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It’s a Leap Year Wednesday on the eve of St. David and the Moon’s in diagonal conjunction with Mars and Venus complementing a sell-out Hare that welcomes back home-boys, Goodnight Lenin, regaling us with anecdotal on-tour debauchery after a Folk Club lock-in at Richmond, Yorkshire. They admit, with bashful circumspection that, ‘What goes on tour-stays on tour’ and anyway, some of their moms are in the crowd and they’d go f**kin mad if they heard what went on. Theirs is an honest embracement of traditional and contemporary electric Folk exploiting accomplished musicianship and crisp four-part harmonies that eschew the horrors of finger-in-the ear cliched nasal keening.

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There were touching references to the genre-honoured repertoire of traditional protest ballad and social commentary, sans the duffle-coat/pipe smoking introspection. Flavours of 70s of alt. Country rock such as The Almond Brothers, CSN&Y, infused with poignant, hymnal nuances of Waterboys romantic Celt fusion were complimented by mandolin/violin interplay. ‘Wenceslas Square’ was transfixing as was ‘Old Cold Hands’ that shivered with a sombre, piano minor chord opening. Somewhere, as well, wasn’t there a reference to that organ refrain from ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and Jeff Buckley’s opening guitar to ‘Hallallula’? They later let loose with a (plausibly?) Mc Guinness Flint, inspired Billy/Punk intense ‘Glory Be’ with storm-trooper percussion driven by drummer, Berry. If you’re prone to niggling reminiscences of Paul Simon’s haunting guitar work on ‘Wednesday Morning 3am’ and Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver harmonies then it’s Goodnight Lenin – hello future delights for you. Don’t disregard the name-checks – they’re evidence of the band’s inspired ability to weave yet more imaginings into the ever expanding tapestry of our collective musical heritage. And after that sentence I need to lie down.

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The quirky, kaleidoscopic band photo currently promoting Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny’s newly released album ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ (best not ask!) suggests deja vu substance induced 60s flashbacks to two seminal albums’ inner gatefolds. Namely, Sgt. Pepper and Trout Mask Replica.

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Paradoxically perplexing and quixotically infectious, B.J. Houghton is a conundrum of a beehive blonde bouffant wrapped-up in Popsy charm and falsetto, operetta chic. Praise for her Rodeo/Glam True-Romantic panache. Praise for her Tango/Fandango Tex-Mex-Billy Folk and Vaudeville Nouveau Glam appliqué. But, at yet barely 21 years old – damn those child of Destiny glittering eyes for their precocious vision and her gold-brick psyche mugging heavenly voice.

Soon to hit France, after touring the UK with Goodnight Lenin, the band are on mighty form and, standing at the back, one was spared the ambiguous invitation to gain olfactory proof that Ms. B might not have been wise to wear her synthetic woolen top for two gigs running – the minx. She maintains a most disarmingly mid-song candid anecdotal banter all evening.

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Opening number ‘Atlas’ kicks in with a ‘Going Japanese’/Siouxsie motif that suddenly bridges in to calypso ska. It’s a feature and particular celebration of inspired song-writing and musicianship that they can flirt and juggle with all manner of tripsy-shifting time signature changes. Seems, coming from the North East, certain idiosyncrasies have rubbed off from those brothers, Field Music.

All manner of imaginings come to mind as Ms. B flirts between Joan Baez falsettos and Freddie Mercury doing a possible Misty’s Big Adventure cover. And then perhaps, as with ‘Dodecahedron’, it’s more Saint Saviour swaying to a decadent trumpet refrain on a South Pacific island as slushy jingle-bells chime. ‘Honeycomb’ is a genre freaking bobbie-sox Del Shannon ‘Runaway’ homage.

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There’s Billy Bragg bucking bronco barn-storming and dosy-do reels to military two-step jiggery-poguery whilst they’re no strangers to anthemic, hymnal ballads either. Viz Ms. B with band pared down to drum & bass inviting ‘Those lovely boys,’ Goodnight Lenin on stage for a hugs and cuddle soaring semi-a capella rendition of ‘Like A Prayer’. And a wry poke in the eye for Madge it was too.

Single encore, short and sweet: a ninety second scrapheap challenge powered bass riff driven Sham 69 Punk meltdown nostalgia-fest ‘Prick aka Shaun’. (Though they may’ve been having a larf with the last title.) Mischief on tour? It’s more than Rock n’ Roll – and we liked it.

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BJH and THOD Setlist: Atlas, Dodecahedron, Franklin Benedict, Liliputt, Your Holes, Veins, The Barely Skinny Bone Tree, Honeycomb, Humble Digs, Shampoo, Night-Swimmer, I Will Return (I promise), Sweet Tooth Bird, Like A Prayer – Prick aka Shaun.

Gig Review by John Kennedy
Gig Photography by Ian Dunn

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