Sunday, 6 February 2011

795 TRACY BONHAM, BLEU, Jim Boggia, London WC2 Borderline, Saturday 23 October 2010

A consecutive night gig double, representing the 2 key building blocks of my musical taste; tomorrow it's the 80's post-punk rockism of The Psychedelic Furs, but firstly some Boston Rock! Tracy Bonham, who I followed around slavishly in 1996 due both to a splendidly angry, agitated, angular and angsty post-grunge album "The Burdens Of Being Upright", and to the presence of Phil Hurley in her backing band, but had since lost touch with somewhat; touring with Bleu, a fine and varied tunesmith whom we'd seen in Boston in 2001 in all his riff-heavy, stomping post-Rumble glory, but since then had tempered this with an easy melodic feel that was mellower, almost McCartneyesque on record. Research suggested 2 stripped back, either solo or acoustic sets at the intimate old Tex Mex bar, so an intriguing prospect...

I hit the road solo at 5, whipping through Saturday M4 traffic and parking up early, then navigating my way around the hole in the ground that used to be the Astoria (!) and hitting the venue at 8, wandering in midway through opener Jim Boggia. A Philly native and James Horrigan lookalike, he played some quiet yet quality Dylanesque folky stuff, with a fine voice and self-deprecatory attitude, which was really well received from the quite full early doors Borderline. A good start!

I cornered Tracy, jogging her memory with a pic Phil took of the 2 of us back in the day, and we had a nice if brief chat. As I was stage front at this point, I stayed there for Bleu, next up. Whilst he set up, I couldn't resist dropping a copy of that 2001 set-list over tonight's, prompting a, "holy shit! That's an old one!" from him! As for the set, Bleu displayed both supreme melodic songcraft with a splendidly chosen set of heartfelt, memorable tunes from his more recent albums (including new release "Four" which I picked up tonight), and an extraordinary voice and range, holding notes impressively. A lovely "Come And Go", embellished (as was his whole set) with some nice but not overpowering loops and pedal effects, was followed by, "one I wasn't going to do tonight, but I've had so many requests for"; my favourite, the strident, soaring "I Won't Go Hollywood", which held up well minus the riffery on record! The finale saw Bleu operating a "Carry A Tune" musical mic, and wandering through the captivated crowd. Showmanship and entertainment of the highest quality, and he went down a storm!

I hung back and spoke to Bleu a couple of times, telling him about Logan's "poppy day day" song (based on his own "Workaday Day") and we chatted about the Pills and swapped Boston rock stories. Popped back down for Tracy's set, which inevitably suffered in comparison with Bleu but was fine, darker and more thoughtful, with Tracy's rich, low voice a perfect embellishment. Not as angry and confrontational as her older material, the new stuff nevertheless was varied and intriguing, with the highlight of her set a lovely "Something Beautiful". This however was preceded by Bleu and Jim Boggia joining her onstage (a theme throughout all 3 performances) for a new number, and a fine bit of banter between the two boys about a missing guitar lead!

So Bleu won the day for me, and I whipped home in double quick time following chats and thanks with all 3 performers. No time for too much ligging, as I've got another one tomorrow!

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