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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Dingwalls (Lock 17), London March 29th 2006
“I’m sorry Nick”, said Serge, “but I’ve never heard of Robert Love”. Well I was confused too. And actually it’s not Robert Love, it’s Rob Spragg, aka The Reverend Larry Love, of Whiskyfun favourites Alabama 3. But just to be sure I checked. Was our Robert Love singer Larry Love, who “frequently performs for dances, parties, anniversaries, class reunions, fund-raisers, funerals and memorials, school assemblies, corporate events, church events, fairgrounds, and holiday receptions”? Or could he have been the Reverend and “Mad Larry” Love of Cambridge, Mass., only recently deceased? Or Larry Love the dancing hamster? Or the Larry Love sex doll (actually Serge, you might not want to put in the link for this)? [but of course I will, Nick - there!]. Hmm, you see that’s the problem with multiple identities – have too many and soon no one really knows who you are.
We’re late, and it’s partly my fault (or should I say Serge, it’s the fault of your wonderful Paris, always so difficult to part from, like a once forgotten lover, rediscovered in the warm spring sunshine). It’s a pre-gig Greek meal with Jozzer and his good lady, Trizzer. The food is, errr, Greek. And so is the service, the long delay between the appetisers and the main course being apparently designed to force us to order (and drink) vast quantities of (fairly decent – or so it seemed at the time) Greek red wine. This is a challenge to which Jozzer and I both rise with true British spunk. As a consequence we arrive at Dingwalls (which marketing git renamed it ‘Lock 17’ I wonder?) almost at the end of the first act Jeff Klein. By coincidence the last time we were here was with Jozzer and Trizzer, to see the Larry Love Showband, that wonderful trimmed-down and largely acoustic version of the A3. On that occasion, as the four of us comprised around a third of the audience, we danced the night away extravagantly in front of the band (“here’s another nice tune for you old folks to dance to” I recall Larry saying), until Jozzer, moved by the excitement of it all (and vast quantities of red wine) jumped onto the stage in the middle of ‘Peace in the Valley’ and testified, on his knees, to all and sundry. Tonight you can barely see the stage for the assembled throng of arty Brixton low-lifers who’ve made their way north of the river to witness this metropolitan stop in a UK tour to promote new albums recently released by all three artistes (who share the same band for the night) on the Little Indian label. The nice man selling t-shirts, who gives me a handy promo CD for the tour, tells me that this is the first busy night they’ve had.
Se we didn’t hear much of Jeff, who from what I can gather is a very American-sounding Brit, with a lazy bluesy voice that falls, like the other two performers this evening, into the ‘whisky soaked and tobacco stained’ variety. I’ve never heard him before, and whilst the tracks on the promo disc are a little ho hum, he’s an attractive proposition live. As is the fierce and feisty Sandy Dillon, with a vocal style somewhere between Melanie and Macy Gray, and a percussive keyboard that sometimes makes her sound remarkably close to Tom Waits. Well worth a listen we thought (and I’m certainly off to see her for Whiskyfun at the next possible chance) – a view apparently not shared by a large part of the audience.
Such was their high-pitched faux working class braying that in the end Larry, or should I say Robert, strode onto the stage and threw what can only be described as a real folk-club wobbly: “now shut the fuck up and if you’ve got some fucking business conversation to have then get the fuck behind the fucking bar”. Silence reigned, briefly, until Jozzer added (so loud, yet with no amplification) “Right on Larry, fucking artists demand fucking respect”. Others might have cringed, but I have to put on record here that as the man that introduced me to the Alabama 3 (over a rather nice Cantonese lunch) I can forgive Jozzer for almost anything (I said ALMOST anything).
So next, I thought, was Robert Love. But no! The stage was taken by two girls on keyboards and a hidden guitarist, who started playing and singing a barely recognisable version of ‘Sympathy for the devil’. For some reason The Photographer shot to the front of the stage, Jozzer started sweating, Trizzer looked uneasy, whilst I sat thinking that this very 1970s cool alternative Brixton collective thing was really running out of steam. Steam? The next thing was fireworks – revolving around the huge breasts of Devillia Dallas “a sultry, pistol-packin, whiskey swillin, fire nipple twirllin, fire eatin, neo-burlesque vixen” according to her website. I think it’s what they call subversive alternative cabaret in south London, but I can’t help thinking that Jozzer was more on the mettle, “Stripper” he shouted, as Trizzer held him down with a triple Nelson – very admirable.
And then, as the smoke subsided, Robert Love and his band. I should say that I have the album, Ghost Flight, and have largely been disappointed by it, ‘though it certainly gets hugely better once seen performed live. Very derivative, some cringe-worthy arrangements (the pianist used to work at the Raymond Revue bar, and it shows) and just flat compared to his other works. That’s the bad part. Live, with Robert Love in a fairly belligerent mood, the very C&W tinged tunes took on a fantastic honky tonk feel. People danced, Robert swore, the guitarist in the band really started playing well, the drink was flowing, and we had a big fun time. I’ve gone back to the album and found it more enjoyable, but the tip here is that Robert, or Larry, or just plain Merthyr boy Robb, whomever he might be, is an outstanding live performer. And if you ever get the opportunity to see him, in whichever guise he may take (apart from the sex doll of course) then please go. And if you don’t want to buy his records, then you might like to try Jeff Klein, or certainly the very interesting Ms Sandy Dillon’s. Nick Morgan (all concert photographs by Kate)

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