Last night I went to see Mick Harvey (of The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds fame) at the Underworld. To me, the Underworld equals small goth bands, home of much missed Uncle Nemesis gigs, so it was weird seeing one of the members of not one but two of my all time favourite bands playing there, in a tiny venue. It was even odder to see the place full of people who weren’t goths (although there were a couple). I don’t think it was sold out though, I’m sure I’ve seen the place busier than that.
I watched a couple of songs of the support band, which was either a three-piece called Simon Breed or else the singer was Simon Breed. They were alright, if a bit too determinedly quirky for my taste. I left after two songs and joined everyone else in the back bar, where I also picked up three CDs for £20 (To Have and To Hold, the soundtrack for And The Ass Saw The Angel and an Anita Lane CD).
Mick Harvey was on stage on 9.30pm on the dot, as per the running order we’d noticed in the box office. I’d have expected no less from the man who managed to keep the Birthday Party in order. This man has organisational skills to put mine to shame, and he’s rock’n'roll, proof that it can be done! (Although perhaps not by me!)
There were three of them on stage, Mick, who played guitar and sang, Rob Ellis, who played keyboards and occasionally drums, and JAMES JOHNSTON! (I don’t know why I’m putting that in capitals as I expect about ten of you know who he is and only one of you will find that exciting.) Anyway, James Johnston formerly of Gallon Drunk on second guitar and occasional keyboards. They played a mixture of songs, one or two I recognised from the new album, which is encouraging as I’ve only listened to it once, but most I didn’t know. He did play “Sad Dark Eyes”, which was lovely, and one of the encores was “Bonnie and Clyde” from Intoxicated Man.
He played a couple of bars from “Mr Clarinet” between songs at one point and I got a bit excited. He seemed surprised to get a reaction to that one at all, saying he thought that one was too old for anyone to know. (It’s an early Birthday Party song.) He seemed to be having trouble keeping his guitar tuned in the sweaty atmosphere so he chatted a lot between songs while he fiddled with it, and was relaxed and amusing. His young son was there too, and he dedicated a song to him. (I know I wouldn’t bring a young child to the Underworld, I’m really suffering for the after effects of second hand smoke.)
I really enjoyed it, although it wasn’t the awesome experience it could have been, just a very pleasant evening. A friend seemed disappointed but I didn’t really have any expectations. I think it was best summed up in something another said: “this is music to drink whisky to”. Not life changing, but I’m glad I went.