It’s fast approaching midnight and the evening ispanning out to be remarkably civilized. musicOMH issipping Smirnoff Ice in the top floor bar of King’sCross Scala, having been invited, rather thoughtfully,to the aftershow party for Reverend And The Makers.
Also present, it turns out, are several of theaudience, who have been handed passes by the band’smanagement in exchange for some rather enthusiasticdancing during tonight’s exceptionally wonderful set.But that’s the kind of man Jon McClure, the SinisterMinister himself, seems to be: one who is asdetermined as possible to engage with, and remainengaged with, his audience.
This is a trait which may prove essential inkeeping up his image as a people’s poet, a JohnCooper Clarke for the 21st century. He hasdeclined the offered barrier between himself and theaudience tonight, enabling him to reach out and touchthem regularly; to put his microphone amidst them andto defiantly share a cigarette with them.
In between,he introduces most of his Madchester funk-tinged popfables with poetry readings, leaving us to wonder whatit is they put in the Sheffield water that breeds menas well suited to a career as a poet laureate as a pop lyricist. Even if youbelieve the conspiracy theories that it’s McClure who writes all the lyricsfor the Arctic Monkeys, you can’t use him to explain Jarvis aswell.
The band is more than just McClure, of course. A densely-packedseven-piece containing two drummers (one traditional kit, one on drummachine), two keyboardists, a guitarist and a bass player as well as McClurehimself, they make a spectacular wall of sound to backdrop his clever talesof urban life and unrequited love. Many of the songs are alreadyfamiliar: the recent single Heavyweight Champion ofthe World is offered up as the third song of thenight with confident abandon. No need to keep it tillast – there’s plenty more to come. Other nuggetsinclude the summer-anthem-in-waiting 18-30 and MissBrown but in truth all of it is wonderful.
The crowd dance from beginning to end, arms aloft -partly because the tiny venue is so packed there isbarely room to put them down, but equally because themusic and the sentiments are infectious. There are athousand parallels that can be drawn between McClureand his fellow Yorkshiremen of the Arctic Monkeys butnone of them dilute the strength of his set, leadingonly to a warm thankfulness that their meteoric risehas drawn him out of Sheffield in their wake.
At times he seems genuinely amazed that anyone thisfar from his home turf could be interested in what hehas to say. ‘We’re just a pop group from Sheffield’ heclaims with an honesty that would make you believe himif you hadn’t just stood through an hour of the magiche has to offer. The look on his face is akin to theone Alex Turner had, looking out over the crowd atGlastonbury. The crowd may be 1,000th of the size, butthe show they’ve just witnessed is every bit as good.
This might be the last chance to see McClure and coin such an intimate venue. Even without the aftershowparty thrown in, it was worth every minute.