“Listen to the voices” was probably “What You Waiting For“.
“Listen to the voices” was probably “What You Waiting For“.
THIS WAS one double bill I Just had to see. I mean rock is so hard to find these days and there are good concerts every week but this had to be the one. And it was in enough ways to send 3,000 people home happy. May I say that again. Happy. Because everyone on stage and in the audience seemed to concur that playing and listening to music was just about the most enjoyable part of life (bar one). Which Is why when the AWB took an encore for their 25- minute version of ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ which gradually drew most of Kokomo on stage for a jam which no-one ever wanted to end as Hamish Stuart yelled and screamed falsetto improvisations just mad to see what ultra-together, been-rehearsing-it-for-years responses Frank Collins and Dyan Birch would come up with next.
So that was the Average White Kokomo Big Band. Earlier on we had been pleased to join Kokomo and the Entire Audience Percussion Section. This was a segment of their epic version of Aretha’s one-line chant ‘I love you babe with everything I feel In me’.
Frankie stepped out to the end of the catwalk to tell the girls to step this way over the funky rhythm section, a natty disco double beat, and when that was in motion he got the boys laying another pattern across it. Easy it was not, achieved it was, result was that our counter-rhythms became a genuine part of the music, we were throwing our hearts and bodies into participating in the music and everyone felt good. May nobody ever say “You can clap your hands to this If you want” to me again.
Kokomo’s playing was simply up to their usual immaculate standard but I’ve never seen them so full of confidence and not just belief but in-the-bone knowledge that they are superb.
Well, the Average Whites were In a kind of follow-that situation but that was inevitable when they let Kokomo on the tour.
I don’t think they are quite as good as Kokomo (for Instance In their limited ability to improvise vocally and Instrumentally – excepting Duncan and Ball) but they are excellent and I shall be eternally grateful for side one of the ‘AWB’ album. Star turns from It here were “Person To Person”, Hamish’s vocal emphasising the exotic and erotic, and ‘Work To Do’, which came on big and beautiful, swinging fit to cause Count Basic a slow smile, and patently switching between wild screams and tight harmony chants. Of two upcoming album numbers they played ‘Goin’ Home’ was an average piece of cake and “I’m The One That Wants You” a hot addition to their set with the vocals taking acute and perverse lines over punchy brass riffs.
They were very good and they particularly surprised me with their tenderness in their ballads “Cloudy” and “If I ever lose this heaven” A funky good time was had by all. Now girls, you clap this, right, and boys….
PHIL SUTCLIFFE Sounds
After their highly charged show at the New Victoria Theatre last Thursday (which constituted their only London gig on their recent tour) I was very surprised to see that the critics from the rock music press had not taken this opportunity to re-elevate Kokomo to a position of respect. But no – there sometimes really does appear to be a conspiracy of silence against the band which began around the time of the Naughty Rhythms Tour which they did with Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers and Doctor Feelgood when there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary mud-slinging in some quarters.
Only one major paper to my certain knowledge has come clean with Kokomo and deigned to print their name in black and white and that is the excellent and promising Streetlife fortnightly who’ve come up with a thumbs up for the band. As it was the band played a high energy set that is sure to have placed them nearer to the hearts of their followers and maybe won them a few more amongst those in the audience who had not seen them before.
As usual the instrumentalists of the combo began with their now-statutory warm-up number before the vocalists arrived on stage and they kicked off into a selection of songs from their albums KOKOMO and RISE AND SHINE. The songs were quite admirably delivered in a show that exuded warmth, power and (dare I say it?) soul. Their performances of the songs they chose are truly emotive and emotional, they always hit exactly the right level and perform with a true depth of feeling and sincerity that can honestly be called ‘soulful’.
Amongst the numbers they played; particularly memorable is a hot, sweating version of the title track “Rise And Shine’ that must have had toes tapping (at the least) throughout the theatre. Their versions of “Feelin” Good”,”It Ain’t Cool (To Be Cool No More)” and “I Can Understand It” were also virtual dynamite. Hard-hitting music whose rhythm and propulsion could hardly be ignored. It was a pity though that they did not substitute one of the aforementioned songs for “Use Your Imagination” as the last number of the set because “Use Your Imagination” lacked that fire and tight energy that these others possessed and allowed the intensity to fall just a little as the evening drew to a close. It is not only the up-tempo numbers that show Kokomo to good advantage though. On the slow numbers they also hit hard emotively. The band has a brace of outstanding singers and each is fully capable of handling sensitive songs.
One of the most moving and tender moments of the evening was when Dyan Birch was featured on “Without Me”, a remarkable song by Frank Collins, Dyan Birch and Tony O’Malley.
Possibly the positive factor about this group that it is easiest to overlook is the instrumental prowess of the musicians. Each is an accomplished master of his particular instrument as the solos in “Use Your Imagination” more than confirmed, yet each player is perfectly in control; the reins are held in tight and only rarely allowed to stretch out. No twenty minute blitzing solos in each number, no throwing keyboards across the stage in contrived attempts to whip up excitement; just the playing, more powerful because of its restraint where none of the energy is dissipated fruitlessly.
It would be pointless to single out specific players for mention because I would merely work my way through the whole band. It was an excellent concert by an essential band. and I have only two complaints: firstly that it was not promoted at somewhere like the Hammersmith Palais, where it would have been possible to dance when the music moved you, the second is that they didn’t play “Angel”, my personal favourite by the band.
Unfortunately the support band, Kilburn and the High Roads, lost much of their humour and raw appeal that can be such a positive asset in their work in pubs/clubs when they transferred to a larger venue. For the most part the vocals, quite essential to this band, were inaudible and their sense of fun fell sadly flat.
As for Kokomo: next time they play… see them.
Kenneth Ansell – Impetus
One of the most satisfying pleasures for any music fan is to see a band for which one predicts great things fulfil its potential and rise to stardom. Kokomo, agreed, are not exactly stars, but it was nevertheless just as exciting to see this fabulous band, which I used to watch almost weekly in London’s pub-rock venues, selling out the New Victoria theatre recently.
To be fair, this wasn’t one of Kokomo’s best gigs – I’m sure they’d be the first to admit that – for so much of their act feeds off the audience which was, for the most part, rigidly rooted to its seats. To see Kokomo in their best light you still need a fairly small, warm, atmospheric venue where there’s room to dance and where stage and audience are essentially close. Then, there’s no band to touch ’em, except possibly the Average Whites.
This set consisted mainly of the band’s two excellent albums, although the highlight was the amazing version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘With Everything I Feel In Me’, when the range, power and sustain of Frank Collins’s voice was Incredible – without a doubt one of Britain’s best white vocalists.
The rhythm section of bassist Alan Spenner, the band’s Joker, and the newest face, coloured drummer supreme John Sussewell, is surely now second to none in the soul field. And it was good to see Neil Hubbard, a paragon of modesty, catch the eye with some beautifully loose and Jazzy guitar work.
ANDREW WARSHAW – SOUNDS