Southampton Joiners
29 November 2009

Review and Pix by Bones

Seeing a gig at an Arena venue seems a contradiction in terms as the only thing you are not likely to do is to actually catch a glimpse of the band. Paying an inordinate amount of money to sit half a mile from the stage and watch everything on a video screen does not seem to me a particularly good way to spend an evening. Rock music, and punk in particular, benefits from being so close to the stage that you can see the whites of the group’s eyes. It may sound derogatory but if it weren’t for the “toilet circuit” of smaller pubs and clubs then many of today’s biggest bands would have remained in obscurity. One such venue that launched more than its fair share of rock heavyweights is Southampton Joiners, where such bands as The Charlatans, Suede, Oasis, The Manic Street Preachers, Primal Scream, Verve, Radiohead and Coldplay all graced its stage before becoming household names. The venue is the epitome of a solid rock venue with an intimate bar leading to a back room resplendent with dark décor and a larger than expected stage. The bands have to arrive and exit through the audience which just adds to the intimate feel of a place that oozes rock history.

I arrive just in time to see the last of tonight support acts THE NOVATONES, a Southampton band that had brought with them a fairly sizeable local contingent. Their look borrows heavily from 1960 mod/1990Brit pop era with the singer strumming a Union Jack guitar to boot. For no particular reason they reminded me of Menswear, but whatever their sound the natives appeared to appreciate it. The dance floor became a seething mass of arms and legs as a lot of uncoordinated dancing took place, and as if to confirm their inspirations, they finished with a cover of the Who’s “My Generation”.

Tonight’s headliners have had more than their fair share of trouble recently, some of which it could be argued was self inflicted, and with the well published departure of two member I was looking forward to seeing if there their still any life left in the TOWERS OF LONDON. And the simple answer is…. hell yes!!

This was being promoted as a “back to basics” tour and their set list has dispensed with songs from their well intentioned, but ultimately disappointing, second album “Fizzy Pop”. However from the thunderous bass drum of set opener “On a Noose” it was obvious that the Towers were back playing the music that best suits them, in your face dirty punk rock. I challenge anyone to say that Donny Tourette is not a charismatic front man. You may not necessarily think he is the world’s best singer, but I defy anyone not to be transfixed as he haphazardly prowls the stage pin-balling into equipment, other band members and coming perilously close to falling into the pit. However he is not bereft of a sense of humour and self-depreciation, as when dropping the microphone mid-song he allows an excided member of the audience to continue with the lyrics and then congratulates them on “being a better singer than me”.

New members James Phillips and Jamima dovetail nicely into the band’s set up and the biggest compliment I can give them is that Snell and Rev are not missed. Old favourites like “Air Guitar”, “Beaujolais” and “Kill the Pop scene” ensure the set moves along at a cracking pace with the sizeable crowd lapping up ever moment. My sympathies lay with their tour manager who had the unenviable task of periodically trying to venture onto the cramped stage to coax the stage surfers back into the swarming multitude of humanity that thronged stage front.

Bass player Tommy Brunette sported his guitar like a weapon of mass destruction and gave off an air of cool not seen this side of the New York Dolls. Slipping effortlessly out of his leather jacket he revealed a t-shirt resplendent in the tag line “Vanity Lies” and his swagger continued as he laid down the heavy bass line to crowd pleasers like “Good Times”, “F*ck it Up” and rarely played B-side “TV”. However I feared the gig had come to an abrupt halt as Donny leapt off stage to disappear through the crowd, followed closely by the rest of the band, leaving only the lone figure of Dirk Tourette stage right.

Now an acoustic interlude is nothing new with both Noel Gallagher and James Dean Bradfield undertaking one mid-set. But having said that, after a non electric run through of “F*ck it Up”, even I was surprised to find what Dirk’s next number would be. Answering the calls for more by stating he had “only one more song in his locker” he launched into the theme tune to “Only Fools and Horses”. And so we had the surreal vision of the packed venue singing along to the Trotters favourite anthem. As Del Boy would say “Cushty!”

The rest of the band returned to the stage and they proceeded to finish off the evening with a succession of big and meaty punk anthems like “Northern Lights”, “How Rude She Was” and their biggest hit “I’m a Rat”. I defy anybody who was present to say they didn’t have a good time. Also unlike many other artistes, instead of heading for the sanctuary of their dressing room, they stayed around to mingle with the audience, happily signing autographs, posing for pictures or generally just chatting. I know that to a certain extent Donny’s reputation proceeds him but I cannot stress enough how personable he and the rest of the band were (even to an old codger like me!)

So the next time the Towers are down your way, don’t sit in watching Simon Cowell’s latest performing monkey on the vomit inducing X Factor, get your self down to a proper rock venue like the Joiners and see a top punk band in action. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Words and Pix by Birthay Boyo Bones

Happy Birthday to you!