El Hula

As peculiarly eclectic and unexpected as any high-aiming club-evening should strive to be, The Basement's launch-night on Thursday 24th October 2002 was just as wild and triumphant as all had hoped for.

A sell-out a week in advance, with dozens turned away from the venue on the night itself, the five-hour party marked the convergence of producer Gordon Raphael's wide scope and passion for musical-innovation, and rockfeedback.com's continual efforts to merge and massage key talent into the public's consciousness. Aided by a headline-set from Ed Harcourt and sturdy support in the shape of El Hula, only the iconic special-guest Boy George could add further to an evening of such intrigue, colour and undeniable talent. So, yes, the theme of the occasion, 'Adventures In Pop', most certainly seemed a fitting title.

With classics such as Joy Division, Bjork, Super Furry Animals, Pulp, The Libertines and dozens more exerted from the outset, by the arrival of first act, the aforementioned El Hula, the room was in deep attentiveness with what to behold. A leopard-skin covered double-bass. Backing-singers, even. And a frontman in Blair Jollands so assured, smartly-clad and hot on his heels that the initial Bowie-cum-Dylan comparisons still didn't characterise the full picture.

El Hula, with Boy GeorgeWith the opening, country-slumber of 'When The Devil Arrives At My Door', any fears of a continually-downbeat undertone throughout soon subsided into joy via the arm-waving hugeness of gospel-rock anthem 'Arena Of My Soul', or infectious 'Killer Landings' - which featured the first appearance of the evening from Boy George, who sang with Jollands to a feverish, rapturous response. And all this from the official, first-ever live-debut for the band... The prospects of this magic spreading seem indubitable.

It's a tough act to follow, but if anyone can, Harcourt can. Playing on a classic, black upright-piano, the accompaniment of Hadrian on trumpet and Leo on guitar set a cool tone for the intimate surroundings, with an early airing of 'Hanging With The Wrong Crowd' serving as particularly moving. But class doesn't come without its price.

Ed Harcourt

Half-way through, following twenty minutes of sublime, understated charm, the power in the sound-desk cuts out in true, clichéd, opening-night style. Panic. Except Ed waives such a challenge, inviting the audience closer to the stage, where he proceeds to play and sing without the aid of amplification - even the stark boldness of 'I've Become Misguided' sounding as huge as ever, perks experienced during covers of Kylie and Phil Collins, and the crowd's own vocal-participation adding a unique ambience to the event. Over ten songs in, and it's decided that proceedings shall end on his typically-rousing 'Shanghai', which features the full, obligatory piano-bashing ending, Harcourt resting on the object before tossing his band-mates' instruments amidst the contraption. An apt close, by all means.

Boy GeorgeThe ensuing hour and a half is packed with classic floor-fillers as selected and played by Mr B George, with much disturbing dancing triggered off, not to mention a sing-a-long 'It Must Be Love' by Madness, and mysterious repeat-plays of both The Smiths and Eminem on numerous occasions. The enjoyment is only sidetracked to humour when a nearby notable falls off a table amidst the shenanigans.

Then that was it. Coats collected and home-time for all. If you were there - thanks for coming down. If not, maybe see you next month; after all, just what will happen is beyond us.

Adventures In Pop’ (Launch Nite)

24 Oct 2002

ED HARCOURT / EL HULA

Buffalo Bar


London

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