Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Bees @ Astoria, London

7 March 2007

Summer arrived early at the Astoria thanks to the Bees, ignoring the chilly temperature outside to deliver a hugely enjoyable set of sunshine pop, liberally flavoured with blues, funk and mariachi.

The band’s music evokes the great outdoors in a way few British bands currently do, so that halfway through the set the urge to go out for a picnic in the park was almost irresistible – until reality set in once more.

That urge came about principally because of new single Who Cares What The Question Is, its carefree lines delivered by bassist and part time vocalist Aaron Fletcher, who also took the helm for Free The Bees, and its enjoyably macabre James Bond-like undertones.

Things didn’t start according to plan however, and what should have been an affirmative opening in Wash In The Rain was rhythmically found wanting, the band struggling to find their feet and seeming to play rather slowly. Once through that they settled however, helped greatly by the brass section that brought colour and depth to the music from there on.

One of the Bees’ most appealing features is their ability to play several instruments, a kind of sextet of one man bands. So it was that singer Paul Butler could be found at the keyboards one minute, drums the next – or regular keyboard player Tim Parkin could be seen graduating to trumpet.

What also came across at this gig was the variety and depth of songs the band now have at their disposal. The exuberant A Minha Menina was lapped up by the crowd, while the dubby, singalong new track Listening Man had the front rows bobbing.

The new material promises much. Likely second single Left Foot Stepdown was enjoyable, laidback semi-ska with nice touches of brass, while Love In The Harbour was even better, with a catchy set of hooks and some assured harmonica work from Parkin.

The air of bonhomie had now spread throughout the crowd, and their exultations for poultry remuneration were granted with the wonderfully silly Chicken Payback, silly dances and all. An affirming and hugely enjoyable evening in the company of six men and their brass section, who have a busy summer ahead of them. They should definitely be caught.

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The Bees @ Astoria, London
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