Shallow / Cube / Blackrock

Derby Vic

April 1 1999

I'd heard quite a bit about Blackrock recently from people in Nottingham. Not sure how much is true, but I was intrigued and wanted to see for myself. And this was the chance. No mistaking the type of music they play and the era they enjoy. We're back in the seventies. There's hair and flares. And there's a groove coming from the music that although is Sabbath in the riff is also a whole lot groovier. Yeah, it's an overabused term, but it applies. And this is a form of music that for me works so much better live than recorded. Even without screaming hordes, there's something that makes the live experience more important, more vital. It carries you along. But then, as far as I'm concerned, bands should be able to prove themselves live. And it helps having a nutter as a frontman, who wanders around to look at the few people there and then screams "hold your beers in the air". Less advisable is discussion of underwear and the subsequent viewing of the garments. One song is introduced as being called Arse. Which it definitely wasn't, and Downer had the opposite effect. "We've got a small selection of t-shirts. 6 in fact. Please buy one so that we can buy more beer". Ah, a band that pours any money they make back into the band. Quite literally. You've got to admire that. And you've got to admire Blackrock. Cos tonight I did.

Which is more than can be said for Cube. Ok, fair's fair, this wasn't the bill for them, sandwiched between two monolithic slabs of stoner like doom. They managed to get the audience down to seven, according to the headcount by the singer. But it was bland and insipid. Faceless and staring into the areas occupied by say SilverSun and, on one track Radiohead. But nope, it didn't move me at all. It would've done, cos I would've moved to the bar if it wasn't for the fact that I do believe in trying to give bands a fair chance and listen to them. It's a common courtesy. But, I was proud to be a part of "The worst audience in the world ... ever". Yet I think they've got major label backing behind them, and they seemed to believe they were better than this. Huge amounts of equipment, and their name bigger than anyone else's on the poster outside the pub. On this evidence, such belief is sorely misguided, and an indication of how major labels can get it sorely wrong by putting their trust in bands that they think may fill a gap in a currently gapless market for this sort of music. They ought to take a chance on something different instead.

Which meant that Shallow could only be better. And they were. And then some. Blackrock have returned to the fray to worship at the feet of the new pretenders. Or something like that. And we're back into that powerful and hypnotic groove. Like I said earlier, it always works better live. I guess listening to a CD there's the tendancy to drift into something else and have it as a background activity, as I'm doing as I type this while listening to Magic Wave. But live, it grabs you. Those grooves, the bass playing that looks like the bassist from COC (whose name I've conveniantly managed to forget), the dubious headgear, and those riffs. The Live at Heimi Hendersons EP is a great snapshot of the band, and it's recreated here and then some more. The half an hour passes in a flash and you almost feel they're going to swagger away from the stage with a groove.

Of course, we all know that if they'd have been an American stoner band there'd have been a heap more people here. Because everyone knows that American are better. Yeah, ok, in image, because it's something from "over there." but in the music, we can compete on an even footing. Though of course you shouldn't compete. Music is about music and enjoyment, not competition or who looks the best. It's to be enjoyed and experienced, and that's what happened for two thirds of this evening. Another one where I can go "I was there, ner ner na ner ner" in your face. If I was that way inclined. Still, it was April Fools Day, and I'm sure everyone else was enjoying a good joke somewhere. But remember, after midday, the jokes on you. And if you missed this one tonight, well, it most certainly was.