When the Detroit Cobras supported The Libertines last year they were pelted like thieves, with gross heckles of “pub rock” and “f*** off.” Pete Doherty didn’t render the same treatment, even after committing burglary and considering a hundred grand pay check to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.
That’s us Londoners. Can’t queue, let alone can’t walk down a street without thinking it’s a catwalk to cut up someone. And by God do we like to be frank with our views. Needless to say the same fickle fools will be lining the Electric Ballroom for the Cobras’ London stop.
Tonight, however, the folk of Nottingham are pleasantly soaking up those charming boys from the Sonic Reducer Tag Team, who have been spinning filthy garage rock and generally crazy tunes from their fortnightly London residency at the Boogaloo. The heaving floor is pockmarked with youth and age, and the obligatory Withnail and I caricatures.
The Cobras don’t look too enthusiastic when they eventually take the stage. Rachel Nagy looks as disinterested as she did at sound check. She looks like a girl who’s been told she isn’t allowed out tonight. Rolling her eyes and screwing her big lips as she rolls her tongue. Her arms are mechanised just as before: right hand Marley Lights, left hand bottle of Stella now replaced by mixer. Her posture is firm, as firm as her high cheekbones and stunning figure.
Nagy seems half irritated with the crowd for not dancing after a couple of songs: “Is this a warm-up?” she asks icily. “You dance, we’ll give it back to you,” she says, which encourages the hardcore element at the front to redouble their efforts.
Cha Cha Twist eventually stirs some activity from the conservatives among us. The acoustics are patchy and the Cobras do well to zip through the hour without hearing each other. Now and then Nagy lets her guard down, usually to fraternise with her bandmates. At one point she strikes a side profile and snaps a sharp “thanks” after one obscure number, before dropping back into her pout with the therapy of an exquisitely smoked cigarette and sip of her drink. Classic Audrey Hepburn.
Call it what you will, the Cobras’ hour of reinterpretation was impossible not to fall for. And the songs came thick and fast. One moment delicate pop (Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand), the next furious garage punk (Everybody’s Going Wild).
Much like their albums, the evening was over in a blitz. Rest assured, it won’t be long before they return having infiltrated the frequencies with the added impetus of a thicker spread, mass propaganda – and in recurring waves.