Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ADE EDMONDSON & THE BAD SHEPHERDS

Live Review

The Robin2

As you would expect Ade Edmondson started the gig with mentioning his late long time friend and comedy partner Rik Mayall, and as you would also expect it was irreverent,

Ade Edmondson at The Robin2, Bilston
"It's a bit ridiculous not to mention something about Rik. He's dead. I don't know if you know. Well we think he is. When he had the bike accident he was technically dead for five days but then came back, so we are holding out a little hope, but if he is showing no signs by tomorrow we are going to put him in a hole in the ground."
From this The Bad Shepherds launched into The Clash's I Fought The Law. The act hasn't really changed much since the last time they were in the Midlands at Birmingham Town Hall towards the end of 2013.
Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds are fantastic musicians and Ade himself is an incredible mandolin player, even more so with his new, custom made double necked instrument. But they are essentially a punk/Two Tone tribute act with a twist.
However, you can forgive them this because, for most of the time because they do what they do so well.
Their versions of punk and Two Tone classics played on folk instruments throw up some interesting mixtures some of which work others which don't.
Their version of Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols is pretty cool but his reworking of Ian Dury's What A Waste doesn't quite work, it was one of their repertoire where just bolting on a folk sound and using folk instruments isn't a good idea.
Wreckless Eric's I'd Go The Whole Wide World is an interesting choice of song but again it was really in two parts with Ade singing the lyrics and then Troy Donockley adding the uilleann pipes on the end.
The Jam's Down The Tube Station at Midnight is one of two from the band, Going Underground being the other, neither of which seems to sit right. They sound like a musical version of a cut and shut.
Troy Donockley
With a controversial song such as Gary Gilmore's Eyes giving it a folk wash somehow sanitises it. It's true punk is mainstream now and even elevated to classics but this kind of treatment reduces it to musak, you can imagine hearing it in the background of the lift which is taking you up to your 34th floor office.
The join is less noticeable with Kraftwerk's The Model and it's Donockley's pipes which carry it through.
And there are just some tracks they should not attempt and the two Talking Heads' classics, Road To Nowhere and Once In A Lifetime are just two examples.
They played the Ace of Spades as a sort of tribute to Mayall because it was one of his favourites, what he would have thought about the softened version is anyone's guess.
One of the tunes which does work with the thrash mandolin treatment is The Specials Friday Night, Saturday Morning. It is just one of those tunes which lends itself to this sort of innovation and Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds do it justice.
This segued into The Members' Sound of the Suburbs another one which wasn't bad and held up well under the band leader's expert mandolin playing.
They were on a bit of roll and just about got away with Our House from Madness. Don't misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with their playing, the music is faultless and Edmondson is an incredible mandolin player hammering the strings to the point where they broke down.
But there is something which grates about such well-known songs being given this treatment. It may be irony, fusing the beardy beery brigade's music with the sounds which became so commercial, it may be a joke but it does wear thin after a while.
Hearing the tin whistle playing on London's Calling is just wrong, no matter how well Donockley plays it, and he does play it superbly.
In the punk anthem God Save The Queen, Edmondson uses the lyric "we mean it man" which is sung so unconvincingly it almost sounds like a parody of what it was originally expressing.
The controversial album from The Sex Pistols
This was linked with a cover version of Rise from Johnny Rotten's follow up band Public Image Ltd. It wasn't a bad version
It was here that proceedings were stopped for at least five minutes all because a string on Edmondson's new mandolin broke and caused quite a problem to replace. Donockley was left to fill in with the only two stories about his pipes but the assembled audience took it all in good spirit.
Once he was back on stream Edmondson produced an awful version of  XTC's fantastic Making Plans for Nigel and no amount of hammering his strings could redeem it. They went out with a Talking Heads classic.
Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds are cracking musicians and there is nothing wrong with cover versions per se but it's the question which should be asked of all tribute acts - if you can play that well why aren't you creating and playing your own stuff rather than riding the shirt tails of those who have done something original?