Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
It’s cold, bone-chillingly cold. Rumours of icebergs floating about in the River Avon are a bit premature but it’s heading in that direction upon the thermometer! However, a red-hot show awaits at Bristol’s O2 Academy with Stateside genre-blurring rock outfit Electric Six, hollering out of Michigan, in town.
Best known for ‘Fire,’ their 2003 breakthrough debut album, released some seven years after formation in Detroit, Electric Six have continued to confound for nearly two decades. Spawning three hit singles ‘Fire’ gate-crashed the UK top 10 album charts providing a springboard for a further 14 studio offerings.
This evening’s widely diversified support acts are as far apart as could be without falling off the cliff-edge. Opening is the massively burgeoning talent of gritty outfit The Kut who have been supporting E6 throughout this UK leg of the tour. Between these slots in the sizeable ranks of local raconteurs Red Ray & The Reprobates. With grunge hurtling headlong into the hill-billy quarters it’s not just electric but edifyingly eclectic too.
With the Academy steadily filling four shadowy silhouettes, shrouded in dry ice, take to the boards. “We’ve come on early, can do an extra track” announces lead guitarist / vocalist Princess Maha before The Kut launch into the crunching energies of ‘I Don’t Need Therapy’ craned in off their 2015 EP ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors.’
This year’s album ‘GRIT’ has propelled The Kut firmly into the spotlight – no. 5 in the Independent Album chart and topping the UK Rock chart – the focus of the 35-minute set quite rightly centres about it. The buzzsaw rich ‘If Looks Could Kill’ rolls into the tenacious eddies of ‘Animo.
The latter being dedicated by Maha to all the ladies in the room for “Bringing courage into the world on a daily basis.” Ever enthusiastic, and justifiably so, about women and feminism in the music industry Maha will draw deserved pride from ‘GRIT’ becoming the first Number 1 rock album to feature women on vocals, guitars, bass, and drums since the genre chart formed in 1994.
Taking mic in hand Maha dispenses with her guitar for ‘Fun When You’re Winning’ – gaining coverage across a variety of sporting channels – with Ali taking on the howling fretwork. Recently expanded to a four-piece, with Kiera Kenworthy on bass and Violet Show on drums, there is a fuller, deeper resonance to the sound.
The second half of their quick-fire set is shared between ‘GRIT’ and 2018’s debut ‘Valley Of Thorns’ with the raw, rough punk vibes of ‘Hollywood Rock n’ Roll’ shared forth from the latter. Following on Maha thanks all who helped ‘GRIT’ chart, there’s a clear sense of how much this means to this most determined and driven of musicians. The pop-punk tendencies of ‘On My Own’ precede the Stooges-fuelled ‘Bad Man.’
The pugnacious punk-fringed ‘And 1 More’ wraps a fine set that has set down a marker and a firm indication that The Kut belong on the bigger stage.
This evening’s second support act, Red Ray & The Reprobates, also have a bit of a thing with E6. In their penultimate show before lockdown, back in 2019, they supported the Detroit crossovers in Bristol and upon the back of that performance were asked to join E6 on their next tour. Well with the crippling effects of that virus on the music industry the tour was postponed not once but twice.
Led by ever-chipper head honcho Geordie ‘Red’ Ray Lannon the Reprobates storm the Academy with the massed ranks unleashing a fine Southern hill-billy bedrock n’ roll with head nodding set opener ‘Fairly Average Brown.’ With a fine brass triumvirate contained within there’s an introduction of soul to this bluegrass hook which captivates.
“I took my chances” growls Ray in the rousing redneck ‘Life’s A Bitch’ bringing more than a hint of The Dukes of Hazard to proceedings the party is well underway. The growing Academy crowd are right onside with punks and rockers, alike, swaying to the harmonious strains.
The whirlwind dust-devil start is eased back a touch with the slower tempo ‘Would You Love Me’ – it’s pretty damn clear that Messrs Cash and Brooks have shared a whisky or three in these here parts.
Playing with a busted hand hapless drummer Jackson Jeff bears the brunt of banter from Ray and guitarist Coyote Cam Cheek but has the last laugh not missing a beat throughout.
A funky rhythm scuttles in and out of ‘Quicksand’ whilst the delta lands are brought right home by ‘Lonesome.’ There’s a tongue firmly planted in cheek, most ably demonstrated by the quickfire lyrics of the foot stomping goodness of ‘Scottish Power I Hate You.’ This is a collective clearly have the time of their lives, it’s infectious and the Academy ensemble are dialled right in.
‘El Pueblo’ – the village of the poor – therein lies alloying of the modern likes of Ghoultown and The Outlaw Orchestra alongside the more traditional aspects. One thing is for sure, this isn’t enshrined in the past. This isn’t Americana pillaged by the English, no sir this is goodtime 21st century West country rock for the fun time drinking classes.
The stage has been set and with little fuss the components that comprise tonight’s headliners Electric Six file onstage. Co-founder and band pivot Dick Valentine announces “We’re a man down tonight. We’re coming at you as Electric Five! Our synth player (Tait Nucleus?) has had a baby back home.” E5 it is then but come set end no-one is complaining, far from it as we’ve banqueted upon a feast of over 20 courses.
Valentine is an enigmatic presence out front belting out the lyrics to bouncing opening track ‘Synthesizer’ then in the next moment feigning an understated faux awkwardness cordially waving to all quarters of the crowd during the instrumental segments. Pure theatre and a sense of the identity of E6.
Two fingers held high Valentine proclaims, “Song number two!” The Bristol gathering begin to bounce to the shimmering ‘Bride Of The Devil.’ Out stage left Jonny Na$hinal nails the outro from the atramentous soul of his Gibson SG.
Red, white, and blue lighting brings patriotic lighting for the punky up-tempo ‘Rock and Roll Evacuation’ before the meaty riffs threaten ‘Pulling The Plug On The Party.’ Valentine is keeping count. Rhythm guitarist Herb powers the Weezer-esque ‘Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)’ to the delight of the Academy, the throng seethes and boils.
“Right, those are the worst five songs we have for yas!” quips Valentine. Well contrary to the vocalist’s self-deprecating comment Bristol doesn’t accede. The jangly, funk of ‘Down At McDonnelzzz’ gets a loud reception before we’re offered ‘The New Shampoo’ and its bass-driven disco beats. Valentine takes a step back, in ardent reverence, to admire his guitarists Herb and long-standing partner-in-E6 Na$hinal.
The latter, The White Wolf, is presented by Valentine “It gives me great pleasure, in his natural environment!” before the entire place goes berserk with the familiar twang of ‘Gay Bar’ taking matters to a climatic crescendo. “I’ve got something to put into you!” squeals Valentine with clear pleasure. With befitting rainbow lighting we’re given further gratification with the marauding stomp of ‘Gay Bar Part Two’ keeping the zeal at fever pitch as it bleeds into the rabble-rousing of ‘She’s White.’
Announcing a new album for 2023 Valentine and his E6 compadres receive a voluminous cheer; “21 years in this dirty business!” Valentine notes.
Keeping some form of count the frontman roars “This is track four off album 97” as an introductory comment for swirling punk ‘Night Vision.’ The crowd love it and it’s apparent that this is a band that whilst having savoured early success doesn’t lean on purely that angle. ‘I Buy The Drugs’ with its ‘Smooth Criminal’ aesthetic sends wild fever across the Academy and whilst ‘Panic! Panic!’ slithers with intent.
Grooving rocker ‘Improper Dancing’ gets everyone doing what they shouldn’t be doing. Let’s get into the middle of the street! Frogmore Street, outside, needs warning. With a “Stop” and “Continue” Valentine is in charge and slots in ‘(Who The Hell Just) Called My Phone’
The inflammatory intro of ‘Danger! High Voltage’ is ignited from Herb’s Les Paul as the rocking magma issues from the gaping fissure. “Fire in the disco,” mania on the dancefloor. There is no return from the broiling maelstrom, moshing and bouncing.
It’s a bit of a dance thing as ‘Dance Epidemic’ conflagrant disco-infused strains maintains the groove epidemic through to set-closing ‘Dance Commander’ has the Academy moshing as if there’s no tomorrow. Valentine is the only one giving orders here, nobody disobeys. Complete obedience from the collective ranks “Dance Commander, we love you!”
Gentle ethereal serpent ‘The Afterlife’ heads up the encore, a touch of Gary Numan herein before the catchy crotch thrusting of ‘After Hours’ brings the curtain down upon a mayhemic 80 minutes of pure blurring of genres. Eclectic and electric be it five or six.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM