A big 14 gigs for our "live" favourites Drugstore, but the first time since Reading 1998, methinks. So 5 of us piled up the Smoke for a hopefully triumphant return! Picked up final gig-goer Ady at J13 on the M4, where he dumped his truck, and 2 hours later we parked up on the pavement in Camden High Street, hitting the Oxford pub for pre-gig drinks. Left at 8.30 and bumped into none other then old friend Roger Herman in the street!
Jumped the queue to get in as we had tickets! Hooray! Kournikova were on already; despite the name they were a distinctly unglamorous bunch of guitarsmiths, who to my ears didn't have anything new to offer the moody quiet verse/ shouty chorus formula. Just competent. Better fayre awaited, though, as we popped down the front for Seafruit, who were pretty good at Reading last year, and reinforced that favourable impression with a tight, taut, varied and interesting, yet always passionate and committed set. Seafruit CARE - it drips from their foreheads like sweat, and from their songs like holy water. Shades of lots of influences; Boo Radleys pure pop, U2's expansive guitar dynamics and early heroism, and even a hint of swirly psychedelia Britpop tomfoolery reminiscent of Octopus (gosh, remember them?). But overall a good set delivered with a lot of heart, a point I put to an obviously buoyed vocalist Geoff afterwards. "We're playing Bristol with Drugstore in September, come and say hi, drink and chat," he said. I might just take him up on that...
But we were here for Drugstore, back after a long period allowing the new album to gestate, and with a few severe haircuts - thankfully not Isobel though! With a 6-piece band "live", Drugstore have never sounded better, a surprise to me from my stage-sideways position. Tonight, punchy and powerful, their occasionally fragile late-night torch songs sounded very much in-your-face, especially an ace early "Spacegirl". "El Presidente" was also strident and dynamic, with the flamenco handclaps led by an energetic Isobel. Once again, she, only she, was the focus, possibly currently only challenged by Kristen Hersh for the mantle of the most captivating female performer I've seen "live", and tonight once again on top form. New, slower and moodier songs like "Saturday Sunset" mixed with well-trodden and emotive oldies; the yet-to-be-released new single "I Wanna Love You Like A Man" already sounds like an old friend; Isobel commented that the support acts sounded great, "but I was having dinner with friends in Tufnell Park at the time!" and chastised an audience member for giving her a crooked cigarette and offering her beer; "as if I'd drink that!"
Nearly 1 1/2 hours later, we left once again convinced. The Drugstore star once again sits high and majestically in the firmament, and all's well with the world. Particularly as, on the way back, we stopped at an Ealing garage for drinks and managed to find some Gatorade! Result! So, both a triumphant return, and a tip for drink stops on the way home in future!