Des Henly's Rock and Roll Circus

Gig reviews - uk music papers

Concert Review:

20 Apr 1975 London, Roundhouse
(supporting Dr. Feelgood)

DR. FEELGOOD'S first major bill-topping appearance has come comparatively quickly; DJ Jerry Floyd pointed out that the band had played at the Roundhouse at the bottom of the bill only last September, so it must have been gratifying to them to have sold out Sunday's concert.

Considering that most people had gone to see Dr. Feelgood, it was much to Fumble's credit that they stirred up a lot of genuine enthusiasm with a mixture of fifties songs - "Poetry in Motion", "Book of Love" etc. - and their own material, such as "So Long Marilyn", a tribute to Marilyn Monroe (written long before it was actually fashionable).
A few years ago, Fumble suffered the indignity of being liked by everyone all at once, which meant there was a slightly condescending tendency to take them for granted. However they are still one of the most professional bands around with more onstage personality than many, and a far sultrier sound now that the new lead guitarist is fully initiated.
But now i pause, wondering how to convey the ludicrous effect of being exposed to Wilko Johnson for the first time (like something akin to gamma rays or a form of nerve gas) and fully aware that anyone capable of wielding a pen ' has already poured every groveling superlative on that brilliant, if slightly misshapen head.
It must have been great to have been the first person to write about Dr. Feelgood with every adjective still at your disposal. Now you really need to invent a new vocabulary.
The level of audience excitement was unusual for one thing. It reminded me more than anything of how people reacted to the Stones about ten years ago, a feeling of being in at the start of something huge.
Wilko Johnson only needed to twitch a nostril to bring the crowd to near hysteria. He did a lot more than that however, setting off in manic forays around the stage with the rigid grace of one of those fairground contraptions, all abrupt angular turns and a uniform speed (no time wasted in accelerating).

Vocalist Lee Brilleaux is no less of a star. Wilko might be pretty weird, but he's just plain evil with a powerful voice eminently suited to the demented stutterings of the Telecaster and the equally sordid rhythm section. He sweats profusely and constantly dabs his face with a towel, plays some excellent slide guitar on some numbers, harmonica on others, crouches and does ruder things with the mike than anyone else. It seemed that the set was a standard one as far as material went although apparently the band's collective confidence has increased a lot recently. They started with "Talking `Bout You" and went on to do other rock standards Like "My Baby, Your Baby" and some of their own material including "Roxette" and the new single "She Does It Right", which were good enough to dash the only conceivable criticism there could be of the band - that their novelty value might outweigh their lasting power.
A diamond version of "Route 66" brought the set to an end but there were encores. W.J. came back onstage looking genuinely surprised and delighted at the reaction and completely ruined his ex-con image by blowing kisses. He then sang "I'm a Man" while Brilleaux blasted vigorously at his harp. Johnson's voice sounds like he looks (see, my descriptive powers are exhausted) and it was really good except for the agitation he appeared to suffer at being rooted to one spot for a few minutes. "Boney Moroney" and "Tequila" followed and that was it. Although the Feelgood's stuff is all pretty similar it is in no way repetitive, but works on you insidiously building up to a distinct peak of excitement.
I haven't mentioned bass player Sparko or drummer The Figure mainly because i couldn't see them but their combined sound was fabulous - great lunking bass lines and fast solid drumming. It may be inevitable that Brilleaux and Johnson will get more attention. But the thing about Dr. Feelgood is that they are very much a band.
- LINDSEY BOYD
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
April 21 1975