Sunday, February 13, 2005

Welcome (Back) To GB, GBs

The Gutter Brothers/Jo Cocker, The Borderline, London, Saturday February 12 2005.

Take a day trip down to London with Gis and the singer-songwriter Matthew Hill providing personal chauffeuring skills, to see The Gutter Brothers' reunion gig at The Borderline. With the others being slightly less blase about the capital city's charms we head to the original Hard Rock Cafe for a meal after meeting 'vocalist/lyricist for hire' and all-round Shockwave supremo Tim Dwyer and his lovely Norwegian girlfriend Monika in a pub called The Tottenham (nice surroundings, but piss-poor end product, as you'd expect).

Although Dead Kenny suspects that the lighting is so dim in the HRC so you couldn't see the prices, a tenner for a sirloin and chips seemed pretty good value in comparison the fiver he had to part with earlier in the day at the Roadchef in Watford Gap for cheese'n'crackers plus a pot of tea. He reckons he can get away with eating the garlic rye bread on which the steak sits as he's not planning on kissing anyone at The Gutter Brothers' gig (after all, those grey whiskers are a bit of turn-off).

We then get some free tickets to examine the 'vault' at the Hard Rock Store, where Matty strums on Hendrix's guitar (you'll be amazed how quickly this empties the place); Gis tries on Bob Dylan's hat for size (would be a great photo opportunity for him if only some idiot or other hasn't left his digital camera back in Finchley tube station's car park) while Dead Kenny examines John Lennon's broken glasses for bullet holes (they aren't the same ones he had on when he was shot, explains some bloke behind me: strange geezer, Mark Chapman I think he says his name is, looks like he hasn't seen fresh air for ages).

We then keep on pushing our love for skiffle on to the Borderline (a fine cavernous venue, if you haven't had the pleasure) where support is provided by an acoustic set from sometime-GBs collaborator Jo Cocker. 'I'm havin'a ball' Jo beams, 'are you havin' a ball, Ally?' she asks her guitar-strummin' companion. 'Er...yeah' shrugs Ally in one of the least convincing moments in rock 'n 'roll history. I try Jo Cocker with a little help from my friends and we find her guilty of providing more effort than inspiration. Seems a friendly enough girl, though, and the rest of the audience seem to like her.

Looking around said audience before the Gutters' come on, Dead Kenny decides he'd been a bit hasty with his tea-time garlic intake, as the expected forty-fifty-something blokes seem to have brought along all their nubile daughters to show them what they've been missing, creating something of a hormonal hotbed. The Gutter Brothers' history is too long and tortuous to go into here, but if you're interested in their backstory this is as good a place as any to start investigating. They're akin to Dr Feelgood fronted by Huey Lewis but to be fair they sound at least ten times better than that description may suggest. They offered a hybrid of rhythm'n'blues, skiffle and rock'n'roll from the mid-80s through to the mid-90s, yet despite an excellent and well-deserved live reputation their nearest brush with fame was an appearance on an Only Fools And Horses Xmas special. Sometimes, life can be cruel like that. The boys went their separate ways for a variety of reasons, but after reuniting for the funeral of founding member and tea-chest-bass legend Dennis Johnson, they have decided to do a few reunion gigs in his honour.

By the time they get on stage the Borderline is ram-packed with grey-haired blokes and posh totty, creating so much friction that there's allegedly a heated competition in the gents between the consumption levels of cocaine and viagra. By their own confession, the Gutters are wider of girth and lesser of hair since their pomp, will they be able to keep up? After a solid enough start receives a rapturous encouragement from the audience, the band seem to respond to the fact that the crowd are slowly but surely going beserk in their desire to have a good time rather than just stand and gawp for nostalgia's sake, and deliver a blistering set. The fathers-and-daughters theme seems to continue with the New Orleans-based lead singer bringing on two of his young offspring to provide violin and backing vocals respectively on 'Blown Away' and the set reaches its peak of delirium during 'Stand Up Little Jesus' which sees a mosh of near-comical intensity that's sure to see linament sales shoot up in the London and surrounding areas next morning.

After they leave the stage, The MC describes the Gutter Brothers as 'the best fuckin' rock'n'roll band the NME ever forgot' and in the aftermath of a fantastically entertaining evening it seems churlish to disagree.


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