Call me Russ L

Wolverhampton – that’s where it’s all happening

Posted in Books, Music, Stage by Russ L on 2 February, 2012

No, really. I’ve been to four events so far this year, and after this one they all took place in Wolfyhampton.

I made my bi-annual (that’s the “once every two years” one and not the “twice per year” one, isn’t it? I get confused) January trip to see Henry Rollins’ latest spoken word doo-dar on the 19th, at the Wulfrun Hall. All very funny and interesting, as ever, although I do think that this one was the least of three times I’ve seen him doing it. There seemed to be a touch more meanspiritedness than usual this time around, albeit nothing beyond the “aren’t people who say or do this thing that I dislike so styoooopid” that you get from 99% of all comedians (also: mocking people for buying cheap food presumably has fewer class-based implications in America than it does here, but it still does tend to reflexively put my back right up). Minor quibbles, anyway: I like his punk version of “Wicker’s World”. This time we heard tales of snake hunting and rat dinners in India, not being allowed to go anywhere on his own in North Korea, scaring the life out of Dennis Hopper etc.

I saw that Clutch were supporting The Current Version Of Thin Lizzy at The Civic Hall on the 27th, and in a fit of spontaneous general enthusiasm I bought a ticket. Qualms were subsequently had. Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott – it’s not proper, is it?

Triggerfinger were on first, anyway: a Dutch three-piece made up of a singer/guitarist who looks like he needs to be strapped down during a full moon, a bassist who looks as though he should be saying things like “I’m a big conshert promoter, shee”, and a drummer who was having a lovely old time hitting things with a huge smile on his face. Blues-rock with 80s-metal-style licks, which I moderately enjoyed in spite of it all being very much your typical type of thing. Either I’m getting soft in my old age or the drummer’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Clutch were on then, and I love Clutch. I do think they’re absolutely ace – with this they became the first foreign band that I’ve ever seen a double-figure number of times. I recently described them to someone else as “Intelligent hard rock… mostly just RRRRRRROCK but with some bluesy bits, some southern boogie bits, and some funny-time-signature bits. Punkier on the early stuff (that they rarely play nowadays), too. Often clever/amusing lyrics”, and whilst that may not exactly equate to coherent English it’s probably the best I’m going to be able to do right now. I was pleased to see that a lot of people seemed to know them and be pleased to see them at the start of the set and even more by the end, and of course “Cypress Grove” is always The Most Fun. Well, apart from “Escape From The Prison Planet”, obviously, but they didn’t play that. (Those two videos therelinked aren’t from this gig, clearly, but here’s a poorer-quality one of “Electric Worry” that was).

The Current Version of Thin Lizzy were… very tribute-band-y. You got moments of the multi-guitar magic of old, but mostly it just didn’t feel right. I don’t like to think of myself as an Ad Hominising Ad Hominista, more bothered about who they are than what they play, but I do think that there is more to music than just a mechanistic recreation of a series of notes. Other opinions are available, as your man on the radio says.

I went to The Arena Theatre on the 31st, and found myself goshdarnit shocked to note that they’d changed the seating since the last time I was there (I think. I found myself there pretty regularly at one point, but it’s been ages since then. I’m now wondering whether or not my initial memories were inaccurate).

Such (important, really) matters aside, this was for Blackeyed Theatre performing Steven Berkoff’s stage version of “The Trial” by Franz Kafka – a very stylised setting that in the first five minutes gave me the feeling that it was really going to get on my nerves, but I soon settled into and enjoyed. We had a set made of open wooden frames that functioned well in representing more-or-less anything (doors, windows, furniture, corridors, picture frames, you name it), and five actors (here – I’ve seen stills of it being performed with more), playing a load of parts each. Those not doing anything specific at any point formed a sort of sidewards Greek chorus, singing and doing sound effects. That was really effective.

I particularly liked the performances of Nadia Morgan (very sensual, and I hope I don’t sound too male-gaze-y in that but it does seem like the best way to describe things. It really fit well with the strange ciphers that the female characters of “The Trial” present, anyway) and Derek Elwood (switching forth between camp and stentorian on a sixpence), and I’d recommend the whole thing if you don’t hold that strange view (that many appear to, for some reason) that Kafka must be an extremely sombre business. This was the last immediately local performance, but it’s off and around the country up until the end of March.

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