Wednesday 21 July 2010

Call The Doctor / Cold In Berlin - Buffalo Bar - 20 July 2010

Call The Doctor

I haven’t been to the Buffalo Bar for AGES. I’ve always enjoyed it in here and had forgotten that it is air conditioned. So while the city steams outside, I’m well up for tonight’s four band bill.

First up come Ma.Mentor, a three piece comprising two guitars and a drum machine. Together, they play a sparse and efficient post-rock. It is hard to dislike them, but they equally do very little to enthuse about. The band ticks along in a harmless but rather nondescript way, and I soon rather find my attention wandering. As a mate puts it, “...with this stage set up, they could be Big Black!” but sadly they are not, they are just a little underwhelming.

Deadlegs are another trio, this time with the numbers distributed between drums, guitars and vocals.

The band are entirely a vehicle for the considerable charms and vocal talents of Harriet Rock. She has a voice so raw and rasping that she is closer in delivery to Janis Joplin (or Tom Waits) than your average girlie singer.

Deadlegs don’t really do songs. Instead, most numbers are mere fragments that provide background while Harriet shows off her range. She can emote, she can growl, she can go up and down the scales, but you don’t really believe in the band at all. They are so clearly a temporary showcase that you wish that the inevitable Svengali would just hurry up and take them over. Harriet Rock is a potentially lucrative diamond in the rough, she just needs the right setting.

The reason that I’m here tonight is to see Cold In Berlin, a band that I am always happy to be around and who never ever disappoint. This is the first time that the band has played at the Buffalo Bar, after some years of trying to get gigs here. It ain’t Carnegie Hall, but in many respects it is their spiritual home.

Within thirty seconds of starting, the band is threaded across the venue like a daisy chain. The drums by necessity are stuck on stage, but singer Uli and the other members are off the small platform and lined up from front to back of the room. The audience part, dive for cover and try to keep the hell out of their way.

The current line up of CIB is still relatively new. The good news is that if anything their fire and fury are even more concentrated. And there is new material tonight, with a song that may be called “I Am The Liar” particularly catching the ear, resembling as it does, the sound of a tiger which has just had its tail stomped on.

Uli chivvies the punters around like a collie with a particularly recalcitrant flock. Monitors are knocked flying. A fine time is had by all.

I am initially a bit wary of the headliners. ‘Call The Doctor’ seems such a naff name that my repressed indie snobbery insists that they can’t possibly be any good. Fortunately the band are so busy being shit hot and generally bloody impressive that my reptile brain can just fuck off.

What lifts CTD out of the rut is the verve and power of singer/guitarist Patti Aberhart. She is squeezed into a white dress and is wearing a tiara made of twigs. She seems like a feral pagan bridesmaid and commands such authority that you have no option but to pay attention. I’m always a sucker for bands just letting rip.

I’m rather blown away by tracks such as “For You Leisure” and “Running With Scissors”. In some respects the band are very straightforward, playing pleasant songs that are easy on the ear and don’t demand much thought. But the live performance transcends this simplicity – they are terrifically entertaining and I am terrifically entertained.

They finish with “Little Bones”, which turns out to be a monster of a song, an excuse for an almighty wig-out from the band and featuring one moment when Aberhart is on her knees in the audience, shuffling towards the stage like a penitent.

So, a triumphant return to the Buffalo Bar for me and a fine night’s work from the various bands. I head off into the tube station, which is as hot as a furnace. But not as hot as Cold In Berlin and Call The Doctor.

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