It’s good for musicians to listen outside their genre. With this maxim in mind, I went to see Rolo Tomassi at The Scala, King’s Cross, London.
The Scala is a building I’ve passed so many times but until recently had never entered. It used to be a cinema and at one point was a primatarium. Cinema goers used to complain about the smell which was sure to detract from their experience unless the film happened to be Planet of the Apes.
The theatre works well as a rock venue. My friends and I parked ourselves in the balcony away from the mosh pit. We were tempted to enter the fray but I suppose it’s an age thing. Up on the balcony we were mistaken for parents of the band members.
Rock music was what originally made me take up guitar so it has always had a special power over me. I know people who work in festivals and they tell me the heavier the rock, the friendlier the people.
Nowadays, I feel short changed if a band is all blokes with their arrays of guitar pedals. It worked well in the past but now it just seems wrong. And boring. But tonight was going to be adorned by two exceptional women.
There were three acts on the bill. I missed the first (sorry Cassus) but arrived in time for Blood Command. Four guitars (including bass) and drums (of course) created a raucous wall of sound. I liked the way the musicians moved around on stage. They put thought into choreography and movement. That’s good. Every now and again they’d lift their left legs up in the air in unison. Not high like a ballerina – that’s hard to do while playing guitar but enough to make an effect. It’s an idea Chico Chica could steal. I might raise it at the next band meeting (the topic that is, not the leg).
Blood Command are fronted by Karina Ljon (pictured). Ljon is a fabulous presence and she naturally stole the show. Afterwards she was meekly sitting behind the merch counter selling CDs and t-shirts and chatting to fans.
The main act always has the advantage of being last. Miles Davis used to prefer to go first when the audience’s ears were still fresh but also so he could finish while the night was still young. But rock is different. The sense of anticipation gives the headline act an unfair advantage. Even so, Rolo Tomassi are brilliant. They can be thrashy and screamy which the crowd loved, but they can suddenly switch to melodious sections with jazzy chords and rhythms.
However, Rolo Tomassi are nothing without the singer Eva Spence. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She also happened to be the main reason I bought a ticket. Screaming works well in rock but less so in other genres. I’m unsure if Ms Spence screams words or just sounds. Not that it really matters.
Occasionally the keyboard player would move centre stage, join in the screaming and try to steal her limelight. Why? How dare he. It came across as macho posturing and a forlorn attempt to bask in the glory of Ms Spence’s luminous aura. Sorry matey. Get back behind that keyboard where you belong.
Rock musicians are able to feel the music from the inside because they commit it all to memory. If they were reading from music stands people would ask for their money back. This is what musicians from other genres should learn. Memorisation of the music is in itself a wow factor and it enables a different type of body language. The more technology we use the less we remember so it is even more important for musicians to buck this trend.
The gig finished at 9:45pm. Now that’s a modern development. It is no doubt to do with legal restrictions. Purists complain that rock should be a late night thing and music is more exciting when it’s played at that time. I don’t see the logic in this view which seems to be a hangover from childhood. Late finishes discourage mature people who, like me, enjoy their mornings. From a promoter’s point of view, excluding a more affluent demographic doesn’t make sense. There is also a greater choice of places to eat as so many close at 11:00pm. I’d better move on to the next paragraph as I’m starting to sound like a grandad.
By the end of the evening I had come to the conclusion that Ms Spence is quite possibly the most wonderful human being alive today. Eva Peron cried for Argentina, Eva Spence screams for England.