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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

ULU, London
June 18th 2008



What is it about black and bouncers, Serge? I mean take my pal the six-foot-six retired bouncer, who, ‘though I’m sure he has never bounced anyone in his life, always, but always, wears black. And whether it’s ‘sophisticated’ club or disco, we’re all used to black tie, or faux black Armani suit-attired, bull-necked giants standing arms folded with barely-suppressed menace by the door. But the stakes have been raised recently by the black paramilitary look, of which I have seen no better exponent than, well, we’ll just call him Mad Ivan the Terrible, to spare his blushes, at the ULU.

He’s standing at the left-hand side of the stage, patrolling the stage-door and overlooking the crowd at the front. Black-clad, knee-length boots, leather gloves, he’s got some sort of waistcoat on that seems to have every sort of combat device imaginable – cuffs, teargas, taser, first-aid kit, stun-grenades, i-Pod, Captain Rock cigars, RPGs, AWACs attached: you name it – he’s got it. He’s glowering over the crowd, trying to spot cameras, but spends must of his time gesticulating wildly to an unknown person at the back of the hall, sort of in time to the music. Maybe it’s the new dance craze. Do the Bouncer anyone?
His mission is to guard Black Kids, the new pop sensation from the USofA, (Jackonsville, Florida, to be precise) who are so hot, with a debut album, Partie Traumatic, produced by British guitar ace Bernard Butler (“the musical genius behind Suede” or so I read somewhere) and a Glastonbury appearance this weekend, that they’re almost going into meltdown. However, before they get a chance there’s (from New Zealand) Collapsing Cities (whom we missed due to Chinese Chow, not a band, but our dinner) and Cut Off Your Hands, who are also preparing an album with the help of Mr Butler. Cut Off Your Hands, nice boys who look as though they all must have gone to the same public school, hit the stage at a pace and volume that suggests that they’re determined to blow the much-hyped headliners off stage, and they almost do. Singer Nick Johnston manages to fall, punk-style, into the crowd within a few seconds and ends the first number singing from the top of the speaker stacks. Waving madly, Ivan responds by handing out Army surplus earplugs to all and sundry; I find that despite the pain, I’m tapping my feet in a ‘quite pleasant really’ sort of the way by the time they leave the stage.
Our ears still buzzing, Black Kids arrive. Apparently much of their appeal is how they look – which is little, large, black, white and unforgivingly young, with all-eyes and pouting Ali Youngblood and Dawn Watley on keyboards and vocals on the right, Kevin Snow on drums at the back, Owen Holmes on bass to the left, and in centre stage, all Hendrix hair Reggie Youngblood on guitar and vocals. It’s really a 2008 version of the Cure meets the Archies, both in appearance and sound. Very artfully put together and well performed, but with about as much substance as a cartoon character. But the kids love it, particularly at the front of the stage where the moon-eyed girls drooling over Cut off Your Hands have been replaced by a reeling gang of frenetic bodies – all boys, beer and acne – whose cavorting during ‘Hurricane Jane’ drives Ivan into a state of apoplexy.
Black Kids
Black Kids
As they try and throw each other onto the stage he charges through the door, knocks Youngblood to the side mid-song and captures the centre of the stage, baying at the audience, hands on hips, neck muscles bulging, head turning like a plasticine Hulk about to burst. But it all settles down and eventually, Bernard B. (wearing an impossibly tight pair of jeans) takes the stage to join them on his nice guitar for some of their catchier tunes of the night. When we leave they’re encoring with something that sounds remarkably like Orange Juice’s ‘Rip it up’, but as I’m not an intellectual property lawyer I’d better comment no further. Good fun if you like to dance, but as my old Mum famously said of the Internet, “I’ll give it twelve months …”. Wrong on that score I have to admit, but on this one she might just have been right. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Cut Off Your Hands on MySpace
Black Kids on MySpace

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