On 27th Feb Evan Burgess checked out the last gig at the Niccol Centre...
The last time I saw The Curious Little Big Band it was a special occasion. Again, this occasion merited a band good enough to fill a venue 10 times the size. It was natural The Curious Little Big Band were headliners for the last ever Brewery Blues at the Niccol Centre. It was not the end, but the beginning of a new venture for the Brewery Blues. As such there was still a feeling of optimism and a party atmosphere. What can’t be understated however, is whatever the occasion, The Curious Little Big Band are a party. Without a hint of irony they pull off perfect harmonies dressed in trashy wigs. The atmosphere was like a mass regression to a kid’s party and no one questioned it. The only thing missing was perhaps some burlesque dancers and a rendition of Time Warp.
But before we get to the headliners we had several acts that nearly convinced us we were at a circuit gig. There wasn’t a boa in sight as opener Landslide riddled their set with a series of great covers. On a high note they finished on Pearl Jam’s Even Flow. The crowd were polite and tapped their feet and clapped appropriately. There is definitely a great deal of potential for Landslide. Most bands of that age don’t have the ability to play a song like Even Flow with the authenticity Henry Blackaller mustered. The rhythm section was spot on which added an extra edge to the song selection. At some points you could have thought you had walked in with the radio playing.
Next up was Rosie Blackaller. Accompanied with Andy Hughes on drums, her brother Henry alternated between the guitar and bass. Rosie played the keyboard and guitar competently, using her left hand to fill in the low end when Henry was on the acoustic. Original songs and covers were well received and got some crowd participation. It seems Rosie can make her choices where she wants to go with her music.
Someone who definitely made the choice to go all the way in music was the penultimate act George Montague. Playing solo, he showed no inhibition in performing without the protection of a full band. Having seen George in the summer of 2014 headlining at the same venue, I was impressed how delicate some of his songs were rendered acoustically. Tunes were recognisable from before and the crowd knew him well.
Despite loving the previous artists, everyone was hungry for the final act. With a popularity not matched by many other local groups, The Curious Little Big Band transformed the crowd from a polite mass to a dynamic group of individuals. Space was made where there had been none before to enable a closer proximity to the action. Miles’ dressing up box brought out the vampish side in the ladies present. It came to a point where men were being forced to dance and anyone too still was frowned upon. Excuses like arthritis and gout were not going to hold up against the onslaught of beats.
One of the remarkable things about the act was that they could make the audience like any song or kind of music because they played it. The older generation didn’t bat an eyelid at a Dizzee Rascal style rap dropped in between some crooning. It isn’t possible to pick a highlight from the set but certainly some songs got most of the audience singing along. I Will Survive being one of them. Playing in May at the South Cerney festival, don’t forget your wig and boa when you push your way into the crowd. Miles often performs with a cane, perhaps soon it will be the only thing keeping the audience off his stage.