HW/OFF: Litmus + Arthur Brown, Camden Underworld, 3rd September

Colin J Allen colin at CALLEN18.FREESERVE.CO.UK
Tue Oct 19 06:23:42 EDT 2004


A great review of a great night.

However, just to be pedantic, a few corrections:).

For Litmus, Matt was not there; the long haired electronics/keyboards man is
Andy.  The on-stage problems came about because they did not get a
soundcheck and there were also major problems with the monitors:(.

For Arthur's band, the two guitarists were Nick Pynn and Chris Bryant; Nick
being the one with dulcimer, violin etc. while Chris played Arthur's foot
drums.  Lucie Rejchtrova is, I believe, from the Czech Republic not Russia.

Hope to see you at the Standard on November 5th:).

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jon Jarrett" <jjarrett at CHIARK.GREENEND.ORG.UK>
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 9:33 AM
Subject: HW/OFF: Litmus + Arthur Brown, Camden Underworld, 3rd September

>         Dear All,
>                   forgive me for this late and sketchy review, but I had
> assumed till just recently that I'd reviewed it elsewhere and this turns
> out not be so.
>         Briefly, a great gig with lots of fun had by all. I arrived only
> just in time to get a beer before Litmus took the stage. They courageously
> opened the set with a new song, though I thought a new listener wouldn't
> have known. Apparently things didn't seem quite so rosy from the stage,
> but the second one, also new, though it did seem to come dangerously loose
> during its early stages when guitar and bass had to go through three
> iterations of their complex riffs before they were finally in step, seemed
> to present the band with an opportunity to laugh at the clumsiness and
> recovery from it rather than a horrible failure. It looked and felt as if
> they were having fun pushing the limits of their competence. And the quite
> fantastic lights made everything experimental seem more worthwhile anyway.
>         I didn't write a set-list so at some point I'll get this wrong; I
> think they now opted for the safer ground of `Infinity Drive' followed by
> `Dreams of Space', both of which were full-on. I got stuck into a moshing
> loop during the break of the latter, I was damned if I was going to give
> up before they were. It was very intense and tight. But even then, secure
> for a bit, they branched out into new stuff again, and we got (I think
> these occurred here) two more new ones. I don't remember too much about
> the former, though I thought at the time that it was very much more
> together than the second one of the set. Martin did tell me the name of
> the latter after the set, but I've forgotten it; it was definitely the one
> that blew me away most. An evil bassline--if this long track was in space,
> which it definitely was, Willie Dixon flung it there by main force--and a
> fantastic break are what I mostly remember about it; guitar and bass
> carrying on in the same time signature but without reference to each
> other, like Beefheart having half of his band in a different room,
> irresistibly unscrewing the top of the listener's head. Simon and Martin
> looking out at different sections of the crowd, you could have
> photographed them and superimposed a spaceship cockpit's glazing for the
> next album cover, two spacemen staring out at the void while Matt and
> Anton tune banks of electronics in the background and somewhere behind
> them almost invisible but evident by the sheer noise of him, Marek shovels
> coal into the rhythm section.
>         Anyway. Too metaphorical perhaps but it very much impressed me,
> and the number wound down in a very stoner coda and they gave us a few
> seconds break with `Rays of Sonic Light' before going into `Sonic Light'
> itself and finally closing with `Twinstar'. It was all very good. Some
> might say the first two numbers were a bit too risky, but it was a risk I
> was glad they took.
>         Arthur Brown also managed to be unexpected. Although he did take
> the stage in the same way as I last saw him doing for one of his own
> performances, that is, in a big black overcoat, carrying a lantern and a
> staff with a black stocking entirely obscuring his face, he didn't open
> with the same number (which was a pity in a way because that was `Hard
> Rain Gonna Fall' and he didn't do it at all). He opened with a new one, I
> think, it must have been fairly recent because it mentioned crack, anal
> sex and the Gulf War, all of which are apparently things he thinks part of
> the collapse of worthwhile civilisation. It also included the lines:
>                 Give me back the Berlin Wall
>                 Give me Stalin and Saint Paul
>                 I've seen the future
>                 And it's *murder*
> which, I don't know about you but when someone like Arthur Brown tells me
> in his most sepulchral voice that the world's finished, good's dead and
> from here it can only get worse, which was the general import of things, I
> wonder what he knows that I don't... He rapidly had the crowd's attention
> anyway.
>         Can't remember everything else he did; we got, as well as a clutch
> of things I didn't know, `I Put a Spell on You', `That's How Strong My
> Love Is', `Fire Poem' & `Fire' of course and without half as much of the
> clowning about whether he's going to do it or not to which I've got used,
> and particularly notable, a really strong version of `Time Captives', a
> song which I was never impressed by when Hawkwind did it. Somehow, with a
> three-piece band all wearing (for this number only) what appeared to be
> upturned halves of medicine-ball sized spheres on their heads adorned with
> LEDs, and Arthur standing stock still with glowing raver-type mini disco
> balls on handles in each hand, the number acquired a solemnity a full band
> in a big venue couldn't have given it.
>         The band worth a mention: most of the work, on guitar, dulcimer,
> and at least one other instrument I now forget (I really should have
> written this up sooner) along with a pedal bass organ set-up, a very able
> chap whose name I cannot now discover (<http://www.godofhellfire.co.uk>
> being rather behind the times sad to tell), and on the other side a
> guitarist who was rather less stable, but freaked high as well as low, by
> which I mean that his solos were generally excellent after about forty
> seconds work to get into it. A lot of backchat between him and Brown, and
> one or two spots of duelling acoustics (yes, no electric really here,
> except during `Fire' and a couple of other numbers which followed),
> everyone seemingly not quite sure what they were doing but willing to
> throw everything they in and see what came out. They knew the songs well
> enough, just not how they'd be this time... The whole set-up also led to a
> very top-end show. The focus was Brown's voice of course, but for someone
> who once put together the Kingdom Come stuff and complained how
> ordinary drummers couldn't cope with what they wanted you'd think the
> terribly terribly sparse and basic rhythm section that the bass pedals and
> (on one song only) a foot-board gave would be insufficient. The main
> I didn't wind up buying the live CD-R of this band that was on sale was
> that I could imagine how on a stereo this would all sound terribly empty
> and dull without the spirit of the performance to animate it. But with it,
> while you were there, it was all forgivable because it was after all
> Arthur Brown live.
>         Brown himself was in fine and unpredictable form, his voice as
> ever fantastic but also his stage banter. At one point he idly paused a
> minute to flick some fluff or something from his belly, and looking up at
> the crowd as if surprised to find them watching him, solemnly intoned,"My
> belly-button's better than your belly-button". Some wag in the crowd
> presumably shouted, "Want to bet on it?" because Brown replied "Yes,
> actually, I would like to bet on it. I've rubbed it with coconut
> oil,", making with the appropriate actions, "I've warmed it slightly over
> the stove, and I've had it licked by sixteen Vestal Virgins before coming
> on stage... *Some* of them were *girls*!" He didn't get heckled much after
> that, which is almost a shame given the quality of response.
>         Also, because I haven't mentioned her yet, a blonde Russian girl
> playing Hammond for `Fire' and a few following numbers. She was quite good
> I suppose, but mostly she won points for being attired in flowing
> hippy-chick clothes and dancing a great deal like a Bond girl behind the
> organ. What with her dress, dance style and the lights, it was all
> dangerously Austin Powers but thankfully the rest of the band made it
> rather more serious than that. Apparently she's part of Instant Flight
> whom Brown sometimes uses as backing band.
>         Last number beat them all, after she'd gone off stage again, being
> a huge blues medley. I couldn't tell you all the songs that were in there,
> I didn't know them all for a start, but at least (I think?) `Hoochie
> Coochie Man' (might be making that one up actually), `Spoonful' and, what
> surprised me most, U2's `Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', which
> he probably gave more time than any of the others and which he did very
> well. Having seen U2 do it twice at the old Wembley Stadium I wouldn't
> like to say it was the best version I've seen but it was good to see that
> Brown presumably thought it worth including along with the other
> classics. The whole medley went on for a good ten minutes, anyway, and if
> we'd needed reminding that Arthur Brown can sing the blues, we knew it
> now.
>         There was no encore, because of a club afterwards I think, though
> the clearing-out was still fairly leisurely. I was skint so I didn't buy
> either the 1997 `Vampire Love' single or a new live CD-R of this band
> which probably would have been worth it had I been richer. I was
> interested to see both, plus also the _Brown Black and Blue_ album which I
> thought long unavailable. I hope he keeps going long enough for me to
> come back into funds, anyway. He shows *no* signs of stopping.
> --
>                 Jonathan Jarrett, Birkbeck College, London
>     jjarrett at chiark.greenend.org.uk/ejarr01 at students.bbk.ac.uk
>   "As much as the vision of the blind man improves with the rising sun,
>        So too does the intelligence of the fool after good advice."
>        (Bishop Theodulf of Orleans, late-eight/early-ninth century)

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