The Venue, London

THE VENUE - KOKOMO!Below Zero’s new wave R&B. which ripped through their ‘Greatest hits’ with a ferocity which almost equalled PIL.

Below Zero aren’t bad musicians, but they’re all Rhythm and precious little Blues. The lead guitarist plays good rock’n’roll oh a nice 335. but their ‘R&B’ seems to attract headbanging dummies but for some uptown top skanking. Still, if you like your R&B with built-in brain damage, at least 9 Below Zero don’t spit at you.

In contrast, Kokomo’s joyous, angst-free set was polished and well-rehearsed, with some invigorating soul/funk. The buzz was going round that this was Kokomo’s last gig, and they certainly gave it everything.

Vocalists Diane Birch, Paddy McHugh and Frank Collins took the place apart with the Pointer Sisters’ -‘Yes We Can’, and ‘Everyday’ featured an immaculate blues solo from Mullen (deping for Neil Hubbard). Mullen – an acoustic bass player turned guitarist superb – plays a real mean Tele. Tony O’Malley excelled in gospel style on Fender Rhodes, finishing with a beautiful harmony ending from the vocalists.

The sound was good, although Mel Collins’ fine sax solos were, at times, barely audible.

On Patti Labelle’s exquisite ‘My Best Was Good Enough’ (gorgeous bass work from Alan Spenner), Paddy staggered all present with his amazing falsetto delivery – a cross between Smokey Robinson and that cat in the Stylistics. In trio, the vocalists build up terrific tension, especially on the Kokomo originals like ‘Any Time’, ‘I Can Understand It’ and ‘Third Time Around’. A full credit to Frank Collins, responsible for many of the imaginative harmony arrangements.

Glen Le Fleur paced the whole set perfectly with his cool, funky drumming (especially exciting when Glen and Mackie, the conga player, duetted, obviously loving every minute of it).

After 9 Below Zero’s starkness, Kokomo were like a cool breeze on a hot, sticky day.

Chrissie Murray – Musicians Only