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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hans Chew - Christie Connor-Vernal King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - 29/07/14 (Glasgow)

Innis & Gunn in a can?

Why did no one tell me about this?

Initially I was entertaining some dark thoughts about this new release being kept a secret from me, but then when my change was handed back over the bar I realized that friends were keeping it quiet in an attempt to steer me away from financial ruin.

In these recession hit times the four pound price tag (nearly $7US) is something that my meagre income is not up to carrying the weight of.

As the barmaid took my money I had a flashback to when the Solid Rock CafĂ© wet the bottom of a two glasses with some Mount Gay rum and took ten pounds from me for the privilege. 
I nearly cried that night, and as I sipped on my expensive Innis and Gunn I could feel tears welling up again as I grieved for the loss of hard worked for mullah from my wallet.

It’s been an emotional week I guess.

Anyway on the upside I was in good company, and the prospect of seeing Christie Connor-Vernal with a full band backing her, and the headliner Hans Chew, was enough to balance out the bad karma that was lurking behind the bar waiting to take the shine off the night for unsuspecting patrons.

Once relocated to venue proper that is upstairs the night could start in earnest though, and it most certainly did as Christie and the band opened with As good as I am.
The studio version, while impressive, pales in comparison to the live rendition.
It’s not that the band and Christie were pulling their punches while recording it, but instead that with a quality sound - and an audience to play to that were obviously supportive - the whole performance is taken to a different level again.

After another couple of songs were aired from the session I started to get the distinct impression that there was something quite cinematic about the experience.

That what we were seeing reflected the Hollywood rock and roll fantasy.

It’s Christie starring as the up and coming artist who is paying her dues along with her band in small bar rooms, and from the quality of the music on display it is easy to see where the story is going, and of course the credits will assuredly roll on a triumphant stadium show.

However the thing with these films is that they can’t start off revealing anyone really paying their dues, and from the first song the standard is set at a level that is maintained across the whole movie.
After all they have a soundtrack release to sell.
Consider Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand in “A star is born”.
Beyonce Knowles in “Dreamgirls”,
Or even Neil Diamond in “The Jazz Singer”.
All of these movies have musicians at the top of their game pretending to be starting off, and it is in this way that the set reflects that as the quality of the bands performance is out of sync with the surroundings.
It’s a set that is already at the point of being featured as the end credits roll.

It just seems that as a whole this is a band that should literally be already jetting about from festival to stadium and it is only in catching them live that this can be understood.

On the rare occasions when I witness a band taking the music to this degree of professionalism, paired with a solid chunk of passion, then it honestly begs the question why label representatives are not out the back of the venue slapping each other in the face with chequebooks with the last man, or women, standing getting to sign them.

Someone out there somewhere isn't doing their job if any band this talented is not being supported in achieving their dreams.

As for Hans Chew it was a bittersweet first meeting.

The bitter part was all about the amount of people flooding from the venue prior to them starting to play.
Something that had nothing to do with Hans Chew either, but everything to do with the usual myopic engagement with live music from the public.
People just generally stick to what they know, and as Hans and his band are a bit of an unknown quantity here in the UK then the majority simply weren't looking to take the time to get acquainted.
It would be easy to say it is their loss, but it isn't.
It’s really our loss, our collective loss, because every time this happens the artists at the level Hans and his band-mates are at have to consider if it is worth returning to these shores from the other side of the world.
They have to think about the costs involved, the time away from their family and friends, and then weigh it up while asking themselves if the fan picked up in this bar here and the two in that club there is really edging their careers forward in any meaningful way.
The brutal angle on that is if it’s not, then it’s not, and it isn't worth doing.

The sweet part was as you have probably guessed the music, and oh how sweet it was.
The band simply refused to let the dwindling crowd take anything away from what they do.
With a Hans Chew show no one is getting short changed.
You paid to hear some great music and that’s what you are getting.

It’s actually rare to see a band so attuned to each other.
I don’t know if it comes from practice, a natural ability, or a combination of both, but there are points in the show where it looks as if the band becomes lost in a high velocity jam session with each other.

Sometimes when that happens I can appreciate that the musicians are skirting with disaster and there’s an added appeal as everything could jump the rails at any second, but Hans Chew aren’t like that.
Instead it’s a fluid and organic performance that takes everything to a peak, and then pushes on beyond that and as every peak is reached and you think they can’t take it to another then they gleefully do leaving other bands in the dust.

Of course on stage Hans is the focal point, and maintains control throughout, but this is a real band and not a one man show.
The musicianship on display hammers that point home.
The rhythm section of Jesse Wallace on drums and Ricardo Ortiz on bass don’t simply provide a beat, a foundation for the songs to be built up from, but rather they play their instruments as part of the fabric of the songs and provide additional shading to everything that is being played.
I've seen many drum solos and like the majority of non musicians they leave me cold, but Jesse doesn't just beat at the skins and hit everything in sight.
When he goes into his solo it’s a musical part of the show in itself.

Similarly Dave Cavallo on guitar is no slouch.
You want some bottle neck slide with the soulful keyboard flourish?
Not a problem sir.
You want a punky thrash to compliment some honky-tonk tinkling?
Have some of that and here’s a side order of the blues to go with it.
Meanwhile with Hans stomping, growling and howling through everything from soul and jazz to country and juke joint rock and roll it becomes glaringly obvious that they are collectively providing a joyous noise that covers every base imaginable.
It’s a smorgasbord of aural delights with something for everyone.
A one stop shop for real music fans to indulge in.

At one point as they tucked their heads down and powered on I was thinking about a celebrity death match between the Doors and MC5 with it coming to a points finish.

At another I was considering Dr John playing at 3am in a piano bar.


That could be a one word review for it.

To take it back to an earlier point about the lack of an audience.
If this is what you get in a room with barely anyone in it can you imagine what it would be like if the band could feed off an ecstatic crowd and they and the audience build on that flow?

At the end of the gig it would have to be classed as a natural disaster zone as it wouldn't just be the roof of the venue taken off, but every roof in a five mile radius.

Oh I do so hope they come back.  

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