18 June 2011

Arthur Brown at QEH

Arthur Brown needs to get out more. A lot more.

I saw him several times in 2007 in various locations including a Town Hall and a cafe.

I then had to wait until late 2009 to see him again, this time supporting Hawkwind at the Shepherd's Bush Empire.

And then it's another long wait until he pops up again at Ray Davies' Meltdown at the South Bank Centre.

But first there was the support act, the Legendary Pink Dots.

Whatever I was expecting from the Legendary Pink Dots they were something else! Their MySpace describes them as Alternative / Experimental / Psychedelic, which seems reasonable. They sounded a little like Vulgar Unicorn to me, but that probably does not help you much!

[A bit of research there suggests that Vulgar Unicorn's Under the Umbrella CD is worth $100. See you on eBay later.]

The Legendary Pink Dots were appreciably weird, melodic and captivating. They had some problems deciding how and when to end songs but getting there was a suitably long and pleasant journey. I did not even mind that the lyrics included words like sanctuary and crystal.

I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Arthur Brown and was far from disappointed.

He made his trademark entrance with his face masked with black cloth but instead of emerging from the back of the stage he walked slowly and majestically through the audience.

There was no staff though and no Hard Rain.

But we did get a string of favourites including All the Bells, Devil's Grip, Kites, I put a Spell on You and, of course, Fire. All delivered with Arthur's distinctive and powerful voice.

Helping him a long was an eclectic band of musicians that Arthur had collected over the years. They were all good but a special mention goes to Lucie Rejchrtova, formerly of Instant Flight, because she provided most of the musical lead. It helps that she's Czech too.

The band were carefully arranged in a semi-circle around Arthur leaving him space to leap and cavort, as he does. Constantly.

Also filling that space for some of the songs were two dancers, including the Fabulous Ms Angel who is normally seen with Space Ritual.

And then there was Z-Star providing contrasting, but equally powerful, female vocals to some songs.

And a trumpeter. And a guest guitarist. That made ten people on stage at times.

This mixture worked fabulously and all the performers oozed ability, confidence and, above all else, fun.

The only low point of the evening was when the set drew to a prompt close at 10pm but this was quickly followed by another high point when the encores went on for half an hour, including an extra song not included in the set list.

Everything about this performance was just right. The choice of songs, the playing, the presentation and the exuberance on stage. This was a special concert that had us all standing, clapping and cheering at the end.

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