Opening the night, London-based multi-instrumentalist Princess Maha A.K.A The Kut gets us up and running with a half hour of hook-laden upbeat tunes that recently saw her take top spot on the UK rock album charts. It’s part pop, part scrappy garage band punk, delivered with true grit and drive by Maha and her band, who have some supporters in early and clearly revel in the spotlight as they bounce across the width of the stage. Animo is a highlight, straight-up no-frills catchy pop-punk played from the heart that gives me the feels of so many of the bands from that golden era in the late 90’s/early 2000s that first won me over and had me making trips to Camden to buy studded belts and knock-off band tees, but performed with a fresh impetus and energy that carries it off as something entirely new. An accomplished master of the fretboard, Maha is also a natural performer, and as she scales the bass drum to lead the audience in a clap-along whilst the rest of the band drives the tempo, the response from those watching hints that a few new fans have been brought to the cause.
Princess Maha – vocals/guitar
Red Ray & The Reprobates
We all have things missing from our lives that we never knew we needed, and for me it turns out one of those things is a marriage between barnstorming, soulful, Deep Southern-tinged country music and a strong Geordie accent. It just works. Red Ray & The Reprobates seem at home on the O2 stage and set about whipping the cider-fueled assemblage into a right hoedown, with relatable stories about crappy corporations, working life and the cold indifference of the wider world set to a backdrop of shuffling drums and the bright, merry twang of tumbling guitars. Backed brilliantly by a recently-added horn section that adds an extra layer of warmth to their sound, the feelgood chemistry between frontman ‘Red’ Ray Lannon and lead guitarist ‘Coyote’ Cam is clear to see, and the good times soon spread to a roomful of onlookers that obligingly thump their feet to each whack of the bass drum. Jackson Jeff, the man frantically thumping the kit, does so with just one hand due to a break in the other, never missing a beat. it must be the adrenaline driving him because my friend tells me the cider in this venue actually tastes a bit like feet, so it can’t be the cider. As the temperature outside drops and the room reaches capacity, Red Ray & The Reprobates prove to be the perfect life-giving tonic at the end of the working week. Nothing quite beats facing down the harsh realities of existence with a massive grin, a stomp of the foot and a bounce along the fretboard.
Ray Lannon – vocals/rhythm guitar Cameron Cheek – lead guitar/harmonies Jackson Jeff – drums (broken hand) Martin Alcock – Bass Callum Spencer – Keys/Trumpet Vanessa Humphreys – Tenor Sax Kiefer ‘The Pistol’ Wilton – Trumpet/Trombone
19 years have passed since the summer of 2003, and all those memories I’d been trying to repress about Dick Valentine’s light-up crotch in the video for Danger! High Voltage is about to flood back into consciousness, for better or worse. They may have hit the ultimate peak of public attention back then, but one thing tonight’s bustling O2 Academy demonstrates is that there are plenty who’ve stuck with Electric Six for the long haul. They’ve been duly rewarded by an insanely productive band. I struggle to think of a time I’ve checked the listings over the past two decades without seeing the name crop up in between they’ve released and toured 14 studio albums since 2003’s Fire, and that’s not including the additional self-releases, compilations, or live recordings put out by the band. However, with a visit to Fire, things kick off, with the band dedicating album-closer Synthesizer to absent long-time keys player Tait Nucleus! who’s unable to make this tour. Valentine and the audience spend quite a bit of time intentionally awkwardly but politely waving to each other during the instrumental sections and it’s oddly touching.
Picking up the pace, the band tear into a 21-song set which spans 9 of their 15 studio albums. Absurdist lyrics set upon a foundation of rock’n’roll clichés are delivered sharply by the equally sharply dressed fivesome and remind us why Electric Six rode to fame by excelling at the art of attention-grabbing rock parody; “evil boys eating evil hamburgers, evil boys eating evil fries, this is an evil generation” sneers Valentine during Rock & Roll Evacuation, before Down at McDonaldz from 2007’s I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master gets hundreds of fists punching the sky as the crowd shout their part during a bit of classic call and respond. It’s of course the unmistakable openings of Gay Bar and Danger! High Voltage that is greeted with the biggest cheers of the night, but even so, their placement as bookends to the middle part of the set points to both a band and a crowd that believe there’s more to the back catalogue than a couple of mammoth hits. After the main set closer, Dance Commander comes the obligatory duck around the corner followed by a 3-song encore. Electric Six closes with After Hours, an upbeat bluesy hard-hitter with a heavy chorus taken from the seventh album Zodiac. It’s a well-appreciated 2-minute explosion of energy that has the crowd pummeling the floor with their best boots one final time. They probably won’t have to wait too long to do it again though, Electric Six describe themselves as “musical cockroaches at this point”
- ELECTRIC SIX
Dick Valentine – vocals
Johnny Na$hinal – lead guitar, backing vocals
Tait Nucleus? – keyboards, backing vocals
Da Vé – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Rob Lower – bass
Hyperkube Bonanza – drums, backing vocalselectricsix.com
REVIEW & PHOTOGRAPHY: ROB CARMIER