The King Blues - Cardiff Barfly
It comes with a heavy weight of expectation but there's no shame in using the Clash as a foundation for your band - as long as you can carry it off that is. Happily The King Blues have no worries on that score - ukulele toting front man Jonny Fox boasts the politically naive social conscience of Joe and the perfect pop sensibilities of Mick and, like the Clash, the band are unfettered by artificial zeitgeist boundaries of taste and style. Tonight’s show charts a manic course through pop, punk, ska, reggae and sends the sell-out crowd into a heaving, steaming mass of flailing limbs.
It should come as no real surprise that the band appear to be "4real" - although they wear only their hearts on their sleeves rather than a carved out slogan -because Jonny Fox has spent time living on the streets and in squats. Indeed, his experience of living on the cold, winter streets of London enriches his music and is the reason we are here tonight clutching copies of the Big Issue. It was, claims Jonny, the Big Issue which enabled him to get his life together and so this tour is a chance for him to pay something back and promote the success story of the Big Issue. So, turn up with a copy of the Big Issue and you get to see the show for free. Whatever you think of the music, you can't fault the attitude and maybe the two hour wait in the driving snow gives the fans a little something to think about as they each hand over their £1.50 to the Big Issue vendor.
Not that there is much to fault musically, with the band tipping a nod to so many genres that it is amazing that they manage to pull it all together and forge a style of their own. Sure the Clash comparisons are there for all to see and hear, but these, largely, stem from the lyrics of songs like "Let's hang the landlord", taken from new album ‘Save The World, Get The Girl’, which is in many ways a modern take on Mick Jones' tear jerking "Stay Free". The songs tonight tackle some weighty subjects, death, global terrorism, war, consumerism, love and racism but you never feel like you are being lectured or harangued and that is the real subversive skill of the band. Some, like Billy Bragg, had plenty to say but turned too many people off from the message by his incessant hectoring, The King Blues have the suss to know that the kids are not here for a lesson in social conscience tonight, so they give them what they want and hit them with their rhythm stick.
Music has become awfully sterile and compartmentalised in recent years and it is indescribably refreshing to see this bunch of magpies taking inspiration from all quarters; the last bloke I saw on-stage with a ukulele was Joe Brown and he's pushing 70! Eclecticism aside, the beauty of The King Blues is that they are real people who have got something they need to say, there is evidently substance below the surface and that is rare indeed. One of the highlights of the show is ’What if punk never happened?’ a dystopian vision in which lackadaisical hippies rule the earth, during which you might find yourself rubbing your bleary eyes and realising that, hey! punk is still happening right in front of my eyes. Give them a listen now; they could be your next favourite band - unless, of course, you are a dreaded hippy. Never trust a hippy.