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'London, Camden Underworld, 27 Jan 2017'   

-  Genre: 'Nineties'

Our Rating:
Finally, it's time for my first live review of 2017 by a band: well, unless you count the play that reviewed a couple of weeks ago.

So let's get down to business. To start the year I was asked to go and review this 90's revival night at the Underworld featuring post grunge Leg ends Candlebox and support act Staticland at the Underworld in Camden.

While I was waiting to get in, people were streaming out to the smoking area, suggesting the first band had finished. It was only when I got inside that I realised they were streaming out to get away from Pete RG. I guess the RG stands for Really Generic as this LA-based band were playing some very bland indeed heartlands Rock in the style of, say, Tom Petty or John Cougar Mellencamp but without any of their memorable songs.

I was glad I only heard two songs. That was more than enough to be bored by them! Yes, they were tight and he can sing and they can all play well enough but so bland that my entire notes for them reads "MOR crap"!

Still, after the break it was time for Staticland who are a nu blues power trio featuring Jeff Angel on guitar and vocals joined by with the very familiar-looking Ben Anderson on Keyboards and Joshua Fant on drums. Now I'm guessing the song titles but they opened with a very cool and angst-y song about the Edge and how near they were to falling over it. I liked the swampy keyboards and the blues-y (but not that bluesy) guitar.

During the the next song, Jeff sang about what he won't be. It was quite driven and had a nice southern gothic feel to it. Then Jeff put down his guitar for what I have down as You Won't Let Go. This sounded a little bit Joy Division-ish to begin with before Jeff really nailed his feeling to the wall while doing some very cool Mime movements with the microphone stand to emphasise the words he was singing. A very cool tune and no mistake.

The song about how they Can't Remember brought the swampy keyboards back, meshed with distorting guitar and really passionate vocals. It was very cool and dark and had more of the mime movements that soon started to remind me of David Bowie's onstage movements circa the Thin White Duke period.

Never Look Back (I think) was the slightly slower number they did and again really seemed to be full of angst and pain and the desire to walk away and forget what's happened. No idea what the next song was but - like the rest of the set - it had that darkness and a really great guitar solo. It was the closest they came to playing a straight blues.

They closed with a song I have down as Time but is obviously something else. Jeff spent a good part of it singing in the audience - at times right next to me - as the Keyboards and drums just brought the lyrics to life. It also had a really cool breakdown coming down almost to total silence before they brought things back and Jeff got back onstage it finish it off to close a very cool support set. Staticland are a band I want to see again. Please can someone tell me who Benjamin has played in London with previously to jog my memory?

Then after the break it was time for Candlebox to headline as part of their 25th anniversary tour. Yes, they have been around that long and yet I totally missed them first time round as they were broadly dismissed for being irrelevant in hip circles. The fact they were the first band signed to Madonna's record label would have been reason enough to avoid them, even if the album went quadruple platinum. Consequently, all song titles are guesses here.

They opened with a decent enough song, although it was heavily in debt to Pearl Jam. I also have to concede that singer Kevin Martin was working the audience well enough.

They were clearly pumped to be back at a venue they last played in 1994 and Sometimes seemed to get the reasonably packed crowd going and most of them knew the words too. For me the best song of the set came next. Change had some real balls to it and the guitar solo from the guy who looked like he was in a Chicano gang worked really well.

From there it wasn't downhill exactly just more of the same and there was a blandness to the band's material that made me think they'd settled for being the missing link between Pearl Jam and Nickleback. Crazy was introduced like it was a big hit and got the reaction that might suggest from the audience who were well into this grunge lite.

You was about as angst-y as they got and it seemed to work the audience up pretty well. Cover Me (I think) was another of the hits and had everyone really going a little more nuts than a mediocre song like this deserved.

We then got the obligatory new song and it was very forgettable indeed. However, in between songs, Kevin Martin sounded truly happy to still have an audience and be out on tour, so fair play to him. I think the penultimate song might have been Sometimes but am not sure. Whatever, I think it was the song in the set which sounded most like Nickleback and it sure went down a storm with the crowd.

Then as curfew was approaching they finished with their "Big Hit", Far Behind, which got pretty much everyone in the place (apart from me) singing along to it. Most of the audience seemed to anticipate the break down and build up to the bands leaving the stage.

They didn't play an encore but that was more to do with the Curfew than the audience not wanting one. I certainly heard a few fans who felt cheated because the band didn't return.

If you were a fan of Candlebox first time round this would have been a real treat and this tour has a few months left to go so there is obviously still a decent demand for them. But for me I spent the weekend singing a song played by the DJ in between bands rather than anything from Candlebox's set which pretty much says it all.
  author: simonovitch

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