady shaggy-dog narrative, I’m willing them on. Jeremy is a great frontman, throwing shapes, pulling faces, chatting between songs with an easy charm. This is an American thing, to my mind. Bruce has it. Dave Grohl has it. Thom Yorke does not. They mention they are from Detroit and are very proud to be so. Everyone gets thanked, especially us for ‘coming out on a Tuesday’. After 35 minutes it’s over and they get selling merch and chatting to anyone who wants to say hi.
I like nights like this.
Folks in their thirties and forties, tearing themselves from the couch as the nights draw in, and being glad they did, for the most part, although the bar prices are ridiculous enough to make people from outside London go a bit funny.
It made me think..
Blues can make you dance, if done right.
Many Americans front their bands like they do table service – friendlier, breezily efficient and designed to make the customer happy. We can’t seem to do it as well most of the time.