The clock kept ticking, yet the night seemed to move painfully slow, akin to waiting in a dentist’s reception room. The crowd literally didn’t grow any more than a coach load full, and most of them were hogging the bar, ludicrously paying almost three quid for a pint. Yet as soon as the current ‘unsigned talk of the town’ took to the stage, everybody rushed fourth as though a major event was about to happen – and perhaps for them it did; the appearance of Liverpudlian support band Iconoclast.
Contrary to looking like a collection of scruffy on the dole misfits, any preconception of the Liverpool natives being an embarrassing bunch of wannabe rockers were dispelled as soon as the quintet hit the first note and delivered a very tight and professional half-hour set. The crowd was eager almost to the point of being ecstatic as the band played songs from their handful of demos, including their terrific current three-track piece This Way.
Then the night seemed to descend rapidly downhill like a speeding avalanche, both in terms of the atmosphere, which become almost somber, and the music, which became almost tiring.
The headliners were of course The Vinny Peculiar Band, now with recent inductees – the Mancunian, ex-Smiths members Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. The trio plan to release their first album together in early 2005 but I suspect most of this largely apathetic audience won’t rush straight out to the record stores, and perhaps only the few interested ones will download a copy for free.
When Vinny – the alias of Alan Wilkes – walked on to the tiny stage, what was left of the audience seemed disinterested, especially watching him deliver as an intro a pretentious monologue just worthy of a GCSE poetry assignment.
As the threesome were about to kick off the proceedings, the bass guitar decided not to work and Vinny naturally looked a little panicky, but then quickly and admirably averted to an impromptu acoustic song. When Andy Rourke and a couple of roadies loudly chatted amongst themselves figuring out what went wrong, they almost drowned out Vinny’s one man song. But as soon as he was finished, the bass was fixed and the set was back on track.
Ironically, all the memorable entertainment came from slightly drunk scousers – about half way through the gig Vinny mentioned that he likes playing to crowds who have been “blackened out” by the lights because he can imagine the size of his audience and not have to stress.
In typical scouse drawl, one heckler shouted “It’s choker ‘ere, Vinny lad, I can’t move!” and then later retorted to Vinny’s explanation about a bit of electrical feedback: “That’s the best feedback you’ll have ‘ere all night, Vinny lad”. For those familiar with the local dialect, it was a couple of classic one-liners.
The pompous banter in between songs and Vinny’s annoying stage gestures should not deter from that fact that he gains full marks for effort (though few for actually succeeding in winning over the bored crowd).
Despite initial troubles, the rhythm section was excellent throughout the night and a few songs like the brilliantly titled Jesus Stole My Girlfriend and their new single Man About the House were engaging.
Somewhere else The Vinny Peculiar Band may have been great, but here it was a famous case of wrong venue, wrong crowd, which makes me wonder why most of them were there in the first place. Perhaps they were on the guest list for local favourites Iconoclast, who, it has to be said, literally blew me away.