(Photo Credit - Karis Raeburn)
Man The Lifeboats know how to have a good time. Launching their new album at The Water Rats in Kings Cross (famously the site of The Pogues’ first gig, the first London performance by Oasis and “a very nice little venue”*) They not only had support from Henry Bird and The Alvarez Theory but also dance performances from The Tower Ravens and Blackheath Morris Men.
Henry Bird’s soulful voice and sublime guitar picking was a great start to the evening. Thanks to an obsession with Michael Flatley as a child I retain a fondness for any kind of percussive dance which meant that the rapper sword dancing of The Tower Ravens was a particular treat for me. Check out their website if you’d like to see some of this dance style, native to the northeast of England for yourself. I’m not so fond of morris dancing as a rule but the Blackheath Morris Men also put on a show that delighted the crowd, so much so that both dance groups performed multiple times for us.
The Alvarez Theory bought a more low key vibe to the evening with their cool brand of reflective Americana but their performance was just as great as that of the dancers.
Time then, for the main event (I only just managed to stop myself from making an album title related pun there). They gave us a stomping set both of newer album tracks and older tunes. The first few songs even felt a bit like they were channeling the spirit of The Pogues from that evening in 1982. Single release When The Ship Goes Down was popular with the crowd as was The Battle of Cable Street. The protest songs were always going to go down well in a city that’s currently so rife with disquiet.
I’m pleased to say that my favourite of the new album tracks, Godless was brilliant live. One of the things I like most about this band are all the references to specific areas of London and from the first line; “I’m on the 168 to New Cross Gate” this song was always going to appeal to me, especially as the bus ride then sends us all straight hell.
Without wishing to take anything away from the new album, which is a brilliant slice of rock-folk fabulousness, my two long term favourites My Westferry Sweetheart and Punch Drunk Blues were my highlights of the evening.
This album shows Man The Lifeboats at their best, slightly angry at the world but still ready to enjoy it, especially if there is a drink or two involved and we all know people like that throw the best parties, as last night proved.
When The Time Bell Rings is available across streaming platforms now.
Pick of the album tracks: Carry Me Home, Godless, The Walpurgis Hotel
*Source = My Mum in conversation, London, 14/10/19