Live Music + Gig Reviews

Black Box Recorder @ Underworld, London

3 April 2000

I can’t think of anyone else who has managed to get three record deals (with Hut, Chrysalis and Nude), always two concurrently, for the same band. Quite what Luke Haines thinks he’s up to remains a mystery. It is Haines, The Auteurs‘ lead vocalist, writer and guitarist, who sings backing vocals and plays guitar and writes in Black Box Recorder. The drummer, bassist and keyboardist for both bands are the same people. The Auteurs song The Rubettes featured Sarah Nixey and John Moore on backing vocals. In Black Box Recorder, Nixey is lead vocalist, Moore is backing vocalist and guitarist. In essence they are the same band. Amazing.

My admiration for The Black Box Recorder Auteurs was boosted yet further by an evening in Camden at which, despite an unspeakably loud bass and excruciating feedback from Haines, Black Box Recorder debuted new songs from the new album The Facts Of Life ahead of a new tour in the new month of May and reminded us that when they are good, they are very good.

The Underworld is a strange venue, with an offset stage and innumerable nooks and crannies, beneath the World’s End pub. One tiny staircase leads up from the main audience area to the bars and it was very crowded. To the strains of Elton John‘s Candle in the Wind 97 (yeuch!), on they came, Sarah sporting a tattoo and a sassy red dress for eager photographers, her hourglass figure slender and sultry. Her voice purred through an almost 50/50 mix of songs from the first and the new album, while Moore (surely Al Pacino’s younger brother), resplendent in a white suit almost identical to that worn by Haines, strummed a variety of guitars and offered backing vocals. The title track of the new album, on record sounding remarkably like All Saints or even TLC, sounded much more rootsy live. Perhaps this was something to do with the all-deafening bass offered by The Black Box Recorder Auteurs’ bassist, who moodily pouted out from behind extraordinary locks.

Child Psychology, Sex Life, Gift Horse and England Made Me were highlights, but the older songs sounded much more polished than the newer ones. French Rock’n’Roll may as well have been a sample for all its lyrical worth, but Haines seemed pleased with his fretwork, grinning at Moore like a dead naughty schoolboy who has just ripped the legs off a cat.

Overall, I wasn’t moved by all of this show, despite being partial to the band. It isn’t that the songs were bad; indeed as I’ve said some of them were good, but it just seemed average, particularly compared to other gigs I’ve seen Haines play. Maybe the songs will sound better on the album, out in May. Who knows, maybe Billie will make a guest appearance. Whatever. Maybe Haines will decide to rename the band Haines. It would be a little less confusing; but such an outcome would never be his intention.

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More on Black Box Recorder
Black Box Recorder @ Luminaire, London
Black Box Recorder @ Union Chapel, London
Black Box Recorder – The Facts Of Life
Black Box Recorder @ Underworld, London
Black Box Recorder @ Union Chapel, London