A VERY FULL Roundhouse on a hot Sunday afternoon – mercifully these things don’t start until 5.30 nowadays or they’d be passing out in droves – keenly awaits a promising and well-matched combination of artistes to do it to them three-times.
It is an intriguing, bill – Kokomo, FBI and Carol Grimes with the London Boogie Band – a criss-cross network of musicianly relationships so closely intertwined they border on the incestuous: three strong bands who are playing in what is well on the way to becoming the mainstream of rock in this country.
First up are the London Boogie Band, setting the pattern to be followed by the other bands that night – a crisp, exuberant Instrumental, then on come the girls. Ms Grimes and the boys were the subject of a fairly extensive review on these pages quite recently which went into more detail than I can here. Suffice to say that while I’m not driven to echo Mr Tobler’s eulogising they were most enjoyable.
After the shortest of breaks FBI appear. A sweet little instrumental then on comes the lady. They’re rather impressive in appearance, fronted by a trio of mighty, mighty spades and this sweet young blonde thing looking a touch like a pre-beard Neil Hubbard – no offence; the rest of the band are somewhat, um, cosmopolitan too, especially Mick Weaver who sat down at the piano for Carol Grimes’ set and hasn’t moved since.
It’s a very full sound, the brass in particular belying the fact that there’s just one trumpet and an alto sax, two guitars, bongoes and marimbas for that lovely, cranky syncopation a L’Afrique – another feature in common with Kokomo and the London Boogie Band – and Miss Bonny with the sweet and strong voice that she needs to front those guys.
By halfway through their set FBI had the audience on their feet and kept them there for the duration, but the songs seemed largely indistinguishable, certainly unmemorable – and I wasn’t hearing them for the first time.
And then the big one: Kokomo. Bristling with confidence, they took immediate control. After a killer instrumental on come the Kokettes – Dyan, Frankie and new girl Shirl – and straight into the title track of their last album, “Rise and Shine”, with not a still foot in the house. After such a strong start, their next number “Listen To The Voices”, a relatively new song, lost impetus after a while. This was followed by another newie, “I can tell” which started promisingly with a surging treacly riff faintly reminiscent of “I heard it through the Grapevine” but, again, got a bit bogged down. If these are examples of a ‘new’ Direction’ in song writing, then it doesn’t bode terrifically well.
My confidence was completely restored by an oldie – “Something we used to do when a pound was a pound” – “Feeling Good Inside”. Great Song, then straight into “With Everything I Feel In Me”. They transform what was a fairly dreary Aretha number into something very special – oh, and that Frankie can really cream a crowd.
From here in they were just cruising, with Tony “Fingers” O’Malley on keyboards and larynx, Alan Spenner bass and ditto, Mel Collins horns and a sparkling Neil Hubbard on guitar for the second time, that evening, all making their presences profoundly felt. Finally, “Use Your Imagination”, a show-stopper with a dynamite drum break by the excellent John Sussewell, enlivened on this occasion by the addition of Gaspar Lawal and those big African drums, and an encore with myriad members of the bands.
Mo Geller – Sounds