Magic Eight Ball/Ulysses/Digital Criminals - Abertillery, The Doll's House - 18th June 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz Tidey   
Saturday, 02 July 2016 03:00



Had there been as eclectic a line-up at one of Uber Rock's kickass klub nites as this? Eclectic it may have been but, as you should now be accustomed given the musical suss of those in control at URHQ, this three-pronged attack on those brave, clued-in, or committed enough to attend was nothing short of breathtaking.


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If any rock show can provide an opening act as stunning as Digital Criminals then it is destined for great things. Wherever this Griffithstown four-piece has been hidden away honing its sound over the last couple of years is a place deserving of a (fittingly) blue plaque in the future. This band - two girls, two guys - has the look, the sound, and the attitude to make great strides in this ever-fractured industry.


Attitude, you say? With patrons of a chav wedding party held simultaneously in the upstairs room of the venue continually wandering into the gig being met with unyielding, ice-cold stares from singer Emily Bates, Digital Criminals positively dripped with attitude and, coupled to the band's sample-smeared rock chimera, their potential is massive.


Fusing alt. pop sensibilities to a tribal undercurrent - think Adam & the Ants, Bow Wow Wow - and injecting it all with some futuristic replicant music tech, Digital Criminals have taken the electro-sexy parts of the Nine Inch Nails canon, mixed them with the hugely-accessible gang backing vocals of Thirty Seconds To Mars' 'This Is War', and, with the addition of a nu-metal guitar bite, fashioned the most exciting product to come out of South Wales for quite some time. Simply fantastic.


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Bath-based retro curios Ulysses didn't so much hit the Doll's House stage as gradually converge on it. The band members appeared to be running on fumes after partying a little too hard after a West Country festival appearance the day before, but you don't get to make records as impressive as this band's latest, the highly-recommended 'Law And Order', and be able to knock out winning tune after winning tune without being totally absorbed in music and your craft... no matter how many eyes you have open.


Opening with 'Lady', Ulysses' ten-song set was new album-heavy, with the amazing 'Eye On You' the only tune aired from 2011's 'Everybody's Strange', follow-up 'Kill You Again' offering up 'Mrs Drawnel' and the fine 'April Showers'.


With a whiff of Mungo Jerry hanging out with Mott The Hoople listening to West Coast surf hits while dusting off Jellyfish's long-shelved 10cc/Supertramp/ELO backing vocals guidebook, Ulysses have Green-Eyed Monster-inducing qualities that appear effortless. The new album's title track ran straight into the seventies sitcom excellence of 'Dirty Weekend' and few people in attendance could claim to not be wholly impressed.


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One of the most satisfying things about being at the controls of a music website dedicated to pointing people in the direction of bands that they would surely love if given the chance to hear/see them is watching a band long championed make the natural step from wannabes to shouldbes. Magic Eight Ball, long admired by those with ears, have made the step up from promising- to headline-act with consummate ease; new album, 'Richest Men In The Graveyard', arguably the band's most complete long player yet.


That new album amped up the riffs with some massive slabs of guitar that, wrapped around the oft-JDB-like vocals of Baz Francis, had me thinking of 'Gold Against The Soul' Manics from first listen, in the live environment, harboured more than enough crunch to lull the more basic live rock music fans into a false sense of security before seducing them with luscious harmonies and infectious hooks par excellence.


Opening with the new album's introductory one-two - 'Falling In Love's Like A Vampire' and 'It's Not For Me To Say' - Magic Eight Ball were evidently in possession of a bigger and badder sound than previous tours, but that just made the back catalogue songs sound that little bit more colourful. Four songs in a row from 'Last Of The Old Romantics' proved just that - 'See You Next Tuesday', 'What Happened In '92', 'Wait Here A Second' and 'Red Hair Wrapped Around Her Neck' haven't sounded more potent live to these ears.


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'Sorry We're Late But We're Worth The Wait' was dipped into for the massive 'Something Better Has Come Along' and the set-closing pairing of 'Russian Ballet' and 'Local Girls' and, placed alongside already beloved songs such as 'Keep Me Out The Sunlight' and 'Come Get Your Kicks', guaranteed that the night's Magic Eight Ball set was going to be nothing short of phenomenal.


Returning for a two-song encore resplendent in Welsh football shirt, Baz lived out a Holy Bible fantasy with a punched-out cover of the Manic Street Preachers' 'Revol', before making the (always unmentionable) dreams come true of the troubled man who introduced the band to the stage - a certain Butcher of Bethcar Street - by knocking out a crowd-pleasing rendition of Cheap Trick's calling card, 'I Want You To Want Me'.


If this was to be the last ever Uber Nite then, by jingo, we went out on the ultimate legal high - music!


[Photos by Russ P]