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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Jazz Café, London 4th August 2005
by Nick Morgan

They say that you can never escape your past, so it’s probably not surprising that Eric Burdon drew the evening to a close (much to the relief of the adoring fans in the audience) with That Song. Verging uncomfortably on self-parody – as he had done a number of times during the set - Burdon was constrained by a voice that only occasionally reached the nerve jarring pitch of his early recordings.

In fact I have to say that I spent much of the night thinking, as I do whenever the photographer plays her Animals albums, less of the great songs he’s rightly famous for, and more of all the great songs he never recorded in a career hamstrung by an almost overwhelming self destructiveness.Whilst his reputation as one of rock and roll’s greats is undisputable, he must also rank very high on the “might have been even greater” list too.
From chart-topping Animals to a solo Eric Burdon, through WAR, collaborations with Jimmy Witherspoon, Animals reunions, Brian Auger and Eric Burdon, the New Animals, and now Eric Burdon and the Animals his career has never captured the greatness deserved by one of popular music’s truly unique voices. An intimate of Jimi Hendrix, one-time drug user extraordinaire, allegedly John Lennon’s ‘the Eggman’, the invader who took Brit rock to the heart of California, drinker, singer of Radio Hanoi’s favourite track (‘We gotta get out of this place’) – Burdon has enough in his CV to satisfy most rockers several times over, and yet regretful under-achievement, ironically the theme of That Song, is the thought to which one constantly returns.
So who are these Animals? On guitar Dave Restrum, School of Rock guitarist with an Alvin Lee chin. On bass leather trousered Dean Restrum (hey Dean, it must have been sweaty in there), who I understand is fond of cats. On keyboards Martin Gerschwitz, a dead ringer for Lennie the Lion, and on drums the beanie wearing Bernie Pershey, doing, errr…. Animal. A competent enough outfit, clearly having fun behind a still menacingly aggressive yet now heavy and grey Burdon (so if you look at the publicity shots you can only conclude that he must be a shareholder in Grecian 2000).
To be fair a well put together set, mixing the old – ‘Boom boom’, ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood’, 'Gotta get out of this place’, ‘It’s my Life’, ‘Tobacco Road’, with the new – ‘Once upon a time’, ‘Factory Girl’, ‘Over the border’. And Burdon certainly gave the new songs all he could, aided by frequent resorts to some sort of inhaler, and a very clever use of echo on the sound system to contrive a voice of greater range and depth than was really there. But many of the new songs (from the new album My Secret Life, featuring the Leonard Cohen song of the same name) were fairly maudlin rock and roll retrospectives – ‘Factory Girl’ being the only one that really stood out.
“It may be another night out for you, but it’s a special one for me, I’ve just had a drink’ said Burdon returning for the encore, vodka firmly on amp (next to the inhaler). So we got a thankfully brief drunk routine before Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie’ and, of course, That Song.
The audience were in raptures, none more so than the photographer, who with her second dose of Animals in a fortnight was so excited that she jammed the mechanism on the Whiskyfun gig-camera. Sorry folks – no pics! Me – well like Eric I’d done another night on duty, but I left Camden Town (this dirty old part of the city, where the sun refused to shine) with more regret than relief. But Eric, if you read the note that the photographer left backstage for you, and happen to read this review, then please don’t let me be misunderstood. You were a contender; you could have been the best. - Nick Morgan (photos by Rudolf Uhrig, Follets)

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