Gig Review by John Kennedy + Gig Photography by Ian Dunn

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If your idea of the lonesome troubadour – sometimes troubled, sometimes consumed in a perplexing ecstasy of lyrical wonderment at the entire enigmatic nonsense of the human condition – then Howie Payne is your man. Especially if the singer-songwriter quintessence of both Simon Fowler (OCS/Merrymouth) and John Powers (LAs/Cast) are your benchmarks of excellence. He was perhaps a little awed by the formality of the Old Rep’s proscenium arch, dazzling lights and steeply raked seated audience. Though all of that was soon set aside as he introduce himself and songs with his resonant, signature Liverpudlian accent. Could be twenty-one but he’s actually forty-three this year. What secret-pact charmed Dorian Gray alike portrait does he keep in his attic we wondered?

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His guitar playing was of some renown often deftly retuning to a variety of open chord formats alongside the laconic, if not cheekily gauche mid-song anecdotes – most notable in ‘You Can Dream On’ and the swampy, resonating dronal blues in ‘Get Up High’. His Liverpudlian antecedents shone proudly through with new song ‘Brightest Star’ and its uplifting ‘Yea, Yea, Yea,’ chorus refrain whilst the chugging tempo of ‘It’s Only What You Think You Are’ was further charmed by its nuances of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’. The smokey, Jazz-dive minor-key Torch heart-breaker ‘Forever In Blue’ elicited the wry observation that, “…err… that song really needs a black polo-neck to go with it!* ’ The romantic, interrogative inner-dialogue of’ ‘Do Right By Me’ was a joy to behold. Seriously check this chap out on – Soundcloud ‘Hold Steady The Wire and past material from The Stands.

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Were one given to idle speculation as to where Goodnight Lenin drew inspiration for the band’s name – historical antecedents might suggest it to be one of Uncle Joe Stalin’s many sick-humored euphemisms used during his pogroms of mass liquidation. Said despotic maniac infamously arranged the demise of his exiled enemy, Trotsky, via a bizarre ‘gardening accident’ when the unfortunate Leon reluctantly, and very much terminally, head-butted an ice pick: ergo – ‘Goodnight Lenin.’ Sympathetically observed, you will of course recall, by The Stranglers’ – in No More Heroes – because it ‘…made his ears burn!’

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Fortunately, tonight’s wonderfully promising set of old favourites and an abundance of showcase material for their impending debut album release ‘sometime soon…’ bore no suggestions of Anarcho/Counter-Revolutionary conspiratorial naughtiness. Mind you, when the Devil’s in them Goodnight Lenin, as true Brummie bad boys can be, often invitie their Moms to gigs so they can swear and drink on stage and not get sent to bed for doing so. And, what a great venue! Celebrated for their eclectic taste for the unusual, last year saw them play at Moseley Folk & Lunar Festivals, St Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter, Far Out Tent – Greenman, and this year – Glastonbury! Move over you Glimmer Twins!

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Tonight we were promised some things old, somethings new, somethings borrowed and a potent brew of decidedly new directions. The set opened to Abbey Road’s ‘Because’ behind closed curtains as we anticipated the medly segue to cue in the band with a big wallop. Sort of: center stage was the bare-footed, hillbilly hatted guitars and lead vox John Fell in a vortex of stage smoke and off they galloped into a fiery-Folksy rendition of live favourite ‘Ode To Rebellion’. If you’re feeling mischievous think ‘Horrible Histories’ meets Hey Nonny Nonny Americana. As ever the musicianship and close harmonies were tight, concise and never self-indulgent. The evening bounces along with predictable band member banter, tour-bus point scoring anecdotes and the occasional fluffed intro. But, it was the new stuff we were minded of.

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If they weren’t arsing about with the set list as well ‘You Were Always Waiting’ was the first new song. Its instantly recognisable move towards the more alt.Country/Rock spectrum of kick-ass riff back-line with melodies and ballsy guitar was a mongrel-mix of, amongst others – and take your pick – Wilco/Jayhawks & CSN possibly – together with, oddly enough, ripples of Small faces. Mongrel indeed and had some seasoned punters asking which particular tree the band planned to be barking up in the future. Another new one ‘Slow Down’ hardly heeded its own advice by indulging in an in yer face fiddle n’ fuzz Celtic break-out. Laudable fun it was too. The new stuff’s work in progress and it’s always a poisoned chalice to have a catalogue of songs so well appointed and/but being aware that they still have to gain album release whilst new material, the life-blood of any meaningful band, is begging to get an airing. At this point the GJ crew had to get hip with the cross-town traffic so ‘tog’-maestro Mr. Dunn could shoot ADO at The Hare.

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Check out Tony Hancock’s ‘Beat-Scene’ parody, The Rebel, 1961.

One Response to “Goodnight Lenin + Howie Payne, The Old Rep, Birmingham, UK – 31st May 2013”

  1. Highbury Studio Birmingham | Highbury Works Outing Says:

    […] Goodnight Lenin: http://www.gigjunkies.com/band-reviews/goodnight-lenin-howie-payne-the-old-rep-birmingham-uk-31st-ma… […]

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