As The Fermain Tavern began to fill with its sold out crowd there was a real sense that the first visit to the island by the legendary Blockheads would be a night to remember even before the first act took to the stage.
That first act was Isabelle Sheil. Following on from last weekend’s impressive performance this was more of the same as her delicate guitar playing and soulful vocals really were a treat for those who were listening.
Again Issie had trouble cutting through the general hubbub in the busy bar but her mix of covers and original songs, including a haunting rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, was great to hear and I couldn’t help but think she would be exceptional in a genuinely intimate, low-key, setting.
The energy jumped up as Rentoclean took to the their stage with their reggae-gypsy-punk. Recently the band have veered in a generally more ‘pop’ direction with their sound, but tonight, coming on the heels of recent shows in the UK and time in the studio, saw the four-piece in a more free-form jamming mood within their established songs which didn’t make for their most accessible performance.
As the set went on they dropped a few full on skank along bangers into the mix that did a few moving a little and throughout the set was loose and fun in the best of ways, while the music was exceptionally tightly performed.
Rentoclean are a band who seem on a truly constant developmental path with every gig building what they do to greater heights and this was no exception, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won over some new fans from the packed Tavern crowd.
The crowd steadily began to fill the dancefloor as the final preparations were made to the stage for the headliners and as The Blockheads walked onto stage there was a further noticeable surge forward that had those of us at the front all but falling onto the stage.
The seven-piece band started out in high gear and never slowed for more than an hour and a half of tunes, mostly from the classic era, but with a few newer ones thrown in that kept the funky rhythms and semi-poetic lyrics flowing.
It being predominantly a ‘greatest hits’ set meant that almost every track was greeted rapturously and it wasn’t long before the whole floor was grooving along and ‘singing’ back to the band as well.
The band as a whole were an amazingly energetic force, particularly given the length of their career so far with Chaz Jankel switching between piano, organ and guitar flawlessly and seemingly loving every minute.
Meanwhile Norman Watt-Roy continued his impressive run of gigs in Guernsey and amazed everyone with his evidently intimate connection with his instrument that really gives off the feeling that he and his ‘Faith and Grace’ are one.
The rest of the band weren’t far behind and between Norman and vocalist Derek ‘The Draw’ Hussey they managed to evoke something of the famed spirit of the late great Ian Dury while adding their own touch too. Hussey was especially impressive gaining a real charismatic connection with the audience despite spending the entire set hidden behind dark glasses.
Highlights came in the form of a semi-impromptu rendition of Billericay Dickie that seemed to have the whole Tavern shouting the ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ lyrics back at the band and Sweet Gene Vincent dedicated to local favourite (and former Blockhead) Wilko Johnson that brought a real classic rock ‘n’ roll flavour to proceedings.
Other highlights came in the form of classics like Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Wake Up And Make Love To Me, Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick amongst others.
After they left the stage the band were genuinely called back for more and they delivered in form of their own anthem, Blockheads, before leaving the cheering crowd with a Lullaby for Francies rounding off a truly exceptional night of live music that had gig goers from across generations and ‘scenes’ joining together to celebrate live music and great songs.
(Oh, and happy birthday Chris, without you having a birthday, we wouldn’t have had this excellent gig!)