Bow Wow Wow - O2 Academy, Oxford
80s New Wave quartet Bow Wow Wow were protoges of ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The group were formed from Adam Ant's original backing band, with 14 year old singer Annabella Lwin roped in on vocals.
The four piece released a cassette only collection, a pair of albums and a string of highly admired singles, including two Top Ten hits before calling it a day in 1983. Annabella and bassist Leigh Gorman reformed the band in 1997 for a US tour, playing a few sporadic dates in the years that followed, including a further US tour in 2005.
I viewed the original line up back in 1980 at Edinburgh Nite Club and was lucky enough to see the band play their first UK gig in decades in 2010 when the remaining three original members took to the stage at London's Scala to perform with Adam Ant in an evening celebrating Ants and BWW guitarist Matthew Ashman who sadly died in 1995.
The 2010 gig was my favourite show of that year as it was a real thrill to see both Adam and BWW onstage for the first time in over thirty years, so I was delighted to hear that Annabella and Leigh were taking to the road in the UK again after so many years away, vowing to catch a show somewhere in the country. I thought the gigs probably wouldn't deliver the same excitement as the Scala performance as that was the first time I'd seen the band since I was a teenager but I certainly knew they'd be worth viewing and assumed that countless other fans would feel the same way.
Sadly the people of Oxford didn't receive the memo as the band's show at the City's Academy suffered from a pretty abysmal turn out! What's worse was half the audience were made up of teen fans of one of the two young support acts that proceeded the headliners and they certainly weren't the band's typical crowd.
It may have been an uninspiring view from the stage but Annabella and her boys threw themselves into their performance from the off, with openers 'Giant Sized Baby Thang' and 'W.O.R.K' seeing Annabella dance like a dervish, twirling, squatting and running around the stage as if she was still 14. The singer tried to gee up the crowd before the band's tremendous take on 'Louis Quartoze' with a call of 'Girls in the crowd go yeah!' and 'Guys go woah!' but it went down like a lead balloon with the fairly intimate audience.
It's not that the crowd weren't appreciative it's just that there weren't enough people to bring us together as whole. You could see Annabella getting a bit frustrated throughout, repeatedly asking the attendees if they were hot yet, trying to gee us all up by saying 'Come on Oxford, it's been 30 years since we've played here' and at one point even asking if we were awake! There were plenty fans of the band enjoying themselves but when you play to a typical 40-something audience you're not going to get many of them going wild in the venue.
There was one guy dancing like a loon throughout 'Sun, Sea And Piracy' and he was right to do so as the band were on great form musically, with their mix of Burundi drumming and twangy guitars sounding immense, with guitarist Will Crewdson doing justice to the Ashman licks. Set highlights included '‘Uomo Sex Al Apache’, a blinding 'Baby Oh No' and 'Sexy Eiffel Towers', with Annabella still trying to fob us off after all these years by saying her orgasmic groans throughout the song were the sounds of her falling (well there were kids in the room!).
Things did perk up audience wise during the evening as although disinterested for the first chunk of the set a healthy group of the teenage crowd were drawn closer to the front as the show went on and by the time big hit ‘Go Wild In the Country’ and song of the night ‘C30, C60, C90 Go!’ were unveiled there was a large group of girls looking suitably impressed at what they were encountering on stage and I’m certain Annabella and her boys went home with several new fans under their belts.
There were certainly plenty people singing along by the time 'I Want Candy' appeared anyway so I imagine the band left the stage not feeling they'd played the worst show in the world!
They were certainly prepared to grace us with their presence for an encore anyway, delivering (almost) instrumental 'Sinner, Sinner, Sinner' and last track of the evening 'What's The Time (Hey Buddy)'. Although both songs were decent enough I didn't enjoy much of 'Hey Buddy' as I realised that I wasn't going to hear the band's single 'Chihuahua' so was extremely disappointed as it's one of my favourite 45s of the 80s. That being said, the gig was still tremendous fun as a whole and it did feel a real privilege to hear several songs that have meant a lot to me over the years one more time live. The band are touring the UK for the rest of the month and are certainly worth viewing if you get the opportunity.