If one thing serves us most drastically at The Basement Club, it's fear and hatred of repetition.

Ed Harcourt

Yet, contradictory as we are, here we find the return from boundary-shifting visionary Ed Harcourt to our hallowed, underground cesspit of sound, his royal self having headlined the first ever evening of our monthly foray into live-music presentation (October 2002), in a memorable set that soon went on to form the spirited basis of all we try to achieve: originality; stark, intricate arrangements; and perserverence through testing times (the PA broke mid-way through his set).

Though, in spite of prior technical jeers, magically, we find ourselves with the frightfully talented piano-tinkler back in our mitts, this time with more guests - among them, regular band-members Arnulf on bass and violinist Gita, a certain drummer of cult underground-indie markers Mojave 3 on single snare and cymbal, plus legendary pedal-steel guitarist, BJ Cole, a man whose credits have numbered nigh-on every major recording-artist of the past 50 years.

That tonight such a super-group should perform amidst a sleazy, smoky, deeply packed attendance makes for as much a treat for the players as the spectators; we're treated to five solo-tracks from Harcourt first as he leaps on to the stage, an electric-piano clinging to his every finger-motion. Beauteous run-throughs of 'Hanging With The Wrong Crowd', this year's top-40 breakthrough, 'All Of Your Days Will Be Blessed', and lilting, first album favourite, 'She Fell Into My Arms' slip past us into the stratosphere, every moment gorgeous.

His fellow performers then join the platform, but their initial, downbeat entrance into the melancholic 'Sister Renee' is broken free for favour of countrified stabs of a banjo-backing 'I've Become Misguided' (complete with authentic, 50's mic for wailing, desperate vocal-effect, and Cole's dulcet textures) and a really rather affecting, tragic 'The Birds Will Sing For Us', rapturous applause abound. With the additional premiere of new track - a scintillating, hopelessly romantic 'This One's For You' - and a closing 'Shanghai' - his signature, pub-rock gem - it's conclusively a justified re-visit: effortlessly exerted, classy, and possessive of all the ups and downs and in-betweens that define a timeless talent... Ed H. - you're welcome any time.

Crystal Radio

But what does the current godfather of garage-punk do when he has the chance to get a band of like-minded scamps together and knock out some choons..?

Gordon Raphael threw us a ball with a real curve on it when he revealed Crystal Radio tonight: no undignified ghost of Joey Ramone street-swaggering our way - instead, a wistful homage to the gods of stoner space-rock; watch out kids, Genesis and Hawkwind are back in the house.

And back with a vengeance, seemingly - sweet, rippling Les Paul licks, a tossing of raven-trussed barnets, and blow me down if I didn't hear the ghost of a Mellotron swooping in from somewhere in all its early '70's pomp. With a crew of stoutly proficient old-skool rockers, Gordon steered the Mothership admirably, and without pastiche (this is no cover-band schtick: a full nine-song set, all originals), swapping effortlessly between acoustic and electric geetars, and finishing up behind the keyboards as we have seen him before in The Basement with protégé-rockers, Miss Machine... No sireebob - leave the carbon-copy market to the Lithuanian Emerson Lake & Palmer, or whoever has decided this week to don dinosaur skin for fun and profit.

Gordon loves the gentler, pre-pogo cadence of bong-driven whimsy: in the opening number 'Seven Stars' (bizarrely enough, the name of one of Japan's best-selling cigarettes...), he goes all Steve Hillage on us - although he saves the hint of The Man's trademark glissando guitar for 'Ring of Gold' later in the set. Me noggin was fairly reeling with all those dear memories; was that a touch of Tyrannosaurus Rex I caught there? I lay back in the summer-drenched Festival Field of Memory and strain to catch the sweet parfum of reefer and patchouli.

'Twas all over too soon alas, and I awoke with the Headbutt of Reality to scamper off and dig out the scoop-necked Marc Bolan T-shirt and loon-pants I know must still be lurking in the depths of the wardrobe. Thank you Gordon and Crystal Radio - we truly mean it, maaan...

BJ Cole & Ed HarcourtWith a following disco - comprising of hits from Electric Six and Justin Timberlake, amidst others - and the ceremonial passing-around of several throat-defying Cuban cigars, we all wave a teary goodbye to Mr. Raphael: his last night in the UK prior to a recording-patch in New York for a number of months as he and NYC's finest The Strokes work on their long-awaited, second album... A shame to see you go, Gordon - but as shown by the look of devastation of this here pictured Cole and Harcourt, your flight back to the UK can't come soon enough.

'Til then, have fun, GR - we certainly will, looking after this place while you're gone; cya on Thursday 26th June kids for the next one.

Some artistic interpretations of the night's imagery:

Ed Harcourt

Crystal Radio

Image-Credit: Jason Atomic

Basement club number 7

20 Jul 2003


Buffalo Bar


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