The Steve Brown Sound Live at The Saunton Sands, 26th October 2002
They're comprised entirely of native Brits, and recorded their debut album in Manchester, and yet the Steve Brown Sound have only just played their first concert on English soil. But for the intervention of a mystery new guitarist, it was very nearly a disaster.
They opened as the Reduced Brown Sound, a moniker previously applied to an incarnation sans Trickey and their eponymous front man. On this occasion, however, Anderson was the absentee, because, as Brown put it "in true rock n' roll fashion, Neil refuses to fly." It was a brave decision, then, to open with Lakky Lady, a track that relies on the Parfit-Rossi interplay of the Sound's founding members. Brave, and, as it turned out, stupid. The Reduced Brown Sound were in danger of becoming the Ridiculous Brown Sound, as lakky turned slacky in the hands of the stripped down three-piece.
Not one to let an audience go home disappointed, Brown was quick to redress the balance, inviting members of the audience to fill in for Anderson. Another bold move, and one that paid off handsomely in the form of Simon Cave, who despite never having seen the band before knew Neil's noodles like no other. My Generation was restored to its proper place with Cave's studious strumming.
So it was the Reconstituted Brown Sound that entertained the 150-strong North Devon audience this October, and the band look set to take Britain by storm. The stalwart fans before whom they're accustomed to playing were in the minority, but their enthusiasm encouraged a mixed crowd of newcomers to let loose to the Rawk energy that's still very much in evidence. In fact, inspirational as ever, they spawned a new dance. It entails holding one's tie in one's mouth like a beak and performing a demented double-hand shake. More accomplished performers of this crazy new move added a flourish that can only be a tribute to Harvey's legendary tubthumper dance, by occasionally falling over. Known by its practitioners as the Saunton Flap, it requires appropriately sartorial garb, but as ever, the Sound attracted an audience with a real sense of occasion. Even those who'd previously only heard rumours of the band were decked out as if at some barmy wedding shindig.
This was also The Brown Sound's first public performance since coming out of the studios in August where their long-awaited debut, Starting From Now, was laid down (watch this space for reviews). No surprise then that the gig featured as much of Brown's original material as it did tried-and-tested covers. Obviously Elvis raised new smiles among those unfamiliar with its bawdy content, but the newer songs were the stand out pieces of the evening for those who've chuckled through a legacy of approving moans. Pop Idol is without doubt the new Elvis with its similarly narrative structure but more contemporary themes. This reviewer for one looks forward to the wider release of the Sound's Pop Idol EP.
A noticeably chirpier Trickey plucked out russet bass lines, allegedly because his Mum was in the audience, whilst Dwyer did his pounding dog thing with aplomb, especially on Gloria. As iconic as ever, Brown continued to preach the Gospel according to the Sound with an evangelical fervour uncommon in diminutive Scottish father's to be.
The night finished with half-remembered murmurs of future UK dates. As soon as they're confirmed, The Vic will be there first with news. Whether you missed the Saunton Sands gig or not, you should make sure you're there for the band's next UK gig. That goes for you too, Neil, although you might have to fight off competition from the new boy!
Contemporary Arts Reporter, Nuke Mountshallow, 13th November 2002