Spear of Destiny & Rebel Roulette – Cafe Drummonds – 20/07/10
I wasn’t really in the mood for this. A couple of tough days at work combined with a couple of restless nights had left me pretty knackered. The thought of a 70 mile round trip for a night on the cola wasn’t exactly appealing to me. However, around half seven, the lure of Spear kicked in and I made the drive to Aberdeen through some pretty pea-soupy fog arriving at Drummonds at just about 8.30.
Initial signs aren’t good. There’s about a dozen at the bar while the man himself, Kirk Brandon, sits alone at a table near the stage. It’s hot and clammy in Drummonds again so, when we get our drinks, we take a table up near the door to try and catch the little bit of cool air entering the venue through the open door.
There’s a slow trickle of people entering the venue though and by the time the support band, Rebel Roulette, take to the stage, there’s maybe 40-50 in. It’s a tough job going on to a mostly empty venue at this early hour (about ten past 9), knowing that at this point, those in the venue probably just want to chat with their mates over the first couple of drinks of the evening rather than listen to you. Knowing that in an hour’s time, they would be a lot more receptive and their numbers will have doubled. Such are the joys of being the local support.
Rebel Roulette set about their task though. They are a female-fronted four piece who inhabit the same kinda musical territory as The Gossip or Florence & The Machine. Initially I’m not that impressed with the generic heavy rock sung with an affected American accent that’s interrupting the conversation at my table. However, once I actually stop talking and start listening, I soon find my snap judgement is considerably off the mark. The song writing and playing from this band is anything but generic and, as the set progresses, I warm greatly to the variety of sound at play here. They display some interesting guitar work and the drummer mixes up the rhythms a fair bit without ever losing the flow of the songs. There’s a nod towards Patti Smith at one point in the set and, in another song, the angular guitar calls to mind the Au Pairs, but overall, the biggest influence has to be Florence. The singer even shares the same flowing red locks and taste for flouncy tops. But don’t get me wrong, Rebel Roulette are not total soundalikes, there’s enough originality in their sound to ensure I check them out more fully next time they’re playing out. And I’m not the only one if the applause at the end of their set is anything to go by. One to watch.
I’d guess that there’s maybe 100-120 in the house by the time the intro music heralds the arrival of Spear Of Destiny to the Drummonds stage. But Spear fans are resilient. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in volume and enthusiasm. Kirk looks well. There’s little evidence of the heart problems and serious operation he’s undergone over the last year as he leads the band into a rousing World Service. I should be used to it by now but, once again, I’m surprised by the impact of this band as a live unit. I guess a fair few of the songs are pretty grandiose anyway but the power coming off the stage is tangible. You can physically feel it as well as hear it. And the small crowd tries their damnedest to give it back. I’m truly surprised by the volume of the roar at the song’s end. I hope the band felt it the same onstage.
Rocket Ship is next, its “We’re nothing special – nothing at all” refrain prompting impassioned singing along from the hardcore fans at the front. That’s something else I noticed about the Spear fans. I recognise faces from the last time they played, faces I don’t see at any other gig in town, and yet here they are again, going wild and singing along to EVERY word.
Anyway, I digress. The tour was billed as focussing on the World Service album, which I guess it does. Not in the same rigid way they did for the 25 Years of One Eyed Jacks gigs though. Tonight they play four album tracks plus associated b-sides interspersed with a cross section of other songs. The core band is supplemented by keyboards this time out (missing last time out) and this serves the choice of material well.
We get a new song entitled The Undertow which I’m guessing is off the newly released Omega Point album. It’s a goody. Slow and brooding with Brandon’s mournful vocal giving it great depth. And dammit if the uberfans don’t know the words already!
A grinding, cyclic guitar riff signals the arrival of crowd favourite The Wheel and the first outbreak of mass dancing at the front. It’s a fantastic tune whose appeal hasn’t diminished with age. The band are clearly enjoying themselves as they treat us to a rather cheesy Shadows type pirouette in the middle of it. They keep up the impetus with a sterling Rainmaker and personal favourite Attica before returning to the World Service album once again. The almost joyous white-boy reggae of Come Back shouldn’t really work next to the bombast of the typical Spear sound and yet somehow it does. It also brings a grin to many faces throughout the crowd, seemingly still a popular choice.
Kirk dips into his more recent history with Prison Planet from 1997’s Religion album. It’s a relentless song and the driving twin guitar riff keeps the energy levels up. There’s pained expressions starting to appear on the faces of the faithful down the front as the pace begins to tell but there’s to be no respite. An equally powerful Soldier Soldier follows, with the crowd doing their best to keep up as the band thrash away at their instruments.
At the end of the song, Kirk strips off his guitar and hands it to the roadie before taking the mic and leading the band into the last selection from World Service in the main set – a rousing I Can See. The song is immense and he’s pushing his luck here as he dances wildly around the stage, eyes closed and arms flailing, clearly lost in the music. It’s thrilling to watch. This is where it transcends mere performance. He’s putting his very soul into the song. And so is the crowd, shouting out the La-la-lalala-la-laaaaa chorus in unison as Kirk offers them the mic. It’s a majestic set closer.
They thank us and bid us goodnight. The Spear faithful of course make sure it’s a temporary departure, stamping and clapping and generally making more noise than they ought to. The encore comprises a storming Mickey – clearly a very popular choice on the dancefloor as it gets much busier and more boisterous on there – and of course the perennial finisher and tour de force, Liberator. This sees the stragglers join the heaving human mass in front of the stage and the band milk it for all it’s worth, stretching out the ending of the song for ages. When it’s finally over, the rest of the band make their exit leaving Kirk centre stage to soak up all the clapping and plaudits being offered his way. He’s as humble and self-effacing as ever, politely acknowledging the audience response before he heads off to join his bandmates.
It’s been another wonderful Spear Of Destiny gig at Drummonds, their second home in Aberdeen these days. Let’s hope it’s not too long before they return.
New York Johnny
Land Of Shame
I Can See
Spear Website : http://www.kirkbrandon.com/
Spear Myspace : http://www.myspace.com/spearofdestinyuk
Rebel Roulette Myspace : http://www.myspace.com/rebelroulette