As we get off the tube at Hammersmith we are besieged by a group of teenage girls. Not being used to this much attention, we can only assume that we’re in the same place as rock-star turned reality TV idol Preston and his non-celebrity mates/band.
Unfortunately for The Ordinary Boys, this lot (as well as some fairly miserable and bored looking touts) are trying to shift their tickets to anyone who has nothing better to do in west London on a Saturday afternoon. Combined with that fact that event sponsors Carling have decided to let anyone with a stub from today’s other gigs in for free – this was the only show of the entire 24 hour event that didn’t sell out in advance – and you have all the ingredients for a pretty ordinary afternoon.
Such is the force of the fickle public and their ability to make and break celebrity from day to day. Although The Ordinary Boys shifted a ridiculous amount of copies of their pretty average album Brassbound, and made significant inroads into the charts and hearts of Britons who enjoy their TV just a little bit too much, they’re struggling to keep the wagon rolling. Indeed, when Preston comes out to a half-empty Palais this afternoon he can only assume that it’s because we’re all tired after 16 hours of live music and that fact that it’s still only 3pm. It’s pretty nave, but maybe rightly so: they put on a performance that is stoical and at least up the standard of a band who have been together far longer than their front man and his current squeeze.
With The Ordinary Boys, it’s generally the case of what you see is what you get: the mod stylings and stage swagger of The Jam or The Clash comes through the music as well, chords as sharp as the clobber and the occasional brass section thrown in for good measure. Despite the lack of bodies in the venue, they do have an (Ordinary) army of loyal followers who do their best to turn this into more of an event and shake some life into anyone who is only here to check whether Preston was bluffing on Big Brother.
Maybe the lack of interest is due to the fact that the band really don’t have the material to take a place at the table of rock n’ roll superstardom. 9 to 5 (minus grime-ette Lady Sovereign unfortunately) shuffles along with the same kind of pedestrian grumbles as its subject matter, while Boys Will Be Boys, the surprise post-TV hit, just sounds a bit contrived even without the ridiculous rap section.
It’s really the older material which shows what the original fuss was around these guys, stirs the crowd into action and suggests that they have it in them to maintain the interest they have gathered. Week In Week Out resonates with a terrace style chorus and stop-start energy, while Talk Talk Talk, by far their best tune still sounds like the fresh antidote to boredom it claimed to be when they first emerged. They finish with crowd favourite Seaside, which gets the full sing-song treatment and is probably the closest The Ordinary Boys get to the sold-out hysteria they witnessed directly after Preston hit the big time.
It might be the case that the surge of popularity which lifted The Ordinary Boys up is just about ready to spit them back out again. Really, they must have been pretty surprised to go there in the first place. At best they are an average tribute to their obvious influences, at worst they seem almost laughably uninspired. Here’s hoping they get back to basics and manage to carry on riding the tide afforded them by the very same capricious public who stayed at home today.