Friday 17 May 2024

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Live at EartH Hackney with Keyside

I make no apologies for yet another glowing feature on Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band and before you ask, no I don't work for their PR department. My only worry is that I am in danger of constantly repeating myself in banging on and on about just how vitally important Mick is as one of our generation's greatest ever songwriters and live performers. He's on tour to promote the new album "Loophole" which promises to build on the huge success of the stunning "Dear Scott" - an album that finally garnered Mick the acclaim he has so rightly deserved over the years and it's also nice that we don't have to keep referring to him as "underrated" anymore. Tonight's set is made up mainly of songs from "Loophole" and it's a bit of a shame that the album's release was delayed - not only because copies weren't available for sale during the tour, especially at the record store appearances/signings - but also because we couldn't familiarise with the new material properly, other than the tracks that have been released as on-line singles or from hearing them played at previous gigs. 


Of the new songs, my favourites are "Shirl's Ghost", the instrumental version of which teased us at the end of "Dear Scott" and the unashamedly romantic "You Smiled At Me", a sunny Burt Bacarach Bossa Nova-tinged jaunt. Mick explains it was inspired by the real-life stories found in the Metro newspaper of passenger's chance, often unrequited romantic encounters on public transport. It's a future classic that's for sure. I also love "Human Race" as it cranks up the volume and tempo and "Ciao Ciao Bambino", which is a Love (the band) inspired masterpiece. These news songs all promise that "Loophole" is going to give "Dear Scott" a run for its money. Of course, we get a fair chunk of the last album too including superb versions of "Gino and Rico", "Kismet" and "Pretty Child" and a sublime "Broken Beauty" with Mick telling us how it was co-written by daughter Allie who unfortunately couldn't be at the show. However,  we did witness her taking the stage for the very first time in Tokyo last year to add backing vocals to the truly beautiful song - it was certainly emotional and you can see a video of it at our YouTube channel here. From the Shack years we are treated to superb versions of "Strangers", "Comedy" and the crowd favourite "Meant To Be" but it's the brooding Psychedelia of "Streets of Kenny" that blows everyone's minds tonight. 


Of course, I'm a huge Shack fan but with the core of musicians Mick has assembled around him - guitarist Nathaniel Laurence, bassist Tom Powell, drummer Phil Murphy and the one-man brass section (and enthusiastic dancer) Martin Smith - The Red Elastic Band more than make up for the fact that with the sad and untimely passing of drummer Iain 'Tempo' Templeton it's highly unlikely that Mick would try and re-form Shack anytime in the near future. However, talking of which, another of tonight's highlights (yes, there are more...) sees Shack bassist Pete Wilkinson taking a break from his own musical project Aviator, and indeed his birthday celebrations, to take the stage for the wonderful "Merry-Go-Round". 


Mick wishes his friend and former colleague happy birthday and explains how he was staying in Pete's flat about 15 years ago, when he heard Pete playing around with a guitar riff that caught his attention and they ending up co-writing "Merry-Go-Round" and after all these years, it's finally made it onto an album. It's a superb song, built around a hypnotic, circular guitar riff that really tugs at the heartstrings. Another transcendental night of music in the company of Mick and The Red Elastic Band draws to a close with a raucous encore of Love's "A House Is Not A Motel" and that's it, sadly it's all over until the next time I get chance to write yet another glowing feature. 


I must also mention the fantastic Keyside, fellow Liverpudlians specially picked by Mick for their very first London show. They were one of those well chosen and well suited acts that really set the crowd up nicely for the main act to follow, similar to Karma Sheen supporting Elephant Stone last week. Frontman Daniel Parker reminded me of (a young) Neil Finn...well, from a distance and without my glasses...and Keyside certainly have Crowded House's unabashed pop sensibilities. Daniel sounds like a cross between Lee Mavers and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys as he bounces around the stage with a huge grin, his good humour and obvious delight at playing such a big venue is as infectious as Keyside's perfectly formed songs and they get a really warm reception from the crowd. 

I don't know what it is about the Merseyside musical conveyor belt that constantly produces so many interesting melodic bands and although their songs are rooted in the classic Liverpool sound, excellent guitarist Ben Cassidy takes the occasional detour to Manchester for his crystal clear guitar riffs, reminiscent of Johnny Marr. I have to mention the impressive rhythm section of drummer Oisin McAvoy and bassist Max Gibson too and there's a nice chemistry apparent between all four members. Of course they undoubtedly have influences from lots of young and contemporary bands that an old git like me has never heard of, but I can pick up strains of Cast and The Coral at their most melodic, think "In The Morning" and "Jacqueline" rather than their Captain Beefheart and Psychedelic side. Keyside's songs are instantly memorable - "Angeline", "Paris To Marseille", "Nikita" and in particular a new song which I think is called "I Can't Get Enough", will stick with you for days to follow and I'm eager to find out more about this very promising young band.


Check out our archive for loads more Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band related features, photos and videos including our special report on their stunning and emotional Tokyo show last year. There are also lots of Mick-related live videos at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here, subscribe for free to access. I must also say that it was great to meet up with Red Elastic Band bassist Tom Powell again for the first time since our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast about his stunning side project and their self-titled debut, which was our favourite Album of 2023. You can check out the Episode at Spotify or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

Mick's daughter Allie had her debut novel "Between It All" published to critical acclaim and it's been making its way to major bookshops too but you can order online too. In more news, John Johnson, the photographer responsible for the superb photos on the covers of "Dear Scott" and "Adiós Señor Pussycat", also has a photo-book of Liverpool nightlife, "In Concert" out now, for more info please check out John's web-site herePlease click on the highlighted links throughout the feature for more information. All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog 2024.

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