Monday 7 October 2013

The Fallen Leaves in Berlin

The Fallen Leaves in Berlin - Photo by Paul Slattery
A trip to Berlin to see The Fallen Leaves seemed like a mighty fine idea, I'd never been to the city before and something about the thought of the band and Berlin just seemed to click. So, I joined a healthy contingent of "away fans", including Rock Photographer Paul Slattery and The Transients and Onlookers bassist Mark Leech, and after a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours at the stunning Ramones Museum, we met up with various band friends and family at the excellent White Trash Bar and Restaurant. The White Trash is located on Schönhauser Allee in the Mitte district, the heart of the old East Berlin. The place itself is a slightly strange but atmospheric blend of Chinese restaurant, and Rock 'n' Roll Tiki Hut, complete with large tropical fish tanks and skeletons and T-Shirts dangling from the ceiling. The venue promises a free tattoo to anyone daring to have their skin etched with a design incorporating the restaurant logo, however despite polishing off a fair number of delicious Berliner Pilsners, I didn't go in for their generous offer.

The Fallen Leaves at White Trash - Photo by Paul Slattery
The band played two sets and so had the opportunity to dust down some old numbers that they don't usually play live such as "All That You Choose" and they also treated us to three new numbers - the excellent "Prodigal Son" and "All That Glitters" which fit seamlessly into the running order. They also play another new one "I'm A Man", which is probably the weaker of the three, although drummer William Lewington does put in a mighty fine stint to keep it from going off the rails. Cheered on, somewhat rowdily by their travelling support and picking up more enthusiastic locals along the way, the band put in a great performance with Rob Symmon's guitar bashing on "Shining" causing a spontaneous outbreak of air guitar posing amongst the crowd.

Bass, Matthew Karas - Photo by Paul Slattery
Drums, William Lewington - Photo by Paul Slattery
I really believe that Rob Symmons must be one of the most underrated guitarists to have emerged from the early British Punk scene, he was after all there at the very beginning with Vic Godard & Subway Sect, who were true originals. Now, the way he contorts and bashes his guitar around is one of the greatest sights and sounds in contemporary Rock 'n' Roll. You can see people in the crowd who are seeing the band for the first time, standing there with mouths agape at what they are witnessing. Keith Levene, Wilko Johnson, Mick Green - all naturally talented maverick guitar players and Rob Symmons should be up there amongst their esteemed company too.

Guitar, Rob Symmons - Photo by Paul Slattery
Vocals, Rob Green - Photo by Paul Slattery
Charismatic front-man Rob Green pulls up a chair to deliver a song in true Cabaret style as a tribute to Berlin and then delights the locals by having a very English tea-break in the middle of "Shining", it is pure cabaret in itself. Whether it's blowing smoke circles from his e-cigarette, or checking the pocket watch hanging from his checked Tweed jacket, his idiosyncratic performance is a masterclass in how to entertain and enthral an audience. The band are that perfect blend of individual characters that together have a real chemistry - the superb rhythm section of rough diamond drummer William Lewington and the suave, enigmatic bassist Matthew Karas are the solid foundation for the two Robs to do their thing. They make a glorious Garage Rock racket on classics such as "Trouble" and "Revenge" but also understand the importance of dynamics, especially on the slower bass driven tracks "I Made a Mistake" and "Seven Years". We also get treated to "Charity Girl", "My Phantoms", "Sylvie Says", "Is She Somewhere?", "Passing By" and "Against The Grain" along with two performances of "Happy Times" from their debut album "It's Too Late Now". So, all in all a great Leaves show and there were lots of happy smiling faces in the White Trash.

The Fallen Leaves - Photo by Paul Slattery
Here's a video of "Shining" from the White Trash gig, for more videos of this show and many more Fallen Leaves gigs then please check out the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel. You can also subscribe to the channel to keep up to date as we are adding new original videos all the time.

Don't forget our two very special episodes of Retrosonic Podcast, The Fallen Leaves Story Part 1: "Punk Rock For Gentlemen" and Part 2: "Simple Songs For Complex People", these can be downloaded for free from our Retrosonic Soundcloud site. They are packed full of music from The Fallen Leaves and their influences, and feature fascinating tales from Rob Symmon's time with Subway Sect to meeting up with Rob Green and right up to the present day.

The Fallen Leaves will be appearing as very special guests at The Len Price 3's new album launch party at The Half Moon Putney on October 25th. This promises to be a great night as we also have The Past Tense and an acoustic guest spot from The Travellers. Tickets are only £7 in advance from The Half Moon and can be purchased here.

The Fallen Leaves - Photo by Paul Slattery
Rob Green - Photo by Steve Worrall
With thanks to Paul Slattery. All photos copyright 2013 as credited. For more photos of The Fallen Leaves in Berlin, please head over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" for access to the exclusive photo album.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure that Rob Symmons would want to be compared with Keith Levine. His playing style is all about speed and attack-- you only have to watch him biting through his lower lip at the 12 Bar to see the aggro in his cords.The improvised solos, the scratching of the strings, the pinching, the ringing open E are very reminiscent of Syd Barret's Interstellar Overdrive-- the same spirit of originality and autism -- the missing link between Petula Clarke and Twink and Peter and Gordon