|Bigelf/Priestess – Oxford, O2 Academy 2 – 20th February 2010.|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Sunday, 28 February 2010 09:00|
Having managed to spend the rest of the preceding week avoiding anything vaguely related to the sycophantic bullshit that is known as 'The Brits', I entered the newly refurbished Oxford Zodiac for the first time with abject horror on my face having just read Bigelf mainman Damon Fox's last Facebook update that stated that the band were in London and looking to slay the brits. What the fuck had I missed in my vanity? Some sort of real musical revolution, (almost) live in my living room?
With this seemingly implausible thought stamping around in my head wearing size ten Chelsea boots I made my way upstairs to the renamed Academy 2, just in time to sample the relaxed ambience ahead of Montreal's rock monsters Priestess arrival on stage.
Being a band I've wanted to see live for quite a long time, the air of the 1970's hung very heavily over proceedings as Priestess strode onto the stage with more facial hair and B.O.C tattoos than you could ever wish to cram onto the bodies of four such young guys. Launching straight into the epic metal masterwork that is 'The Gem' from their soon to be released 'Prior To The Fire' album. Clad in a sleeveless 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' t-shirt, lead singer/guitarist Mikey Heppner seemed genuinely happy to be playing to so many people this early in the evening (yup it was yet another early club curfew night) as he led the band straight into thrash-tastic riffing that is 'Ladykiller' also from the new album.
For me Mikey is the band's hidden weapon, having in his possession a fine set of vocal chords that have a slightly non rock edge that lends to Priestess a much wider audience appeal should they ever wish to crossover like say Queens Of The Stone Age. 'Two Kids' from the band's sublime debut album 'Hello Master', with energised vocals from guitarist Dan Watchorn, gave way to another new track in 'Racoon Eyes' before 'Lay Down', again from their debut, had the front rows nodding together like a certain bulldog/car insurance advert we all know and hate.
It was at this point I noted that the earlier 1970's vibe I had mentioned had now extended to the between song audience interaction, with Mikey's banter kept very minimal and the audience responding to each slab of white hot rock with polite applause like you would have got on say Sound Of The Seventies...Very odd indeed.
'Sideways Attack' thundered headlong into the primal surge of 'Lunar' where drummer Vince Nudo took over on vocals and proceeded to demolish his kit to the duel Thin Lizzy-esque guitars laid down by his band mates.
Finishing up with 'The Firebird' and the prime Sabbath enthused cut 'Trapped In Space In Time' it's all over as quickly as it started, and I'm off to the merch stand to pick up a copy of 'Prior To The Fire' on vinyl as it isn't out officially until March 8th in the UK (review to follow later this week).
So by now I was starting to realise that I really am an idiot and Damon Fox was using brits as a colloquialism to describe his audience and not the awards ceremony...Doh!!. So, I may have been fooled into thinking I'd missed a televisual revolution, but I'd have gladly forgone that as long as I wasn't going to miss his band live this time around and especially in such intimate surroundings.
Opening their set like all conquering heroes with 'The Evils Of Rock 'n' Roll', Damon took up his position between two antique keyboards, that looked like cast offs from Blakes 7, but in reality probably cost more than that show's entire four series budget.
Being something of a recent convert to the band's rather excellent 'Cheat The Gallows' album, it's tracks like 'Blackball' and 'Money, It's Pure Evil' that swoop through the venue like musical hurricanes, all majestic and steeped in true reverence to the classic rock from which they have been honed
Dealing with some frivolous audience comments mid set, Damon struck me as being like Chris Robinson if he had been raised on Rick Wakeman as opposed to Mick Jagger and Paul Rogers. A dancing dandy of a frontman who just happens to also play a mean Hammond organ, just don't fuck with his art, man.
It's staggering to think that Bigelf have been plying their trade for some twenty years, and 'Painkiller' from the band's 'Hex' album and 'Neuropsychopathic Eye' from 'Money Machine' reveal just why it is that the Progressive tag gets hung around the band's neck. But to label Bigelf anything other than pure fucking genius is just laziness from a journalistic point of view as they certainly offer much more than a man stood on one leg with a flute, mixing as they do classic Deep Purple riffs, with Brian Eno soundscapes, intertwined with the classic melodies of The Beatles all delivered with the rapier like whit of a primetime Peter Gabriel, turning all this into something that sounds as 2010 as it does 1970.
Encoring with the glam tour de force of 'Superstar' and the David Gilmour tinged 'Counting Sheep' this double whammy of excess perfectly summed up why Bigelf are such an enthralling musical proposition for anyone willing to let the music do the talking.
We may be only two months into the year but this has to be an early contender for gig of the year. Über Röckers make sure you catch both of these bands before they go stellar on us some time soon.
Classic stuff indeed.