The Mojos – The Roman Bath, 10/10/08 and Elliot Minor – The Duchess, 12/10/08

Musically, last week was a funny sort of week…

It started with a bit of a disappointment. We had planned (and, indeed, had tickets) to see Curved Air at the Duchess on Thursday. But, on Monday, we discovered that the promoters had cancelled all gigs outside of the South-East of England. Had the credit-crunch hit the band’s travel budget? Maybe hardly any tickets had been sold? We don’t know and I doubt we ever will. I’ll admit that I knew hardly anything by this re-formed 70’s prog-rock band – I have one track Back Street Luv on a compilation CD – but I was looking forward to seeing them live. I think that, if I ever had to chose to listen to just one style of music it would be prog-rock and we don’t get that many opportunities to hear it live in York. (Up-coming gigs by Breathing Space, Mostly Autumn and the original Asia notwithstanding…)

Anyway, that meant that I had to meet up with the guys on Friday night instead – Roj had something to pass on to me before Sunday (more on that later…) There wasn’t a great deal that took our fancy, so we planned to go to the Roman Bath to see The Penetrators, allegedly a 70’s to noughties rock covers band. I say “allegedly” because, when we arrived, The Penetrators were nowhere to be seen. (Maybe they were holed up with Curved Air in the South East.) Instead, The Mojos were gracing the stage area. Now, up until Friday I was a Mojos virgin. The other guys, however, had seen them a number of times and had told me that they were pretty good.

The first thing I noticed, however, was the, errrm, let’s say disparate ages of some of the band. Well, let’s be honest, it was, being perfectly frank, the apparent age of Dave, who could have been the father of any of the other members. If I hadn’t heard of them from the guys, I would have had the vague thought that this could have ended up being embarrassing. A bit like finding out that your Grandad played in a rock band. However, the past reviews were right. These guys are really good. Their selection of covers is slightly different to the usual fare and they play them extremely well. Tonight’s set was spoiled slightly by a couple of electrical problems – one ending Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall somewhat abruptly (all we need is just another 50p in the metre??), the other making The Mojos’ version of The Kaiser Chiefs’ Ruby better than the original. A packed set was graced, for me, with many favourite songs by many favourite bands, including Robbie Williams, Bryan Adams, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Whitesnake, To-to and Queen. Being honest, I’m off the opinion that nobody should ever cover Queen, but that’s by-the-by – they didn’t do too bad a job at all. The set was rounded off with a fantastic medley containing songs that I can’t remember the titles of. (Must start carrying around pen and paper.)

The only thing that remains to be said is that the bass guitar that John was playing is possibly the ugliest guitar I have ever seen. That didn’t stop him playing it well, though. A good gig by a top covers band. One I hope to catch again sometime.

And, as the evening drew to a close (or, at least, as we were kicked out of the Bath to commence our usual chit-chat/insult-trading on the streets of York) Roj handed me my ticket for Sunday night’s gig at the Duchess, featuring York band Elliot Minor.

Regular readers (I like to kid myself that I have some) will remember that I reviewed their debut album a few months back and that I liked it enough to rate it my album of the year at that point. Sunday night’s gig was set up at short notice, was for charity and, given the almost boy-band status of Elliot Minor, I didn’t think I’d manage to get a ticket. Thanks go to Roj, who braved the humiliation to pick one up for me.

It’s a bit of a complicated story but I arrived at the Duchess at seven o’clock on Sunday evening, thought I’d missed the first band, who were due to finish at seven and couldn’t work out what had happened to the second one, The Hot Melts, as they seemed to have morphed from a Liverpudlian foursome into a York-based female threesome who I had seen before. It urns out that The Hot Melts had cancelled at short notice (there’s somewhat of a them developing here…) and the girls were the first band starting late. (It was good of them to wait for me, don’t you think?)

Anyway, they were Third Conduct (and networking socially) and I had originally seen them at Fibbers over a year ago. Billed as “pop punk”, you can imagine their style from the two covers that they performed – Green Day’s She and, errrm, The Monkees’ I’m a Believer (albeit the slightly rockier version from Shrek). However, they primarily play their own stuff and very good it is too. Kate’s pounding drums belie her tender age, Hannah’s guitar-playing is electric while Sarah’s vocals, despite a slight nasal quality, have improved vastly since the last time I saw them. This was a much more assured performance overall and was thoroughly enjoyable. I’m not normally a big fan of either punk or punk-lite, but these girls are good enough for me to consider getting hold of a copy of their 8-track EP. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them after their set finished so didn’t get to pick one up on the night.

And so to the main act. I have a vague feeling that if you were to take Elliot Minor’s album and rework it slightly (take away the string arrangements, tone down the slightly plummy vocals, crank up the volume a bit) you would have a slightly better than average rock album, rather than the excellent, sophisticated pop-rock album that it was released as. Add in some youthful exuberance, some excellent musicianship and a crowd composed partially of screaming girls and crank up the volume even more and you have what turned out to be an extremely good rock concert.

There can be no doubt that the boys of Elliot Minor have a great deal of talent (and, it has to be said, the looks to make you wish you were part of the same gene-pool). Being labelled as a boy-band doesn’t do them justice. Their live set, containing most songs from the album and at least one new track, isn’t just a re-hash of those songs but almost completely different versions. Yes, the lyrics are the same but the music is a lot rockier, verging on heavy and the vocals are a lot more raw, losing some of the “posh” tones which were my main criticism of the album, but retaining the variety of having multiple vocalists. They even showed a variety of talent by playing Silently totally acoustically, without drums.

A word about the audience. I expected to be completely composed almost exclusively of screaming girls and fully expected to be the oldest person there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while a good deal of the audience was student-aged, there was a fair number of older music fans present as well. Even some who admitted to owning the album. There was even a handful of people older than me and some of them didn’t appear to be related to the band.

Whether Elliot Minor turn out to be a flash in the pan or whether they can sustain and build upon the momentum created by their first release remains to be seen. Personally, though, I’m glad that I took the opportunity to see them live relatively early in their career. The only downside to the performance was the somewhat mixed message coming from the band about under-aged drinking – while bass-player Ed was advising people not to do it or they would be kicked out, lead guitarist Alex responded with “f*** the bouncers, let’s all have fun tonight.” It may be rock and roll but, given the hoops that had to be jumped through to get The Duchess open in the first place, it’s probably not what Tim and Michelle wanted to hear.

The proceeds of this gig are going to York Against Cancer and it raised over £3,100. Somehow it feels good to enjoy yourself while doing some good.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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