It’s fast approaching midnight and the evening is panning out to be remarkably civilized. We are sipping Smirnoff Ice in the top floor bar of King’s Cross Scala, having been invited, rather thoughtfully, to the aftershow party for Reverend And The Makers.
Also present, it turns out, are several of the audience, who have been handed passes by the band’s management in exchange for some rather enthusiastic dancing during tonight’s exceptionally wonderful set. But that’s the kind of man Jon McClure, the Sinister Minister himself, seems to be: one who is as determined as possible to engage with, and remain engaged with, his audience.
This is a trait which may prove essential in keeping up his image as a people’s poet, a John Cooper Clarke for the 21st century. He has declined the offered barrier between himself and the audience tonight, enabling him to reach out and touch them regularly; to put his microphone amidst them and to defiantly share a cigarette with them.
In between, he introduces most of his Madchester funk-tinged pop fables 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 you believe the conspiracy theories that it’s McClure who writes all the lyrics for the Arctic Monkeys, you can’t use him to explain Jarvis aswell.
The band is more than just McClure, of course. A densely-packed seven-piece containing two drummers (one traditional kit, one on drum machine), two keyboardists, a guitarist and a bass player as well as McClure himself, they make a spectacular wall of sound to backdrop his clever tales of urban life and unrequited love. Many of the songs are already familiar: the recent single Heavyweight Champion Of The World is offered up as the third song of the night with confident abandon. No need to keep it till last – there’s plenty more to come. Other nuggets include the summer-anthem-in-waiting 18-30 and Miss Brown 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 is barely room to put them down, but equally because the music and the sentiments are infectious. There are a thousand parallels that can be drawn between McClure and his fellow Yorkshiremen of the Arctic Monkeys but none of them dilute the strength of his set, leading only to a warm thankfulness that their meteoric risehas drawn him out of Sheffield in their wake.
At times he seems genuinely amazed that anyone this far from his home turf could be interested in what he has to say. “We’re just a pop group from Sheffield,” he claims with an honesty that would make you believe him if you hadn’t just stood through an hour of the magic he has to offer. The look on his face is akin to the one Alex Turner had, looking out over the crowd at Glastonbury. The crowd may be 1,000th of the size, but the 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 aftershow party thrown in, it was worth every minute.