G & J Music @
Live on Light Square Tonic
4:00pm, Sun 15 Mar 2009
Right, let’s get this out of the way, up front – I’m not the world’s greatest Radiohead fan. In fact, I’d only classify my interest in Radiohead as “passing”; sure, I regard OK Computer as one of the greatest albums of the nineties, but its successor Kid A sounded like someone overdosed on the “self-indulgent noodling” drugs, and predecessor The Bends is decidedly bland to me (with the exception of the phenomenal Just).
(So – that’s me in the shit-books with anyone likely to read this post, then. Hey, I really do like to pump my numbers up… I’m all about the reader pandering, I am ;)
A work colleague received a blanket e-mail from one of her ex-workmates (who just happened to be either the “G” or “J” of “G & J Music”) advertising their intended show. In the manner of all great word-of-mouth campaigns, that e-mail spread around the office and I, looking for any good excuse to lock shows into The Schedule, took the bait (but only after thinking to myself “Covering Radiohead, eh? They’ve got to have balls to attempt a gig like that.”) But, rolling up in the Sunday afternoon drizzle to Live on Light Square, the venue was quite clearly not going to be hosting any show; only the presence of actual wooden boards would have made the place look more boarded up. Fortunately, someone was rounding up the grumpily mystified punters and sending them to the new venue for RADIUM, the club previously known as Tonic.
Bumping into a former workmate-in-common with either G or J was a pleasant surprise; he was there with his family, a ruck of kids in tow. In fact, the entire audience seemed surprisingly child-heavy; not that they were the majority or anything, but they were quite noticeable in their presence, even in the dim interior of the club.
But onto the gig. G & J (sorry, I completely missed their names) came onstage to a rapturous welcome; this very much felt like a friends-and-family gathering (of about 200 people, which was impressive). A guitarist/vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist, they opened with Lucky – brave, I thought, given the fine balance of tenderness and power delivered by the original. But they created a more-than-credible rendition, which raised my hopes immensely. Paranoid Android followed soon after – again, a ballsy selection, but unfortunately this one suffered a little from a more creative re-instrumentation that lacked the blistering guitar that bookends the last half of the song.
Halfway through their first set, I was becoming quite staggered at the complexity of sound that these two chaps were able to produce… but then, in the middle of one track, some dense pre-recorded backing becomes evident… and the spell is broken. I’m left constantly guessing what’s live and what’s not. The video backing the pair onstage – entries from Radiohead’s In Rainbows video competition – were fair accompaniment, but overall presentation was perfunctory.
After a short interval, G & J returned to a much rowdier crowd. And unfortunately I was less happy with the second set; I’ve always hated Black Star, I found their thin rendition of the superb Airbag disappointing, and No Surprises has always been an album lowlight for me. Still, they managed to come home strong, and there was certainly masses of crowd appreciation.
Now, with my limited knowledge of the catalogue, I was unable to confirm G & J’s claim that they were selecting tracks that spanned Radiohead’s entire career; though I know there was the odd Pablo Honey track, and they certainly feasted on a lot of In Rainbows. But the selection of tracks covered a fair range of styles – sure, nothing like The National Anthem or Kid A got covered, but a pretty decent effort was put into Fitter Happier (courtesy of a young daughter). However, the effort the boys put into the staging of their vocals was evident – they were constantly covering each other, maintaining a deep vocal presence, and The Bends received a suitably rocking twin-guitar assault… but it very much typified the relatively straightforward adaptations of these songs.
And that, perhaps contrary to my complaint of Paranoid Android above, is possibly my only criticism of the show; whilst you could tell that G & J had a personal attachment to these songs, they didn’t really do a whole lot to make them their own. Having said that, RADIUM presented a lot of excellent songs well performed, and you can’t really complain too much about that.