Live at Royal Park Cellars on Saturday, 28th April 2001
After an interesting wait at a bus stop (involving a chance meeting with a young lady who would later attempt to kiss me), I finally boarded a bus, which the driver said would be heading past the Royal Park. After five minutes I gathered that the driver was on drugs and got off near Leeds Girls High School to take a 10-minute walk 'blind' in order to find the Royal Park. Quite an easy job if you find the Hyde Park Picture house. Anyway, this unwanted diversion led me to arrive at the cellars 10 minutes into Bawren's set.
Steve told me that a cock up had led to Bawren Tavanzia thinking he was headlining and as a compromise they had worked out two spots for Bawren - one now and one in between Sposh and the Foxes. Now I am not very knowledgeable of Bawren's style of music, but I would attempt to define it as roots / tribal beats and vocal percussion, mixed with a ska / reggae / tribal rant chanting. Hope that gets the gist of it! Daz and Terry are in charge of firing up the CD-player, which provides the pre-recorded backing for Bawren's vocals, which perch on, yet also penetrate the music wonderfully. He is very punctual and his delivery is very good, punchy and clean, leaving the handful of people slightly impressed and highly bemused, "I don't know what the fuck he's doing but its brilliant," was one comment. His second set is played to many more people after Sly Mr Fox have left the stage and it seems that he has enjoyed the evening. I was pleased to see an act which I would not normally expect in the cellars even if one song reminded me of BBC's cricket theme tune and I was sure I heard 'pass the duchy' in another. I soon forgot this though and felt that the sight of Bawren prowling around the cellars stage was an interesting experience which I enjoyed.
Now I did not know much about Sly Mr Fox until tonight. I did not know that they had a dual rap attack complimented by a lovely young lady who could sing. I did not know that a saxophone was well supported by a very tight rhythm section. I did not know that they were going to bring so many people that I would have to squeeze up next to the mixing desk in order to see just three members of the band and the odd snippet of bass player, female and sax man. So... I learnt a great deal in a very short time. The Foxes (please allow me to use this shortened name from now on) are a seven-piece outfit who can deliver some real soulful music which is based around tight funky grooves. Imagine a less introspective Jamioroquai with Credit to the Nation style rapping. I could not hear the vocals very clearly for Ashes to Ashes, a problem which did not continue in to the second song, the sound being rather good for the rest of the set.
There are quite a few intervals for all three vocalists and sax player which can sometimes make them seem a bit like spare parts but I think that The Foxes work together very well - the songs are not cluttered although sometimes there is a tendency for two sets of vocals to intrude on each other and a little reworking of certain melodies would mean that harmonies would be clearer and more effective. The guitar work is interesting but never tries to steal the limelight and bass and drums remain tight and funky. The Foxes do work the audience well and ensure that we have fun by making us get involved.
Bass Bounce is enjoyed by the crowd and all of The Foxes seem to be having fun. The lead rapper demands the audience's attention (and mine when I am not looking at the girl) and he seems to feel comfortable on stage, not shying away from the centre spot. I would have liked to have been able to pick out some of the lyrics but I could not really follow it. Not a criticism of anyone more likely a sign of my increasing inebriation. A highlight of the set was Out of the Blue and Funk on Funk was a great end to the set. I would love to see them again, especially when up against a cold audience (i.e. not friends) to see if they could work a crowd like I think they could. Interesting, funky and soulful, The Foxes are at their best when spatterings of sax appear between velvet voice and rhythmic rap. Look mummy, I wrote that last sentence all by myself.
When I first saw Sposh they blew me away. Second time around they are even better. Danielle's voice soars high and crawls right into your ears making your head feel warm and numb, leaving Laura to kick you in the face with her delightfully ironic lyrical attacks. Sposh are so subtle they could make your heart bleed but you always feel that they are poised to stick the knife in and twist it. Acoustic hip hop is how they have been described but I think that this would not account for the beauty of their melodies and the interesting chord progressions which are held together brilliantly by Leon and Ben, who amazingly had only practiced with the band once, stepping in for temporary cover of Danny, the usual Sposh skin man. A cover of Tori Amos's Cornflake Girl was definitely memorable as was Song About Boys. Sposh are consistent in that they continue to deliver music that forces you to move to the beat but concentrate on every note they play.
The Cellars is packed and everyone is smiling. Especially Steve Kind who has managed to pull off a stormer tonight. Sposh steal the show without being arrogant, they just go on and do their thing. Comment of the night was "She smells of sex," which I managed to overhear. I also heard a female conversation which mentioned "Sexy, Sassy and Sensual," this was during the wonderful Song About Boys although I am pretty sure that the conversation wasn't about the male element of the group - sorry lads. Sposh do, however, deserve to be scrutinised deeper than this. They are talented musically without doubt but this never seems to be a prerequisite for showboating. The songs are functional and catchy and have a great deal of emotion. Everyone in the room could feel that Sposh meant it tonight. They are the Kings of Femme Funk - sexual, tight as a nuns butt, soulful, lively and lovely - "Blows my mind / he's so fine," I dreamt they were singing to me...
And so the night winds down and I am left to reflect in a near empty Cellars about the past two hours. What a fuckin' GREAT night...