The Bookhouse Boys - Manchester Night & Day

In support of one of 2008’s finest albums. The Bookhouse Boys finally brave the M25 barrier. Manchester on a sleet-battered Monday night (“A blue Monday” quips head Bookhouse Boy Paul van Oestren) is an apposite setting for this nine piece’s sulphuric soul. Over the course of a mere 40 minutes they melt the walls and kick up enough dust to blur the horizon.

Worth noting tonight is the absolute level of performance commitment The Bookhouse Boys deliver. Van Oestren goes for the hunched-down approach, mike pushed down to chest level. The grand tradition he carries before him, that of fire and brimstone rock ‘n’ roll preacher, is a flame worth handing on. We all know who wears that particular crown and I’ll spare the tiresome comparisons this lot invite because there’s a) a lot of them and b) they wear suits. But, that said, van Oestren shapes up well. At times when he puts down the guitar, grabs the mikestand and howls into the gloom, I’m reminded of a young Kevin Rowland. (That’s the highest praise, just in case you were wondering.) Only time will tell, but imagine if they realise the potential of their glorious debut and there’s a ‘Don’t Stand me Down’ in there somewhere. Ooh – did I just shiver ? Catherine Turner, she of the wind chill voice, leaves me breathless. She stands there in that dress (red), the icy foil to her partner’s lurch and sway, and does aloof like Beart, distant like Bardot. She should surely be doing something far less rewarding, but for her far more rewarding, but hey, standing on a scruffy stage in with a gang of unkempt blokes it is. But of course, she sings like a (fallen) angel, which changes everything. In terms of clarity and range she’d give Beth Gibbons a run. Others will pass over her ridiculous beauty to be all proper but, that’s like watching ‘Le Mepris’ and going on about the story and the photography. Hey, I digress but only a bit and I can’t help myself. Go somewhere else if you’re wondering what the songs sound like.

Oh okay. The songs sound magnificent tonight. The ‘boys’ in the band play with resolve, power and just enough rickety-rackety to keep it properly live. They play the album and “a new song.” Time stands still. I recall they start with ‘Intro’ (the cheap bastards) and then sidestep us straight into the barroom balladry of ‘Shoot You Down’. A double whammy of ‘Tonight’ and ‘Dead’ sees them open up a few dozen more cylinders and sets you to wondering whether they’ve discharged the good stuff too early. Nah, they propel towards a magnificent climax, hitting ‘Mariachi’ clean down Oldham Street and following it with ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ (which kicks in and for moment makes me think they’re doing the Pixies’ ‘Vamos’. Which would work, it has to be said.) Set closer, ‘I Believe in Love’, is the nearest thing they have to an anthem; before they pound it to shreds, it’s just van Oestren and the starkest guitar accompaniment. Close your eyes and it’s Berlin 1987 and there are angels on the streets. (Oh Christ, did I just say that ? Look what they make me do.)

All said, a gig of magnitude. Like Damiel and Marion, finally we meet. (Sorry. I can't stop now.) I don’t know about you, but I feel as if I’m being fed something new to cherish every day right now; it’s easy to get distracted and lust over the undeserving. But with The Bookhouse Boys, it’s nothing but love, real love, the kind that made Smokey cry, the kind that Joni could down by the case-full, the kind that William Bell was talking about when he sang “Never let me go”. I tremble in anticipation of the good times ahead.

Last updated: 18/04/2018 20:54:22

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