Thursday, 21 February 2008

Wavelength/Nemo/The Black Apples @ The Old Brown Jug. 20th Feb.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

The Old Brown Jug continues to supply first class entertainment and Wednesday evening's treble bill featuring Wavelength, Nemo and The Black Apples was no exception. This being only their third gig, Newcastle-based Wavelength played with real depth and plenty of raw power. I would guess that they found the face-to-face nature of the Brown Jug audience a little unnerving to begin with, but they soon got into their stride and despite appearing to get a little lost now and again, they played a cracking bunch of songs that put me in mind of a U2 crossed with Joy Division, although unfortunately lead singer and bassist Jon Mycock's vocals were barely audible throughout most of the set. Drummer Calum Forrester O'Neill worked very hard and played some exciting stuff; his hard rolling style driving the band along with real oomph on the more uptempo numbers, while Guitarists Chris Malkin and Jake McIntosh gelled well, bringing the set to a close with a crescendo that had the audience loudly proclaiming their approval. The fourth song on their playlist, 'October 6th', is available on their Myspace profile and gives a fair indication of this promising band's overall style. Another confidence-giving 3 or 4 gigs under their belt, and I'd say it'll be no time before they are a musical force to be reckoned with.

Having seen Nemo and the Black Apples only but a month ago, it was good to see them again with a little more familiarity with their songs lodged in the old cranium. Nemo are great fun to watch and have enough strong material in their repertoire to ensure that their act contains not one dull moment; although frontman Andy Harrison works very hard to that end anyway. Kicking off with 'Used', a great opening number conjuring up shades of legendary 70s rockers Dr Feelgood, they held the audience captive from the very first crotchet. Their neatly arranged pop/rock songs are well written and the punchy 'Desmond Says' has become a particular favourite of mine. Playing with consistent and sweat-laden dexterity, drummer Kramer Caldwell, guitarist Paul Hancock and bassist Lee Goodfellows' infectious enthusiasm rubs off very easily and the punters jostling to shake Andy's hand at the end bore good-natured testimony to that. Great stuff.

The Black Apples play authentic hard-edged blues with refreshing vitality. Some of these songs were written over 70 years ago, but the Apples make them sound just as fresh as if they were composed only yesterday. There are no flash guitar solos, or indeed any real intricacies of any kind, but this band play their simple, but dynamic arrangements with such grit there is really no need for such embellishments. In the main, pure blues bands can become a little monotonous due to the limitations of the standard blues 12 and 16 bar structures, but the shrewd inclusion of songs such as 'Hypnotise' with its jazzy 9th chords, breaks the set up enough to banish any such issues. The Kings of Leon floated into my head in places. Such was their reception, they returned to play two well-deserved encores. An appropriate end to a fine night.

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