February 21, 1976
ON THE ROAD
By Dave Fudger
IT WAS a great shame to see such a well-remembered and talented bunch of musicians over-killed by an attempt to project them as one of the new breed of rock ‘n’ roll circus type bands by engulfing them in stage-show histrionics taken to excess.
|Leather-clad Mike Patto puts the boot in.|
I, and I’m sure many others, remember the lunacy and fine music perpetrated by Boxer’s Ollie Halsall and Mike Patto in their former exploits with Patto. This tradition is upheld with bassist Keith Ellis and drummer Tony Newman offering significant abilities in both directions.
The band’s stage threads went quite a long way in fulfilling the lunacy quotient. Patto sported a black satin Jumpsuit and boxer boots; a slightly plump Halsall appeared in basic black with the exception of a gold brocaded jacket. Ellis furthered the boxer Image in a fighter’s satin robe worn mini-kimono style over Jeans, and Newman was content to be the caveman of the group in leopard-skin leotard.
All this was so well and good, as was the music up to a point.
The first three numbers went well enough – ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Loony Ali’ from the band’s album ‘Below The Belt’ followed by a pleasantly intricate funk up of the Beatles’ ‘Hey Bulldog’ on which Patto played keyboards which emphasised the hole there had been in the sound with just the two guitars which was at times aggravated by Halsall’s tendency to play against and around the beat.
The instrumental sound was very good throughout but vocal clarity was sadly lacking on the more rumbustulous songs.
Things started to go wrong on ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ a song from the album that on record features one of Halsall’s most startling solos, unfortunately he cocked it up quite badly live, similarly on ‘California Calling’ and the band’s excellent single ‘All The Time in The World’ where Halsall had some lesser troubles with a clavinet.
After ‘Save Me’ and a Stamp Avery composition ‘Town Drunk’ the excesses started.
After a bunch of lengthy and at time tedious solos in ‘The Teacher’ during which Newman’s drum dias was raised some five-plus feet to reveal a banner featuring the nude from the band’s album cover, we were treated to multicoloured police-style beacons flashing from virtually every piece of sound equipment and along with a painful degeneration of sound quality two smoke-spewing silver ‘serpents’ were unleashed bracketing the stage.
The overall effect of these gimmicks was to cheapen and detract from the quality of the performance rather than enhance it.
I didn’t stay for the encore and as I was leaving I wondered whether it had been a big parody of regular rock concerts by Virgin Records.
An encounter with S. Pokesperson from said company later assured me it was in fact attributable to the band’s management.
Anyway my disappointment had been made up for somewhat in advance by the support act – Brand X, a band centred around Genesis drummer Phil Collins featuring percussionist Preston Heyman, Percy Jones on bass guitar, John Goodsall on guitar and Rob Lumley playing keyboards
They play very high standard jazz/rock comparable to Soft Machine and even Weather Report. I recommend them very highly indeed and apparently they have an album in the can just waiting for a release deal.
If the new four-piece Genesis doesn’t work out it would make very
good sense for Mr. Collins to keep this little combo together. – Dave
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