It honestly doesn't seem like five minutes since I last saw Boston blue-collar alt. rock veterans Buffalo Tom, but it's been nearly 3 years... A couple of UK gigs just after Logan's arrival in 2007, plus an aperitif gig in Boston in April 2008, prior to the Big Dipper reunion show, had coincided with a first CD for 9 years in "Three Easy Pieces". And now, barely 3 years later, here's another one; whilst "Pieces" may have been Tom-by-numbers, new CD "Skins" seems a real return to form, with heartfelt, bleeding-raw balladry and rollicking cascading drum propelled US rock in equal measure. We also get a UK date on a short European jaunt; it's like they're back for real! So here we go; Gig No. 11 for The Tom!
A bit of lunchtime jiggery pokery got things organised so Tim could pick me up from work, so we hit the road at 5, enduring hellish traffic from Windsor onwards, and consequently not parking up until 8, just round the corner from Camden Lock. Hit the quiet early doors venue and got a superb viewing spot against the barriers on the level above the small dancefloor. Support Man Made, on at 8.30, was a solo guitarist sporting a green and black jumper which took me back to my teen post-punk wardrobe, and specialising in some nice pedal effects-led stuff with an early 90's post grunge/ shoegazey feel. I've seen whole lot worse support acts already this year, so not a bad start.
The place filled up rapidly during the support slot, and the dancefloor was packed for some time prior to the Tom's scheduled 9.30 arrival, so we stayed with our watching brief as vocalist/ guitarist Bill Janovitz led the boys on at the appointed hour. Easing in with by-now traditional set opener "Treehouse", the lead guitar sound seemed a little thin and low-level, and the subsequent "Summer" and a couple of new numbers seemed almost subdued by Tom standards. "We need more Bill," I remarked to Tim. We got it - and how!
An early "Taillights Fade" ignited the crowd into a resonant sing-along, but then Bill donned a battered Trilby for a wholly unexpected and utterly incendiary "Sunflower Suit" which really got us under way as Bill, neck veins bulging with passion, roared the hook like a lion reclaiming his kingdom. Thereafter the set took flight and the hits kept tumbling down. "Larry", plangent, shimmering and soaring; "Rachael", with Chris' softer vocals infusing it with care and tenderness; a jagged and ragged "Velvet Roof", as incendiary as "Suit" had been, Bill again leading the band through a performance with the conviction of a man half his age; and a brilliantly raucous "Your Stripes", introduced by Bill as, "a fast one," for London to, "sway along to". A yearning "I'm Allowed" concluded the "Interlude of Angst" as Bill termed it, before set closer, the amphetamine rush of "Tangerine", blew the doors off good and proper. I commented to Tim that it was a good thing "Sunflower Suit", "Velvet Roof" and "Tangerine" weren't concurrent in the set, otherwise there would have been dead bodies!
A 6-song encore, including a careful, slow paced reading of New Order's "Age Of Consent" and a final, soaring "Sunday Night" (preceded by a lengthy band and roadie intro by the affable Bill) capped a magnificent hour and 40 minutes rock. Never note perfect, often raggedy arsed as all hell, but always brimming with passion, emotion, intensity and conviction, and a brilliantly visceral experience as ever from The Tom. Long may they roar!