Thursday, 4 March 2010

563 THE GENTLEMEN, THE SHEILA DIVINE, Creature Comforts, Brownies, New York City, NY, Wednesday 26 June 2002

Having arrived in Boston yesterday, our first full day this trip was spent travelling down to NYC on the Greyhound bus! Following a breakdown and bus swap, and torrential rain in the Bronx, we arrive at Port Authority way late at 6.15, checking into our hotel then pretty much immediately taxi-ing over to tonight's gig, our reason for being in New York in the first place! We hit the venue just before 8, spotting Gentlemen drummer Pete Caldes in a group of blokes hanging out outside Brownies. We shake his hand, then realise that the guy with his back to us - whom I'd just stiffed - was a now longer haired EdV, Gentlemen bassist and our best Boston buddy! Whoops!

We chill and catch up with Ed before popping into this venerable NYC venue for the last time - they're closing it in August. Say "hey" and have a surprisingly long chat with the normally recalcitrant Mike Gent, before catching the Creature Comforts. A band from Lawrence, Kansas (I later make the connection that this is also the home town of Big Dipper predecessors The Embarrassment!), they churn out a fast-paced, expansive sounding rock set which on this evidence falls midway between the jagged and emotive rock of Buffalo Tom and the laid-back, slightly countrified lilting US rock of the Gin Blossoms. Not bad at all, and toes are duly tapped.

We'd run into the guys from The Sheila Divine outside the show whilst hanging out with EdV, surprising the living fuck out of them all in the process (a contextual thing, you see - Aaron, who we met inside the venue, said "hey" to us before the penny dropped as to where he knew us from!) they explained that this was an important showcase gig for them with a number of labels, promoters etc. on their guest list, so I hoped they'll appreciate a couple of Brits freaking out down the front. This we do, from, the opening bars of the slow-burning epic "Automatic Buffalo", through to the dying howl of last number "Ostrich", and all points in between!

Tonight, The Sheila Divine needed to deliver a stunning performance, one which they are well capable of, and delivered in spades despite any undue pressure which they may have felt under. They were no less than inspired and jaw-droppingly brilliant tonight; the straight-ahead rock dynamism of "We All Have Problems", a superbly strident "Hum", a jagged, bruised "Like A Criminal" with its passionate climax "yeah, yeah, yeah"s, and even a discordant but fascinating new number "Black River", dedicated by Aaron to, "everyone who made the trip down to see us from Boston... or England!" They all worked perfectly tonight, and the set is easily as good as I've ever seen The Sheila Divine.

We catch our breath after their set and are surprised by the guy who'd danced in front of us at the show. He'd made the trip down from Boston for the gig, and he presents us with a TSD "live" CD of the first Paradise "Countrymen" CD release show, which I'd been at last year! Cool! We stay stage front and centre for the next set, leaving my post only to get a beer for the soundchecking EdV.

The Gentlemen join us at 10.15, a little past their allotted slot (but hey, it's been running late all evening) and are immediately "on it", with the blow the cobwebs away rock riffery of new CD opener "Let Us Know". They trot out the first half-dozen from their newie in formation order, with the practiced ease of a by-now well bedded-in live unit. It's easy to see how they won this year's WBCN "Rumble", as this Gentlemen group are a quantum leap ahead of the tentative line-up I'd seen back in the Summer of 1999, during my first Boston jaunt. Vocal chores are swapped around, Lucky Jackson taking the mic for the Stones-like rawness of "Show Me How You Rock'n'Roll", and EdV growling out the nevertheless much poppier, Costello-esque beat of the brilliantly titled "It's Not So Much That I Disagree With You, It's That You're Wrong". But it's Mike Gent's performance which anchors the set; angular, agitated and acerbic ("all the suits left, I see; funny how the richest people always want to get in free!", he noted, which I hope was a swipe at TSD's "guests" and not us guest-listed Brits!), Gent was always a captivating presence and is clearly the captain of this team, directing the Gravel Pit trio through a damn fine, strident and well-rocking set.

We're knackered and not a little hungry by now, so we say our farewells and grab a cab along Avenue A, unfortunately only finding a MacDonalds open near our hotel to grab grub from. So much for the city that never sleeps!

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