Friday, 16 May 2014

The Sonics at Concorde 2, Brighton - Monday 5th May 2014 || Review by Dave Harris

I had unfinished business with The Sonics. The last time I saw them live (which was also the first time the reformed line-up played in the UK) was back in 2008. I was near the back and I didn't really connect with the show the way I'd hoped for. Tonight I made sure I was right down the front and the band did not disappoint.

The Sonics defined the garage rock sound and became a massive influence on many bands including Mudhoney, The Cramps and The Fall. They left two absolutely stunning LPs, 1965's debut "Here Are The Sonics" and the 1966 follow up "Boom", but things went awry after a change of label and the band called it a day soon after releasing their third album. After a few brief reunions The Sonics officially reformed in 2007 and seem to have gone from strength to strength ever since.

My last visit to the Concorde 2 was to see Swans, a band notorious for being very loud. I'd worn earplugs that night and hadn't expected to need them this time round. That proved to be a mistake as The Sonics opened with a blistering version of Cinderella that nearly blew the roof off the venue. New bass player Freddie Dennis sang lead and absolutely nailed the primal scream vocals that are evident on the original. It was clear from the off this was The Sonics I wanted to see.

I'd guess Jerry Rosalie avoids some of the screechier vocals but he sang lead on Shot Down, also from "Boom", and sounded great. Rob Lind's sax is a key element in all the songs but really shone during their cover of the fabulous Wailers' tune Dirty Robber. Lind, who also got to sing lead on a few tracks, explained they'd had an 11 hour drive from mainland Europe to get to Brighton but were really pleased to be playing the town. Considering most of the band are in their late sixties, it was pretty impressive they could still cope with the rigors of touring and put on such a scorching rock'n'roll set. If I've got the same sort of spirit when I'm their age I'll know I'm doing pretty well.

If you ever wondered where the Black Keys got their inspiration from you needn't look much further than The Sonics version of Have Love Will Travel. It's my favourite version of the Richard Berry track and sounded fantastic live. The old hits were great but the band also played six new songs and announced they intended to release a brand new album very soon. This was news to me and, though you might not expect a band to release their best work some 40 years after their last studio offering, all the new tunes compared pretty favourably with the classics. I certainly won't hesitate to pick up a copy when it's out.

One of the new tracks was Bad Betty, The Sonics half of a Record Store Day split single with Mudhoney. Two peas in a pod without a doubt. There were a handful of copies left at the merch stand and, with hindsight, I regret not trying to pick up a copy. Rosalie joked that the next song was "a song about a Horse ... or perhaps a car" before launching into Boss Hoss, a new set of wheels "painted in turn on red, Girls see it and it knocks 'em dead". Dusty Watson proved he was an able replacement for original drummer Bob Bennett with the trademark tub thumping, that had me air drumming, on the set closing Psycho.

Larry Parypa's guitar was outstanding throughout but seemed to get even louder for the encores. A blistering version of Strychnine went down particularly well before the show came to a proper conclusion with an equally raucous version of the band's debut single The Witch. A magnificent evening with the band storming through the perfect set of hard rocking garage punk that showed the kids you're never too old to rock'n'roll.

Review by Dave Harris

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