Live Music + Gig Reviews

Venini @ Wag Club, London

2 October 1999



Imagine that you are on the set of a movie. Just for a moment, assume that the star is Mike Myers and that the costume department is ruled by a leggy lady with a cigarette holder who insists that everything must be early ’60s. Allow your imagination to wander off around the set. What do you suppose you’d find? An Austin Powers script? Well, you just might, for this is Blow Up and the “sassy and stylish” kids are out to party on a Saturday night. Northern Soul is energising the room in an inevitable manner and you just know resistance to be futile.

At the front of this bewildering environment is a bass drum, advertising a type of Italian glass. The kids don’t worry – Italian is chic. But what’s this?! A voice is heard – a compere! We should offer a round of applause to said Italian glass because it is about to come on stage!

End of set piece. At the front of the stage, I am quite certain, there were people for whom the appearance of Venini was tantamount to a minor earth tremor. One minute we’re all Northern Soul and the next we’re looking at a bloke with sunglasses and a guitar, facing one hundred and eighty degrees away from another bloke, this time with a bass and sans eyewear. Very haute, or something. Then comes the entrance that threatens to become a trade mark… on saunters Debbie Lime, complete with eyeliner and face paint from a silent movie, ready to corrupt the kids once again, and we’re away in St Tropez, and did you know that there were lots of discos in the South of France?

A quick scan of the room exposes myriad reactions. Nearby, a pile of flesh slouches, its mouth agape, its eyes fixed on Debbie, its expression saying more than its mouth can, asking Venini who the fuck they think they are and why are they here please. Next to it mosh three grogged-up indie kids, throwing each other around the floorspace to the apparent ignorance of Debbie, who stares at the point of the room just above the head of the tallest person in it. Then the trusty red camera appears and we know it’s time for Photograph… Ms Lime calmly flashes her implement at various audience members while Nick, the heavily made-up bassist, tonight sans choker (Debbies’ got one instead), is leaning up against a fragile-looking partition which bends to his weight. Shock! Horror! Off comes the guitarist’s eyewear to reveal what at least six people in the room knew to be true – underneath was indeed the trade mark psycho-stare of Russell Senior!

The tempo rose and fell from then, before Debbie treated Nick to some playful pawing and the band in its entirety treated onlookers to a song about a lorry which was so good we thought we’d reproduce a line here: “MON CAMION EST DANS LE JARDIN, IL FAIT CHAUD SUR LE SOLEIL DE TROP.” I’ve probably spelled the last bit wrongly, but I’m sure France will forgive. By this point the moshing indie kids had been set upon by a bouncer with a serious attitude, but nothing could stop this show.

If at the end people were bewildered or bemused then at least they weren’t scathing. Without encore off they went, Russell to put his real eyes back in, Debbie to take her mask off and Nick to be mistaken for Boy George once again. They’ll be back, they get better every time and, as if that weren’t enough, there are very few bands currently touring who can lay claim to a better guitarist than Mr Senior or a better bassist than Mr Eastwood, and there is NO other band quite so visually arresting as Venini.

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More on Venini
Venini @ Wag Club, London
Venini @ Reading Festival, Reading
Venini: “Any band with a bit of style and confidence just gets slagged off” – Interview
Venini @ Barfly, London