30 January 2009 (gig)
31 January 2009
This is really a review of three parts because the 100 Club on London’s Oxford Street is a crucial part of the picture, but more of that later.
The Malchicks have had enough time to be able to decide what kind of music they want to play and their rawboned Blues and Countrified material was very well received by the very full Friday crowd at the 100 Club. They continue to play their Blues classics – 'House of the Rising Sun’ & 'Baby Please Don’t Go’ are real standouts – but they are also mixing in some more melodic material such as 'Riders of the 101’ and this suits Scarlett’s voice to a tee. George is rapidly becoming one of my favourite young guitarists and he has developed in just about every way; his acoustic work was particularly good. I would have loved to hear 'Hallelujah’ once more but maybe the song is devalued since the appalling recent version and '27’ is a fine number to close their set. Great to see a band developing before your very eyes.
On the other hand, The Pretty Things are hardly a band in development. As long as Phil May and Dick Taylor are still playing there will be a Pretty Things and on the showing last night they could be around for a few years to come. Quite simply they were outstanding. Phil May’s vocals were powerful and punchy and his swaggering persona was the classic R&B frontman. Dick’s guitar was, as ever, perfectly played with wit and skill and he had a sparkle in his eye that belied his advanced years. George Sanchez of the Malchicks was in on bass and their manager, Mark St John weighed in with percussives and backing vocals but May & Taylor are the heart and force of the band and if they are firing on all cylinders they simply sweep all before them. The sound was excellent and the band simply roared, much to the delight of what was now a heaving, capacity crowd. They didn’t do anything much unexpected, just played a variety of material from their early years – 'Don’t bring me down’ – thru 'SF Sorrow’ and 'Parachute’ and into their most recent 'Balboa Island’ with 'The Beat goes On’ and 'Havana’. They even managed to touch on their 'Electric Banana’ album which has never been released under their own name.
When the Pretty Things are at full pace there is simply no-one to compare and last night they hit the best form I’ve seen them in for a while.
The last part of this review features the venue. The 100 Club is an iconic venue and has boasted more than its share of great performances. The constantly changing pictures on the walls bear testament to the history from the early Jazz days, through the Blues Boom and the early Psychedelic bands. Punk had its first great night there in 1976 and the venue has been a mecca for musicians, music lovers and general public for years. As a venue it certainly isn’t perfect with two massive pillars either side of the central area blocking sight lines and the usual inadequate toilet arrangements but the vibe that place has is incredible. When you wend your way down from the street above you feel like you are entering a lair with an immediate sight of the stage from the door. This is the complete opposite to the corporate venues that are littering the land and replacing places with soul and history. The fact that this is in the heart of Central London and not in the outskirts is a crucial part of its draw and new bands that can get on the stage can generally be assured that there will be an audience for them because people naturally go to the 100 Club as part of an evening out in Central London.
The Pretty Things and the 100 Club go together like bangers and mash and while the Pretty Things can and will play in many other places the 100 Club provides them, and us, with a fit place to enjoy each other.