There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. This will be a rare occasion when former King Blues band members will be on the same stage. Will there be a reunion? The bands line up looks like it’ll be ending a little early. Could there be a special encore on the cards?
Firstly though we have the business of the bands on the bill. Polar Zu are up first and they are very much what I would call an everyman band. They sing about real, relatable situations in a way that you don’t need to listen to the lyrics twice to be able to understand what they’re saying. They set the tone of the night by coming on with an effortless swagger, exuding a confidence that – despite their inexperience – gives them the presence of a far bigger band. They are also the mid point between iTCH’s East London working class rap and Bleach Blood’s dreamy guitars. As an introduction to the show you couldn’t have asked for anything more appropriate.
Bleach Blood need to start getting on bigger stages. These small ones can barely contain front man Jamie Jazz. This band does not stop. The energy with which they play and sing displays a belief in their music and an honesty in the emotion they portray. Aside from a couple of technical hitches – feedback was a problem throughout – the set was tight and constructively chaotic, just as a Bleach Blood gig should be.
Astroid Boys hit next and were a great change of pace from the electric melodies and ethereal choruses of the previous band. With a greater level of aggression and old school British rap, they are also the better act to lead into iTCH himself. As a hip-hop act from Cardiff – and making no attempt to hide that fact or make a GLC style joke about it – they certainly made an impression, especially with their sincerity. That one of their number is currently in prison only adds to their authenticity. Their music is also striking, with a dubstep jab leading into the rap hook.
iTCH himself was the most maverick of the lot. Entering the stage wearing a suit with creases you could cut your fingers on and flanked by a dude wearing a latex baby’s head. As an act their presence was the smallest, but by far they were the most magnetic. iTCH’s on stage and off stage antics created a side show with varying results. Getting into the middle of the crowd, making them form a circle – like his old days making rhymes in the school yard – was both humbling and endearing. It created a greater sense of intimacy and strengthened the connection between him and his hometown fans. Getting on tables and chairs, standing on the bar, wiping out people’s drinks and almost breaking his ankle doing it, worked less well. What’s worse is that instead of enhancing the music, it distracted from it. He soon toned down the physicality though and just let the excellent hip hop beats vibrate through the crowd. It was an excellent set and could have been a great finish worth the ticket price alone.
But there was the elephant in the room and it was about to announce itself. The pieces were all there and in an instant they snapped into place. The King Blues hit and the place exploded. All the music tonight was relatively new. People were to there to show support for original music and emerging artists. But the reaction the King Blues got went beyond excitement for new ideas. They got cheers and jubilations, the kind you just can’t get for unknown quantities; this is the kind of enthusiasm you only get from nostalgia, from listening to music you feared you’d never hear live again. Take me for example, the bastion of journalistic integrity throughout, as soon as they played Headbutt I flipped my lid. I rushed the front of the crowd and let myself go in a way most certainly unbecoming of a professional reviewer.
It was short at only three songs, but as two of them came from my favourite King Blues album – one I never heard much of live – I didn’t mind the brevity. This was a celebratory moment that united the crowd in euphoric chorus. It’s one you might not have the chance to witness again too often but at least from what I saw tonight, the future of the former band members is an exciting one full of promise and possibility.