It’s approximately 8:30pm. The house lights are wavering and there’s a growing feeling of tense excitement in the venue. Spent in the company of various bands from Britpop’s peak, the Star Shaped Festival has already provided a very enjoyable afternoon, but there’s also been a definite feeling throughout most of the day that a reformed Sleeper are the biggest draw, so perhaps this tense and nervous feeling is more than justified. There’s a lot riding on their return and this next hour.
It’s Friday night in Ramsgate. In the harbour, people are going about their usual Friday night business, drinking Belgian beers and eating tapas. On the other side of town, at the Ramsgate Music Hall, something far more unexpected is about to happen. Tommy Stinson is about to take the stage with his band Bash & Pop. For those still unaware, Tommy is a cult hero, possibly even a legend. Between the early 80s and 90s, he played bass with The Replacements, a garage rock/punk band who gained a devoted following and became influential to a future generation of musicians. He’s been a member of both Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses. In between those musical ventures, he’s put out a couple of great solo records and two releases with a largely overlooked band, the ironically named Perfect.
It’s been a busy week for Dearly Beloved. They’ve made the long haul trip from Toronto to the UK to play a handful of shows with Tommy Stinson‘s Bash & Pop. Earlier in 2017 they released their fourth full length ‘Admission’ – an excellent record, made with Ramones/White Zombie/Misfits producer Daniel Rey – and while they don’t have the biggest audience in Britain, apparently, at last night’s London gig “they absolutely killed it”. Given such enthusiasm for their live current show, any opportunity to catch them live should be taken and this final night of the UK visit provides an excellent opportunity to see them working in a more intimate environment. Much more intimate.
The Islington Assembly Hall always feels like a venue of two moods. The stage and balcony areas have a feeling of old theatre about them, much like the Empire at Shepherd’s Bush and fitting for a Grade II listed building. In other respects, visiting other parts the venue feels like stepping into a parochial town hall, albeit a rather large one. It’s easy to imagine a large table set up on a weekday afternoon with a man banging a little gavel, making announcements about Mrs. Jones’s award winning marmalade before alerting the neighbourhood watch team to a potential catastrophe regarding a missing moggie. On this evening, that feeling isn’t quite as strong as when Snakecharmer took the Assembly Hall’s stage in 2013, and even less so as the house lights dim.
The Royal Festival Hall in London is one of those buildings that splits opinion. For some, it’s an amazing piece of 70s architecture, a lasting snapshot from a time when things looked yellow and brown…and different; for others, its mess of passageways and stairs around every corner gives the feeling of being stuck in an Escher painting. The performance area is great for the “serious” music event, the classical performance or world music extravaganza; for the rock or pop audience, it’s a space that never quite reaches its full potential, with people dancing in a restrained way in front of their fold up seats. Nevertheless, it’s here that Deacon Blue have returned after selling out the venue two years previously.