Talking Heads, Southampton

Hands Off Gretel

It’s a mild Sunday night in Southampton as Yorkshire’s finest make their 3rd visit to this very venue – it’s like the return of old friends. Tonight also sees a hand-picked support in the guise of the affectionately titled Jimmy B and the Death Rattles. A name you won’t forget in a hurry, and on tonight’s performance neither will you forget this band!

Lead vocalist Dan gets a rest from vocal duties as they open with an instrumental, simply entitled “Numbers”. It’s heavy on keys content from Sam (keys/b.vox) amid a wall of noise and some early moves by their three dancers. I say dancers – this is “art” for arts sake and one cannot keep their eyes off them. One dressed like something out of “Winnie The Pooh” and the other two so scantily clad you’d be forgiven for feeling you’d turned up at an altogether different kind of show! Setting out their stall early Dan (lead vox) vocalises confidently on ‘Monkey Head’ and immediately I’m reminded of Howard Devoto (Magazine/Buzzcocks) in his style and delivery. And while it would be impossible to genre classify the band, I’m gonna stick with “Art/Rock”. “God Is Here” is next and those dancers (better known as The Dead Nymphettes) start to earn their corn. “Miss Twist” is the most energetic of the trio displaying a level of contortion for those in the audience not paying much attention to the band! Juan (lead guitar), a well-known face around these parts barely looks up throughout, while Matt’s powerhouse hitting keeps the beat in the engine room.

Mark (bass) plays his part over on the left, with Marnie Fox (Nymphette) to his rear showing some keen moves. Not forgetting Mr. Skid (rhythm guitar) hidden at the back. As I’ve hinted earlier one would be hard pressed to try and categorize this band, and therein lies their appeal – you just never know what to expect next. “Just Like You” takes the pace down a little with Dan showing fine range as his voice softens for this (possible) love song. Parity is resumed with the quite excellent “We Are Fire” as Miss Twist once again takes center stage. They depart us on “Soul Savers” and leave an indelible mark on both our eyes and ears. I would love to see this band on a big festival stage where I feel they belong. It really is hard to find fault – great musicianship, stagecraft, songs and a visual experience that simply won’t be forgotten. I shall watch with interest as to their future output.

Jimmy B And The Death Rattles
Jimmy B And The Death Rattles 12

So, how were the headliners gonna follow that? With consummate ease as it happens! Showing their growth in confidence they open with two future tracks. Firstly “She Thinks She’s Punk Rock” and then “Don’t Touch”. Straight away I’m drawn to the all-round power of new girl Becky (bass), who has effortlessly replaced the previous bassist Joe. Becky is no stranger to a live stage; she also plays in Metal band Fury as well as Hard Rock band DORJA, while previous credits include IDestroy and Triaxis. Lauren (vox/guitar) as usual takes centre stage in all her glory, pacing every inch of the stage. “Bad Egg” is the first powerhouse number and sees Sean (lead guitar) start to shape and contort his body, energetically circling the space afforded him. Sam (drums) behind him effortlessly keeps the beat. “It’s My Fault” is clearly an emotional number, sung with deep feeling before they raise the bar once more with live favourite “Be Mine”. In fact, some of the songs this evening are clearly emotive and personal to Lauren. As she starts to let go her wriggling and writhing onstage is matched by Becky’s shapeshifting and Sean’s very personal moves. The highest compliment I can pay Sean is that he hasn’t nicked anyone’s stylising and onstage moves, his showmanship is quite unique and his chemistry with Lauren knows no bounds. As they play off each other Becky starts to move nearer the front. “Oh Shit” sees Lauren really reach for the first time tonight – clearly the regular screeching is taking its toll as she gives a much more measured vocal performance elsewhere.

Hands Off Gretel
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Tonight we are treated to a decent Stooges cover in the shape of “Be Your Dog”. They effortlessly change it to suit their style, giving Sean a chance to show off once more. “One Eyed Girl” ends an hour-long set as we all take a breather. It’s not long before the band return for a two-song encore. ‘Baybee’ is new to me and decent enough, before they depart on a rampant ‘My Size’.

Clearly, their time has been well spent as a “touring band” and they continue to clock up the miles. Some return dates, and at least two festivals, would prove they are moving in the right direction. And without record company interference they are free to do things on their own terms. That said, it still baffles me a “major” hasn’t at least taken a chance on them – surely it can’t be long now. Everything is in place – songs, image, stagecraft and an energy and commitment to always improve. We will see…..

Jimmy B and the Death Rattles
Monkey Head
God Is Here
Just Like You
We Are Fire
Soul Savers

Hands Off Gretel
She Thinks She’s Punk Rock
Don’t Touch
Bad Egg
My Toy
It’s My Fault
Be Mine
Kiss Me Girl
Awfully Miserable
Oh Shit
I Wanna Be Your Dog (Stooges cover)
One Eyed Girl
My Size



Review, Pictures and Videos by Ross A. Ferrone.

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