It's Halloween, and this has become pretty much an annual event, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster are hosting a Halloween ball. This in itself is always enough to slap on some fake blood and hot foot it to the gig, but tonight, after this years release of their third album, and most accomplished offering so far, Blood and Fire, I'm chomping at the bit to see what psychobilly madness they have to offer us.
When the guys take the stage, much like the crowd, some of them have made the effort, some haven't, Guy McKnight, and Dominic Knight ( new rhythm guitarist ) are in full on freaky face make up, if possible adding extra horror to the sonic opener Monsier Cutts, but lets face it, with music this intense, who needs a Dracula costume? .Seemingly within seconds of taking the stage, Guy, mic extension lead in hand, is ploughing through the crowd, screaming his lungs out, the band deafeningly, frantically attacking their instruments behind him - this is what it's all about!
Recent single, and staple in the 80's Matchbox set for a couple of years now, Love Turns To Hate is embraced by the crowd like an old friend, and new songs such as I Hate The Blues and Mission from God just ooze quality. This is aptly reflected by the crowd who pretty much go mental from start to finish tonight.
It's been a long wait since 2004's Royal Society album, and although the band have continued to tour, bar the release of 1997's slightly under par effort, the In The Garden EP, there have been no releases and it's great to hear the new stuff. Not only as it offers us, the audience, a fresh slant on the band, but because of the strength in depth of the album. They still offer us the full on psychosis of set opener Monsier Cutts, but show a slower, slightly softer side on tracks such as new single - So Long Goodnight and Don't Ask Me to Love You.
During the first half of the set tonight we hear plenty of Blood and Fire and a sprinkling of Royal Society, highlights of which are Temple Music and the outstanding I Rejection, during which everyone in the room feels Guy's pain and screams the chorus back at him - " give me your heart cos i feel like the tin man "
The band have gone through a couple of line up changes over the years. Rhythm guitarist Marc Norris left soon after recording the latest album, and Dominic Knight has slipped effortlessly into his place looking completely at home in the mastery of his instrument, at times jumping to the floor to play laying on his back. However it's the other ( not quite so ) newbie, Tristan McLenahan that has really made the lead guitar his own. I never thought I'd ever see anyone get close to owning an 80s Matchbox stage like guy McKnight, but tonight Tristan gives it a damn good shot. He thrusts and stabs his guitar violently, headbanging all the time whilst the beautiful angry riffs ring out. Original guitarist Andy Huxley was a tough individual to follow, for me, his replacement Rich Fownes never quite filled the gap, but Tristan has now officially exorcised Andy's ghost.
The whole band are on fire tonight. Tom beats the living shit out his drums out the back ( and takes care of most of the backing vocals ) and a newly clean and sober Sym still wanders about the stage cranking out his thunderous basslines in a never ending zombie like daze. Guy as always takes his stage persona to the next level, and stomps around, jumps and gesticulates wildly, climbs into the crowd, and generally acts certifiable for the whole performance, delivering his vocals in his own inimitable way.
Half of the gig has gone and still nothing from debut album Horse of the Dog........................then...... hold on, Sym is banging out the unmistakable riff of Celebrate Your Mother, surely the gig's not over yet, they always finish with this one???? the ultimate 80s Matchbox crowd pleaser sends us into a frenzy, OK so it's been a short set, but what a night......hold on tho, they're playing Chicken ( track 2 ), next up Whack of Shit.(track 3!) I haven't seen them play this one live for years ( and I've seen 'em a fair few times! ) It slowly falls into place for me......they're playing the whole fucking album! And sure enough they do, in order, and sounding as jaw droppingly fresh as it did almost 10 years ago. All 25 minutes of perfect, dirty, violent, punk rock blues without so much as a hint or introduction - awesome.
We get an encore, Rise of the Eagles, and maybe another one or two, I don't know and it doesn't matter, there's only so many cherries you can stack on top of one another. Tonight has been a momentous performance from the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. They know it, the whole of Heaven knows it, now lets hope word gets out to the humble man on the street. They've got the tunes, they've got the belief and they've got an unforgettable live show to offer every time the set foot on the stage. OK, I know they're not everybodies cup of tea, but if you like your music hard, fast, and unforgiving, but still like a good tune, GO AND SEE THIS BAND!