Daddy Long Legs. We ain’t fans of the spider variety, but when it comes to the ass-kickin’ harmonica-blowin’ foot-stompin’ maraca-bashin’ bluesy rock from Brooklyn, NY…. Bring ’em on!
You can’t keep us away from Paper Dress Vintage for too long. In what has rapidly become our favourite small independent venue in London (see our recent review of Madonnatron, Opus Kink and others here), last night we were shakin’ it all around again, though this time there was even less room than last. To think that they initially thought they only needed one night (the original date is tonight, Tuesday)! They could probably sell out every night from now till Easter if they wanted to. However, that wouldn’t be fair on the lovely and patient people of Belfast, Derry and Dublin, who are to be the next lucky citizens to enjoy this outstanding import from across the pond.
The band took to the stage to raucous applause, as Brian Hurd lifted his harmonica to his lips. They kicked off with “Long John’s Jump”, the first track from their much-loved Blood from a Stone album from 2014, a fantastic intro for the uninitiated. Accompanied by his trusted bandmates Murat Aktürk on guitar and the crazy hirsute Josh Styles bashing his drums with a drumstick and a single maraca, everyone immediately started a-stompin’ and a-jumpin’ and a-spillin’ their drinks and a-shoutin’…. No slow build-up here. It was high-octane from the get-go.
There then followed a couple of tracks from their latest album Lowdown Ways, which came out last May, followed by the actual track “Blood from a Stone” from the aforementioned eponymous album. The band then treated us to “Evil Eye”, the track that closes their début album Evil Eye on You from 2012, one of our favourite tracks of theirs. Proper blues, which ends with one of the best harmonica performances we have seen recently. While Lowdown Ways is a fantastic album, we were so happy that we were getting more than our fair share of the early stuff too.
A few more tracks from the new album followed, starting with “Winners’ Circle”, which isn’t really bluesy enough for us. But it was when Josh started moving his drums towards the front of the stage that we knew that “Theme from Daddy Long Legs” (the opening track from Lowdown Ways) must be on next, so we got our camera ready. We have uploaded our video footage of it for you here, which we hope (we know!) you are going to enjoy.
This is the best song for us from the new album, it’s so tribal and it showcases so many different elements of the band. A track written by all three band-members in collaboration with Jimmy Sutton (owner of Hi-Style Studio, which actually produced Lowdown Ways); this is a track that we hope will always remain in the band’s live repertoire.
A few songs later we got another treat: their cover of the fantabulous song made famous by the Flamin’ Groovies, “High Flyin’ Baby”. It was one of our favourite renditions of the evening, and one where Brian could put down the harmonica and get to show off a bit on slide guitar. We had originally seen footage of them playing this at last year’s Montréal Jazz Festival, but we have to say that they played it even better here, and we loved the little pause in the middle that they did, which they didn’t do in Canada. It’s a track that has a lot of foot-stompin’ in the final third and gets faster and faster. But it’s that slide guitar, an instrument on which normally Murat takes the lead in his faultless open-tuned style, that really worked us up into a frenzy. While we love the original Flamin’ Groovies version, there is always room for a cover version, especially one as good as this.
Then it was back to some more early stuff, starting with a real hillbilly classic of theirs, “Shackin’ Up”, which got us hot and sweaty, followed by a lot of stompin’ and clappin’ from both the audience and the band during “Big Road Blues” from Blood from a Stone. Then, Brian put the harmonica to his lips again and made the sound of a choo-choo train, in a way that only he can. Yep, we were getting at last the first track from their very first album, “Death Train Blues”, that Muddy Waters-tinged beauty which reminded us why we fell in love with them all those years ago.
The set officially ended with their version of the Link Wray classic “Fire and Brimstone”, which has been covered by Nick Cave and countless others, but of course Daddy Long Legs put their own special stamp (and stomp!) to it.
We knew there had to be an encore. The band would not have been allowed out of Hackney without obliging. We weren’t, however, expecting such a long one. One of the (many) highlights of the evening was at this point, when Brian got off the stage and made his way into the middle of the crowd, with his harmonica, and started playing along with the band, to a song we were unfamiliar with but which we think was called “Call the Doctor” (correct us in the comments below if we got this wrong). Credit must go out to the fantastic sound engineering tonight. There was not a single bit of feedback, every sound could be heard clearly and everything was balanced excellently – even when Brian unexpectedly ran amok into the moshpit.
Their final encore song was a classic. As soon we heard Brian growl ‘brrrrrrrrrrr’ through the outstanding speaker-system, there appeared a wave of recognition upon the faces of everyone who was in attendance. We were going to be treated to “Motorcycle Madness”, another great track from that marvellous Blood from a Stone album, a song that often doesn’t get played at their sets any more so this was well and truly an unexpected treat. We love this paean to the free-wheelin’ life of the biker, espousing the philosophy that ‘we don’t care if we live or die’. It’s a rebellious song, and a perfect end to the proceedings. There couldn’t really be any other track from the trio’s back-catalogue to follow that. The night was over, and everyone slowly dispersed into the cold London air, happy that they had been lucky enough to bag themselves entry to the hottest ticket in town.
If you were fortunate enough to buy tickets for tonight’s second helping at Paper Dress Vintage… my, are you in for a treat! If not, then perhaps it’s time to check out whether there are any cheap flights across the Irish Sea, because after February they are heading back over the ol’ U.S. of A., and who knows when you’ll next get the chance to see them again here on your doorstep.
You’ll only have yourselves to blame.