What Cheer? Brigade
Madge of Honor
Vockah Redu and the Cru
I haven’t written a review of a gig before, but if ever I was going to document something I’d seen it would be this.
This a review, not a rating, or a judgement, I’m simply going to review the things that happened, for my own sake as much as anything else. I don’t want to forget it, I don’t want to leave it behind to the mists of time and some average photo’s. If I write it down now, I will have a record in a detail that I won’t be able to summon up later on. So here it goes.
In the run up to the Church of Love and Ruin, I was filled anticipation, excitement, and a little bit of anxiety. I’m noisy sometimes, but not necessarily willing to go and ‘get involved’ in that way that a good party needs. I imagined lots of forced audience participation, people dragged out of the crowd to be a part of the show (poor, poor Louis) which makes me uncomfortable. The reality of the situation was that there would be a bringing down of barriers between audience and performer, but it would be done with consent, that no one was going to be in a place they didn’t want to be.
So, after we turn up to the venue we’re greeted by the performers, B.Dolan and Vockah Redu at the merch table. It’s always great to see the guys you’ve paid to see in conversation range, especially as a welcome to the gig. We said hello, we paid our commercial dues and wandered into the venue.
The first Performers for the night were the What Cheer? Brigade, and this, Ladies and Gentleman, is how you warm up a crowd. Quite apart from the obvious spectacle of 19 tattooed, dressed down, dancing, musicians parading into a space playing as they go, the sheer noise that a host of brass instruments and drums can make is sure to get your attention, and deafen you a little. This was an English gig in a room with a little too much space, so from the off the What Cheer? Brigade had their work cut out to get us involved. What appeared to be the lead-man had to come and get us all, bring us closer in to fill the gaps between performer and audience, to really get into everyone’s faces and pull them into the music.
And what music. marching, Samba, hip-hop break beats, even some off-beat D’n'B inspired rhythm in there, topped off with a cover of none other than Slayer, Raining Blood. Slayer, played by a brass band, absolute effing genius.
We were made (ha!) to drink, dance and be all round uplifted by this awesome, curious group who honestly seemed like they just wanted everyone to have fun. This was very definitely going to be a show about putting on a show. No-one here was in it for the money, this was a party.
Eventually of course, the glorious din faded and the brigade made their way out. B Dolan came to introduce the next act, Madge of Honor. Now, I’m no burlesque expert, I’ve been exposed, no pun intended, to very little of this particular art but unsurprisingly enough I was willing to give this one a go.
She was funny, she was smart, she was naked, mostly. I don’t know that I have the eloquence or experience to add any more to this, only to say that with out her presence, the show would have lost more than a pair of nipple tassels. A key and very important element of the show and its atmosphere, the very reason for its existence was tied up into this one artist who made me remember there are a lot of things we English need to work on, and relaxing about sex and fun and entertainment are most definitely up there.
Our next performer is the only act that I have ever seen that I can honestly say the UK isn’t physically ready for. It’s not that psychologically we can’t cope, it’s that bit up there, about relaxing into partying. When a man comes on stage dressed in a top hat and very large black coat with a huge collar and sunglasses with blue and red LED’s all over them I don’t think I’m wrong when I say you won’t guess what’s coming next. Vockah Redu and the Cru are like nothing I’ve ever seen, an almost non stop backing track of samples and whole sections of popular songs melded together with Vockah providing a singing, rapping, speaking accompaniment over the top, punctuated by high energy, and as far as I could tell high risk, dance routines, aswell as a little Madge cameo.
A high energy, visual and auditory explosion welled up on stage and sneakily clattered me in the back of the head when I wasn’t looking. Despite having no idea if I was being duped, or even what exactly was going on, I suddenly found I didn’t care. I wanted in on this mans deal, a character who legitimises himself by simply doing what he does at you, around you and sometimes possibly even despite of you. The impact of Vockah Redu and the Cru was such that the void left upon his departure was immediately bordering on tangible.
We weren’t left to our own devices for long, as another turn from Madge kept up the pace of the show, and the variety.
Then the main event. B Dolan himself up on stage to share with us his views and feeling on a number of subjects. This time around, and it’s new on me, Justin Timberlake seems to have done enough to earn the ire of the man, and what an ire. Blistering, well delivered and thought-provoking, the tirade of ill will issued forth from BDolan‘s mouth would seem childish and aimless had it not been supported, as ever, by reason, explanation and great story telling. The return of a particular favourite of mine, “Who killed Russell Jones..” was as powerful an indictment of celebrity culture and the abuses forced upon artists by recording executives so distanced from normal human culture that they no longer are able to understand the misery they are undoubtedly responsible for, all the while clad in the legal obscurity of Corporate Law, as the last time I saw this particular Headliner, alongside Scroobius Pip. For the Church of Love and Ruin BDolan is clad in a purple robe reminiscent of Catholic priests, and certainly by the end of the set you feel a sermon has been delivered, with important points to deliberate on during the journey home.
BDolan’s set was powerful, at times fun and he has poignant down to a ridiculous level, his on-stage persona needs no band, no back up, no help what-so-ever to engage and challenge the waiting audience.
Tonights finale was courtesy of our star act being joined by the What Cheer? Brigade for one last brassy hurrah, ending the gig on an up, a happy ringing in our ears as we were moved out to the streets to work out how the hell to process what we had just seen. Thank you Vockah, thank you Madge, thank you What cheer? Brigade and thank you BDolan for bringing us this show. If you weren’t there, and if you aren’t planning to catch any of the remaining shows in Reading, Brighton or at Bestival, then you are truly missing out on an experience.