Sunday 19 June 2011

The Sonics and Wire at Royal Festival Hall - 18 June 2011

The Sonics

Here I am, back at Ray Davies’ Meltdown.

First onstage tonight are Wire. Newman, Lewis and Grey are dressed in black, with current live guitarist Matt Simms in a white shirt and kept to the side of the stage. There is a clear hierarchy – you know who is in charge.

Wire’s set this evening is eclectic to say the least. They start with three tracks from their latest ‘Red Barked Tree’ period. There is no chat or even an acknowledgement of the audience. This is all business.

I’m sat about four rows from the front, in direct line with the speakers. Every time that Grey touches his drums, my internal organs move. You remember that sequence in Jurassic Park where the water in the glass ripples to the approaching footfall of the Tyrannosaurus? That’s my bladder.

Just as I’m crossing my legs, the band obligingly breaks into ‘Kidney Bingos’. Very funny.

Wire continue with new song ‘Please Take’, which already feels as though it has joined the pantheon of their all time greats. Newman, caresses the words “Fuck off out of my face, you take up far too much space” as though he is crooning a lullaby.

We also get yet another new version of ‘Drill’, this time around with the emphasis on the words rather than the riffs – it ends up almost acapella.

They are in more forthcoming mood during their encore. They announce that they will play a song that is “so old that we are not sure if we have ever played it live before”. It’s ‘Outdoor Miner’. Remarkable.

They conclude with five minutes of feedback, just in case anyone has got too comfortable.

Ray Davies himself appears to introduce The Sonics. He says “These guys were in the garage before The Kinks even had a car!”

They remain a formidable bunch. The hair may be white now, but they still have an almost military bearing about them.

They are a revelation. They sound like every rough and raw rock and roll record you ever heard.
Vocals are alternated between the dignified keyboard player Gerry Roslie and the wonderfully Benny-The Ball shaped guitarist Larry Parypa, who belies his small stature with a screaming rasp of a voice.

The set ranges from covers of standards such as ‘Lucille’ and ‘Money’ to songs from their recent e.p. such as the excellent ‘Vampire Kids’.

The audience has been sat in their seats throughout, but once the band unleash ‘Strychnine’ the dam breaks and there is a mass charge down the front.

For the remainder of the evening folk are dancing in the aisles, in the balconies, down the front. Every guy grabs a gal, everywhere around the world. It’s great.

The band and the dancers bawl along to ‘Psycho’ and for a split second we are back in the Sixties.

The Sonics were always a bit of a secret back in their heyday. Ray Davies intimated that “they scared the hell out of us”. It’s good to see gigs like this giving these guys their due.

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