MAC Centre, Belfast
added: 17 Sep 2012
// gig date: 6 Sep 2012
reviewer: Francis Higney
The Blockheads were invited by Duke Special to be the first band to play at the recently opened MAC arts centre in Belfast and to kick off the special review that the singer songwriter is curating.
It was therefore disappointing that a meagre crowd of only around 100 people were present at the curtain-raising event. The lack of numbers failed to dampen the spirits of the eight-piece band who last played in the N Ireland capital when the much-missed Ian Dury was still propping up the mike-stand.
Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll opened the set and it was obvious from the outset that this bunch of grizzled survivors had not succumbed to the onset of any musical dementia and were still masterful musicians.
Fronting the band was Derek the Draw – a cockney Kris Kristofferson lookalike replete with silvery whiskers and dark glasses with a peace symbol embedded. The white scarf he sported wasn't the only nod to Dury – his rasping Estuarine English punched out the hits with a humour and vitality borne of a life lived long in the pockets of the Essex songsmith as his driver/minder.
A stirring recital of Look at Me Laughing was one of the highlights of the set and preceded the jazz/funk smoothness of the Inbetweenies. Nice.
That heralded a lull in proceedings which saw the delivery of a couple of slow numbers, but any induced somnolence was rudely interrupted by the timely Wake Up and Make Love With Me which had the audience begging for more of the same, which was duly delivered in the form of Reasons to be Cheerful and Sweet Gene Vincent.
Bass player Norman Watt-Roy may have the appearance of someone that has just escaped from a Crypt but by God can he breathe life into his instrument and his enthusiasm is infectious. Watching this master at work is worth the entrance money alone.
Duke Special joined the Blockheads onstage for Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and even though he missed an intro and forgot lyrics he was forgiven for having the foresight to bring the Blockheads back to Belfast.
“It was a dream come true for me,” he told Music News. “They are legends and they were first on my list to call and get involved.”
According to Blockhead Mickey Gallagher it has taken the band 10 years to build up a following again.
“For years after Ian died we were only offered gigs as a backing band,” he says.
But it was in 20008 when Derek was asked to don the new boots (and panties) as band front man that a new focus and vitality was injected and the Blockheads were reborn.
“We needed that cockney edge to the vocals and we are also getting more women than ever to our gigs!” adds Mickey.
The impressive new purpose-built arts venue provides a much needed mid-size gigging venue for the city. Asking Duke Special to curate such an event and booking the Blockheads was a real statement of intent for the MAC. Long may it continue.
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