The Fall / Mclusky / Jarcrew - Barfly, Camden
It's the first night of a fairly low key residency for The Fall, and it is, unsurprisingly, completely sold out. The Barfly, not the largest of venues, has been transformed into a sweatbox and it's here that Jarcrew, loud uncouth types from Wales, flounder. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with Jarcrew, they're lively enough and have a nice line in raucous, angular rock/punk. They also look the part, all kitted out in matching action man style green camouflage jumpers. Their singer is suitably manic, using the floor as much as the stage as he gyrates about and makes contact with the bemused punters, it's just that, they lack the songs to do their antics justice. At times, it all comes together nicely, and they hold the attention, but those times are few and far between. Given the songs, they might go far yet, but at the moment, they need to concentrate on this one lacking feature.
Not so Mclusky who surely deserve some sort of award for always doing a gig somewhere on any given night of the week. It's paid off, though, and this three piece is as tight as a drum; that's a loud and shouting drum, of course, and one that's on fire and rolling down a hill or something. They're a sort of hybrid between Sonic Youth and old-fashioned shouty bands like The Exploited or The Partisans. A great, powerful noise of bass and power chords, played fast as fuck but with intelligence and melody. Go and see them, it shouldn't be difficult. They had the audience lapping it up even though many of the songs were new ones.
So, then, the shambles that is The Fall and be prepared for a long wait. It seems they won't come on until Mark E Smith is ready to come on, and that, dear reader, could be anytime. One pissed up old punk grabbed the mike and started shouting "Come on you fucker, come and collect your pension" which probably went down better with the audience than it did backstage. It's still a long time before anything happens and when it did, they started without him, managing to get through at least half of Open The Boxoctosis #2 before he deigned to make an appearance. Staggering on like a pissed-up taxi driver who had come to collect someone, if only he could remember which member of the band he’s come to collect.
There's much love and respect here tonight for Mr Smith and, it seems, it's not misplaced. He seems as though he's really enjoying himself. It is hard to tell, though, and at times, it seems he has trouble remembering where he is. With his slight stoop and vacant eyes, he watches the crowd go apeshit as they blast through a selection of songs from latest long player Country On The Click and somewhere, deep down, it looks as though he approves of the mayhem his presence has caused. It is proper mayhem, as well, there are stage invasions, a proper little fight and many crowd surfers. It's like the old days, all over again, and the bouncers are far too late on the scene to make much difference. It's all good clean fun.
Most of the hour long set consists of songs from Country On The Click, each one received very well. None more so than Theme From Sparta FC which causes another mini-riot. Mountain Energie and Green Eyed Loco Man sound fantastic live, and his band have a real fusion that is tangible. There's a smattering of oldies, too, to keep the old fogies happy, none better than a riotous, freewheeling rendition of Mr Pharmacist which leads to another stage invasion. Don't count on hearing it again, though, as it's clear that the songs are decided upon a few seconds before. Set list? Nah, not here, it's not that type of evening.
There's something a litte cabaret about the whole affair, really. Mark E Smith knows he hasn't got to do to much to get everybody going. Every gesture is greeted with accolade, and he's just playing about with us, it seems. He gets away with singing Contraflow over something else before the band catch up with him and for quite a few songs he just turns his back on us. Often, he seems bemused by where he is, bashing the keyboards like a child or getting fascinated by something on the floor near the drums. There's a smashing little moment towards the end of the gig. He's been singing through two mikes for most of the night, but now one has gone. It's somewhere in the crowd and people are bellowing through it. With much fuss and danger to themselves, one of the bouncers retrieves it. He hands it to Smith, who looks at it as though he's never seen anything like it before. Without a word, and with a barely perceptible gesture, he slips it back into the crowd. It all took place in a matter of a few seconds, but those that saw it laughed like drains.
If you've not seen The Fall before, and are going to one of these gigs, you're guaranteed one of the best gigs you'll see for a long time. It has everything - drama, tension, harmless violence, high camp and wonderful music. Just don't expect a long set, and only one encore, though and that probably depends on Smith's mood as much as anything else...