Tonight was a night for nostalgia. An act that inspired and associated with the likes of Hawkwind, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa to name a few, would be performing at a legendary venue that was centric to the 90s dance and indie movement in Manchester – Factory. The Crazy of World of Arthur Brown would return once more, to entertain his audience, with an expectation that they would leave awestricken.
But first a change to the aesthetic of the night, saw the young alternative band Sylvette take to the stage straight after their supporting slot for Kate Jackson and the Wrong Moves. Made up of students from the Royal northern their prowess in mixing swings, beats whilst using dissonance to their advantage is a feat unremarked upon by any current bands coming out of the woodworks. The stage was set with a colourful back-drop of the 90s with neon lights draped around the venue’s industrial interior, showcasing a history that is never fully absent from the current. Likening themselves to The Pogues over Mumford and Sons, the multitalented group took advantage of their unique instrumentation by making an example of a full list of idioms.
Opening number ‘Run’ introduced the growing audience to the Alex Turner like vocals of Charlie Sinclair and the intense showcase of transitional changes, as the lads switched from eloquent transcendent fingerpicking, to a half time build up counterbalancing the instruments ranges perfectly. Sylvette seemed in their element as their second number ‘Sweet Sound’ introduced violinist/rhythm guitarist (Oz Tabor) to a concerto of sorts, demonstrating expression, drama and atmosphere delved in crescendos and soaring melodies proving that the inclusion of a violin isn’t simply a gimmick. Letting the violin glide into the next number, the students took to a bluesy and heavier setting, trying for a Muddy Water style, while throwing in occasional Irish jigs, and melodic counterpoint from both the vocals and bass. Gliding seamlessly between complex time signatures and awkward band stabs, Sylvette represent a kind of musician that is unafraid to push their comfort zones, whilst taking advantage of unusual hooks and vocal lines to create an organic hybrid of a classical mentality with the swagger and stage performance of born entertainers.
As the room became thick with bodies and fog, the iconic venue became alive with a legionnaire of supporters, and a ripening anticipation for the grandfather of psychedelic to take to the stage. Oddly in keeping with the schedule, his band took to the stage to open the set with a 70’s number enriched with Rhodes tone and an upbeat tempo.
Always a fan of theatrics and keeping the audience in mystery, Brown finally took to the stage bearing a masterpiece of face paint, with vibrant white, reds, blues and greens, a splatter image of wisdom. In music there is a taboo issue of age and legacy, neither of which distburbed the living legend’s performance.
The night saw a fraction of the endless avenues that Brown endeavors with his voice, tackling Gamelan throat singing, whistle notes, an operatic range that covered five octaves, all the while with a bellowing voice that resembled the warmth of a saxophone over anything imperfect or human. An oracle in talent and wisdom, Arthur was a showman throughout the night, never compromising his forty year routine, going through a number of costume, genre and vocal changes.
Inviting Angelface Fallon to the stage with her mesmerizing costumes and belly dance moves, Brown moved into a psychedelic tango number, complete with a riptide of extravagant synthesizer licks. Not one to be outdone, Arthur draped a surpassingly fantastic suit made entirely out of neon and flurescent lights. Possibily paying homage to the hazardous suit that once set fire to Jimi Hendrix’s stage, Brown charged headfirst into his single ‘Fire’, darting about the small stage in a trance, before performing a full version of his estranged ‘Put A Spell On You’ cover.
To list the multitude of incredible vocal stunts, mesmerizing solos, and incredible style developments would be impossible. Arthur has truly mastered his set creating an intimidating portfolio, with a voice that has truly withstood the ages. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown isn’t a gig in our earthly sense…but it’s definitely an unforgettable
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