Thursday, July 25, 2019

Live: Blue Orchids @ The Water Rats (London, July 12th, 2019)

The first week of our mini summer vacation was filled with live music and over the next few days we'll try to sum it all up in a series of posts that begin today with our first stop, on July 12th, at London's historic venue The Water Rats, a small pub in Kings Cross with notable history as it was here that Bob Dylan played his first ever UK gig in 1962. Actually on the very same evening that we made our way to the venue to see Blue Orchids, Dylan was playing with Neil Young at Hyde Park, but for us it was finally time to witness live Martin Bramah's band, the man who also happens to be responsible for most of the music on "Live at the Witch Trials", The Fall's classic 1979 debut.

Bramah formed Blue Orchids soon after leaving The Fall in '79, together with another ex-member of his previous band's first line up, keyboardist Una Baines, and released their debut single in 1980. Several singles followed, as well as a European tour as Nico's backing band in 1982, the same year that their first album, the cult classic "The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain)" was released. 

The '80s closed without any more Blue Orchids albums, but with Bramah's return to The Fall for a second brief stint during the period of recording and touring another classic album, 1990's "Extricate".

Bramah reemerged with a new version of the Blue Orchids between 2003 - 2004 for two more albums (largely solo efforts) and after another hiatus for the band, Blue Orchids made a comeback in 2016, giving us so far three albums, making the last four years their most prolific period.

The band's latest effort, a limited edition concept album which over the course of nine obscure covers and one special original tells a Faustian tale of woe, is titled "The Magical Record of Blue Orchids" and formed the backbone of the 80-minute set that the band presented. Some of the highlights from this album included the covers of The Growlers' "Pavement And The Boot", The Calico Wall's "I'm A Living Sickness" (made wider known when The Fuzztones covered it on "Lysergic Emanations") and The Human Expression's "Optical Sound". As for that "special" original, it is titled "Addicted To The Day" and it's a song with lyrics written by Mark E. Smith in April 1977 in one of Bramah's notebooks for which Martin later added the music. It was, of course, another highlight of the night and you can watch it below:

Blue Orchids - Addicted To The Day (live @The Water Rats, London)

Bramah and his band were in fine form throughout and it seems to me that this version of Blue Orchids can hold its own in any comparison with its original version from the '80s. For the encore, they actually took us back to their early days and closed their set with fine versions of "Agents of Chance" and a scorching "Bad Education". Garage psych-pop at its finest!

Blue Orchids, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)

The opening acts for Blue Orchids were Cult Figures, an energetic punk band which released two singles in 1979 - 1980 for Swell Maps' label Rather Records, disbanded soon after, only to made its comeback 40 years later (!) with first album "The 166 Ploughs A Lonely Furrow" (check it out here), and Vukovar, an experimental, hard to describe act, who presented us what they call Theater-Of-Cruelty. You should definitely lend an ear to their latest album "Cremator" (click here), their seventh in the just four years they've been active, but their curious live performance, although original (during the first song one of the two singer was also getting a haircut on stage!), lacked punch as the only musical accompaniment was a keyboard and a monotonous bass line, leaving out the industrial/post-punk edge that you'll find in some of the album's standout tracks. They do get points however for their melodic moments and for the interesting booklet about tarot cards they handed out at the end of their set.

Cult Figures, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)
Vukovar, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)

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