Tuesday 1 May 2012

Bow Wow Wow and Dead Wolf Club at Islington Academy - 30 April 2012

Bow Wow Wow

There’s a mixed audience tonight. Some of us are old and some of us are even older. Not exclusively, though. One little lad looks to be about ten years old. Good, Get ‘em started young.

Given the obviously nostalgic attraction of the headliners, I’m surprised that the support band are hungry and clattering and youthful. Even better, they’re really good.

Dead Wolf Club are led by the hyper-excitable John Othello, who flails at his guitar and screams his lungs out from under a thick fringe of hair that all but obscures his face.

The songs are varied and catchy and put over with wild enthusiasm. This old audience may not be able to move very much, but they like what they hear.

Othello becomes ever more manic, at one point leaping from the stage with his guitar, only to find himself stuck behind a barrier. He runs up and down a bit before hauling himself back into view.  It is clear from the expressions of guitarist Alwin Fernandez and bassist Martha Supajirawatananon that the rest of the band are as fascinated by his antics as the rest of us.

So carried away does he get that during the finale, Othello feigns as if to smash his guitar and then proceeds to do so for real. Stage left, Fernandez looks horrified.

Dead Wolf Club are thus thoroughly entertaining. I buy their self-released album immediately.

Bow Wow Wow started as one of Malcolm McClaren’s projects to provoke and outrage the pop world, and the actual quality of the music was often overlooked amidst the general hoo-hah and controversy over Annabella Lwin’s age – fourteen at the time.

It’s been over thirty years since they last played in the UK, and Annabella and original bassist Leigh Gorman have decided to head out on tour once more.

The stage set is dominated by a huge drum kit. This is to be expected, because the key thing that Bow Wow Wow will be remembered for (along with the closely connected Adam and The Ants, who Lwin repeatedly thanks this evening) is that thumping, pounding Burundi Beat. This double, primitive rhythm is unlike any other sound. When those galloping drums start, the band just run over you.

Annabella is now a vivacious and charming woman who dances and smiles in a perpetual shimmy, her long black hair whipping around her. She’s so full of energy and bonhomie that she cheers up the whole room.

The songs still sound great, particularly the very early ones from the ‘Your Cassette Pet’ EP. We get ‘Louis Quatorze’ and ‘Sexy Eiffel Towers’, the last of which I haven’t heard in a very long time.

The pièce de résistance is ‘C30, C60, C90 Go!’ which has lost none of its urgency and bite. Annabella speed-raps through it and I realise that I can draw a straight timeline from the Bow Wow’s to all the contemporary stuff that I love today.

‘Wild In The Country’ is met with roars of appreciation. Lwin acknowledges this and says that it is good to be playing in front a sizeable audience, the implication being that attendances may have been a bit sparse at other times on this tour.  Frankly, on this showing, the rest of the country has been missing out.

Annabella stops proceedings to get the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to surprised guitarist Will. Interestingly, and because we are all of that kind of age, it is the Altered Images song that is sung.

After a tribal and triumphant version of ‘I Want Candy’ the band run out of their more obvious material and the demanded encore that follows falls slightly flat. It doesn’t matter.

Bow Wow Wow will always have a place in my heart, and it would be good to see them enjoy some success through these live shows.  It’s been far too long.

 “We’re so young and dangerous!”

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