Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band – Union Chapel March 2014 review

michael head

It was kind of appropriate that the gig was in a church for Michael Head certainly attracts his fair share of devout believers. These are the faithful ones who remain fully convinced that Head and his cohorts in their various guises (Pale Fountains, Shack, Strands etc.) have consistently delivered the sparkling classic 60sish pop songs that the La’s and The Stone Roses never quite got round to.

Head keeps on giving too. An EP, which sneaked out at the tail end of last year, boasted several rather stellar tunes that highlighted that the man has been spinning Forever Changes rather a lot on his stereo recently – no bad thing.

Back to the night though and Paul Orwell had kicked off the evening with his acoustic tunes. Orwell is so much more than just perky mod pop. Got to love the fella’s enthusiasm and his tunes. Big thinks are expected. This is great.

Next up was Bill Ryder Jones, once of the Coral now established as solo artist. His album last year hovered somewhere between the confessional tales of Elliot Smith and the swooping orchestration mid period Bunnymen. To his credit, along with his drummer, he played a version of Ocean Rain that did the original justice but didn’t dwarf his own excellent compositions like He Took You In His Arms and There’s A World Between Us. A cheeky finale of a cover of Shack’s Neighbours went down rather well too.

I had been warned about the shambolic nature of some of previous Michael Head gigs, which at least one person described as being like The Brian Jonestown Massacre on bad night but without the fist fights. Nevertheless, the odd bit of tuning and banter apart he remained pretty focused throughout.

And the tunes – well the tracks from the recent EP sounded just fine especially the gorgeous waltz of Cadiz and the more strident Forever Changes style pop of Newby Street.

Although head plundered most parts of his back catalogue for me it was the tracks from the seminal Shack second album Waterpistol that worked for me. No one has written a better ba-ba-ba song than Neighbours and London was both poignant and uplifting. Flannery was wonderful and the Something Like you which featured Head with Ryder Jones on his accordion was strikingly beautiful. And how I wished those instrumental flourishes on Meant To Be, for me the stand out from the Here’s Tom album, were minutes longer.

By the end emotions were clearly running high. The love and respects for the congregation was almost overwhelming. Here’s hoping that Michael Head channels that devotion into yet another gem of an album.

There are lots of much better pics, and some great vids too, over at the Shacknet Facebook page.

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