Monday, 8 July 2013

The Flamin' Groovies at The Scala Kings Cross July 02nd - Exclusive Paul Slattery Photographs

The Flamin' Goovies outside the Scala - Photo by Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies legendary 1971-80 line-up featuring Cyril Jordan, Chris Wilson, and George Alexander were back in the U.K. after more than 30 years, and they followed up their appearance at the Hard Rock Calling Festival with their very own headline show at the Scala Kings Cross on Tuesday. Along with Victor Penalosa on drums, and Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum on Hammond Organ, the band took the stage to a rapturous welcome from the crowd, which was a mix of die-hard Groovies fans who had waited a very long time to see a gig from the band on British soil again, and those who were there for the first time to see a genuinely influential and legendary band in action. They open with "Let Me Rock" and then it's into their famed cover of Freddy Cannon's raw Rockabilly classic "Tallahassee Lassie", which sees super-cool bassist George Alexander swinging his hips and grooving away as the crowd get warmed up and sing along. 

The Flamin' Groovies warm up backstage - Photo by Paul Slattery
The chiming guitar intro to "You Tore Me Down" showcases the great interplay between Cyril and Chris, and it's one of my highlights of the night, with it's Big Star style harmonies, it's a track that Teenage Fanclub would be proud to have written. But it's the next number, the Byrds' fantastic "Feel A Whole Lot Better", which probably points the way to the Flamin' Groovies heart best of all. The shared vocals and harmonies and the intricate guitar lines just seem to capture that late Sixties Californian vibe perfectly, and the smiles from band and audience alike light up the Scala.

George, Cyril, Victor and Chris - Photo by Paul Slattery
Chris handles most of the lead vocals and he cheerfully engages the crowd with a mix of jokes and banter delivered in a hybrid Scottish, Scouse and American accent. Cyril totters about on high-heeled Chelsea boots, spinning out some great riffs from his classic Plexiglass Dan Armstrong guitar. The rhythm section of new drummer Victor Penalosa and the aforementioned George Alexander on bass, keep things tight and danceable - and again I've got to single out George as he grooves and grins, it's a great performance. Matthew Fisher's Hammond was sometimes swamped, but when it soared out of the rather poor Scala sound mix, it added a wonderful texture to the storming Rhythm and Blues that The Groovies were treating us to.

Cyril and Chris shake some action - Photo by Paul Slattery
Another track that stood out for me was "I Can't Hide" from the "Shake Some Action" album, which I absolutely loved, but the set-list contained enough of a cross section of material to keep everyone happy. "Don't You Lie To Me" and "Married Woman" build things up nicely to their two bona-fide Rock 'n' Roll classics, and probably the two tracks that the crowd wanted to hear most of all, "Slow Death" and then the brilliant "Shake Some Action", which saw the crowd going wild. "Teenage Head" and "Roll Over Beethoven" prolonged the partying and the atmosphere was amazing, such a great gig, more of a celebration really, of one of the most enduring Cult Rock bands of all time.

The Flamin' Groovies - Photo by Paul Slattery
Rock Photographer and regular Retro Man Blog contributor Paul Slattery, was of course there right at the front of the stage to document The Flamin' Groovies performance. As you may have seen on the Blog already, Paul took photos of the band's Spring 1978 U.K tour and has already shared with us some rare and unseen photos of those times here. Paul was also invited along to the band's rehearsals and you can see some photographs of the session here. As Paul is such a big Groovies fan, I thought I'd like to leave the last words to him to sum up the occasion perfectly.

"To see these blokes getting together again after more than 30 years, being backstage with them and watching them play such a great gig was quite momentous for me - I was almost in tears down the front of the gig watching them do justice to their great songs. Matthew Fisher's Hammond organ was mind blowing too. That's how much it meant to me. Anyway, for me being a massive Groovies fan it was like being in heaven as I didn't really think I would ever see them again. But they still have it - for me it was a brilliant gig."

Cyril and Chris - Photo by Paul Slattery
As a young Rock Photographer, Paul Slattery spent time with the band at Rockfield Studios and on their U.K. Spring Tour of 1978 and took some excellent photos of the band on and off stage. You can hear Paul talking about the influence of The Flamin' Groovies on his fledgling Rock Photographer career in our Retrosonic Podcast special episode here.

The whole band - George, Victor, Cyril, Chris and Matthew by Paul Slattery
All Photographs copyright Paul Slattery. With many thanks to Paul, Audrey Faine, Barry Simons and Simon Balme. Check out the Flamin' Groovies Facebook page for news and updates.

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