Monday, 5 May 2014

McAlmont & Butler at Islington Assembly Hall

On Friday we went to see a rare McAlmont & Butler gig at Islington Assembly Hall. I say 'rare' since they have been known to get together in the years since they split ten years ago, such as David McAlmont's show at Leicester Square Theatre 3-4 years ago. But that was for a few songs, not a full gig. And gig it was, playing to Butler's guitar antics rather than McAlmont's vocals.

It was a show to raise money for Bernard Butler's chosen charity, The Bobarth Centre that works to relieve children's cerebral palsy. Bernard has just run the London Marathon to raise funds for it and M&B played their first show at Union Chapel the previous night. It sold out so quickly they arranged this second show. It was all terribly worthy and there was a good atmosphere in the hall. It was also David's birthday.

The evening got off to a wobbly start with The Magic Numbers singing a few miserably slow dirges that I couldn't understand at all. This reunion show should be joyful and got off to an upbeat start, not slowed down like this. Enough of them

On came M&B to roars of welcome as the largely 30s-40s audience prepared to relive their youth from the mid-90s when M&B first made their mark. Bernard on guitar and supported by keyboards, bass, drums and a seven-piece string set, with David roaming round the small stage with backing vocals from the Magic Numbers women. It was a rather crowded stage and the lighting and sound weren't too good - the lights all seemed to be towards the back of the stage rather than the front where M&B were, and the sound was a bit muddy, but none of that really mattered to the ecstatic fans, particularly the euphoric 'Yes'.

I was in the odd position of not being a fan but was there with a  fan so could be a bit dispassionate about it all. I was surrounded by people projecting so much love at the stage to see their heroes together again after all this time and I was looking round thinking, '...but this is just M&B who had a few hits years ago, where has this all come from?'. And I don't know, but the pair elicited waves of love with every new song, with people cheering their favourites and singing along (loudly). It was odd to be in the middle of that and not really understand it.

It was also nice to see David in a rock scene than the almost cabaret shows I've seen him play over the last few years (good as they are). He always comes alive on the stage but he was clearly having the time of his life on that stage with Bernard, playing off his riffing as he patrolled the small stage whipping up the audience. They work really well together and both them and the band were obviously well practiced. It was good to see them working off each other.

Given the number of people attending the two sold out shows makes me think they'd make a good fist of filling somewhere like Shepherd's Bush with some proper publicity. They could probably sell enough new records through something like Bandcamp as well if they did it properly. What do you think lads?

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