Sunday 21 November 2010

The Blood Arm at The Lexington - 19 November 2010

The Blood Arm

I’m not good at counting.

I’m watching the entirely sensibly proportioned Keith Top of the Pops And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Allstar Backing Band and I’m not sure whether there are sixteen or seventeen people on stage.

The conceit here is to have as many musicians as can be rounded up play the most basically straightforward garage pop. It works too, in the same way that Fucked Up work – extra numbers do not have to add complexity; they can also be used to create depth and warmth.

So, while this exercise can easily be dismissed as self-indulgence (and it is self indulgent), it also works as an illustration of love, good humour and camaraderie. Silliness aside, the songs stand up and a variety of vocalists, including almost inevitably serial band collaborator Eddie Argos, take turns to lead the ramshackle troop.

A band of this magnitude automatically comprise a sizeable chunk of the audience once they climb off stage. Tonight they are not just here as musicians – they stay because they are fans.

Next we have the stripped down dance pop of Le Corps Mince De Francoise, who are now a duo featuring sisters Emma and Mia Kemppainen from Helsinki. Mia plays guitars and operates a simple keyboard while Emma, distinguished by a bone-thru-hair accessory as sported by Sideshow Mel, talks and raps her way through a succession of catchy tunes.

LCMDF don’t entirely tear up any trees, but the vaguely bhangra beats of single ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Something Golden’ and the fact that they are clearly enjoying themselves, soon get your toes tapping. I like them.

I have been awaiting the return of The Blood Arm to these shores for ages. They have always been the most reliable of live bands and I am amongst a large party who are here to see the show.

What follows is a demonstration of how good a band can be. Nathaniel Freguso, Dyan Valdes and the rest blast out a classic set of euphoric punk and soul.

As ever, the focus is on frontman Nate, here channeling his inner James Brown from his great mop of hair and tight suit right down to sudden emotional moments when he falls to his knees.

The set is split fairly evenly between old favourites and new material that shows no dropping off in terms of quality or catchiness.

Nate never relaxes for a second and remains the consummate showman. He ventures from the stage to walk through a happily kneeling audience during the track ‘Angela’ stopping only to chat up members of the crowd, remembering their names in an ever lengthening chain that passes from the impressive to the prodigious as the evening progresses.

At one point, the audience is divided so that he can strut along his own ‘Project Runway’. Meanwhile Dyan and the band are rocking like lunatics, a frantic pop soul whirlwind. There are just no weaknesses here.

It’s very hard to refer to particular highlights – this is ALL highlight. However I do recall a storming tear through The Temptations’ ‘Get Ready’ and a stomping ‘Accidental Soul’.

The set ends with Freguso standing on the bar at the back of the venue, waving and swigging from a bottle of vodka that he has ‘liberated’ straight from its optic.

I love The Blood Arm unconditionally. Compared to them, no one else seems to be...trying.

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