Hot Leg - The Legendary TJs: Newport
There’s a curious crowd in TJs tonight, they are all here to see how former Darkness front man Justin Hawkins copes with demotion to the club circuit, and whether he can rise from the ashes and return the fun to heavy metal rock ‘n’ roll a second time. They are not so curious, however, about support band The Crave who nevertheless manage to impress with a tight, polished, melodic set. Winning over a TJs crowd, often seemingly comprised largely of axe murderers and disorientated taxi drivers, is no mean feat and they hold their own tonight, a small victory which, combined with the natty blonde dreadlock image, hints at bigger things to come.
Hot Leg have been sent to transport us to the 1980s and, whilst in most places this would require a step back in time, the task at hand tonight in Newport is drag the town forward out of its 70s rut. The intro tape sets the scene, with the band trooping on stage to some bastard cousin of Axel-F, and we all mentally retreat to a time when Michael J Fox and David Lee Roth ruled the earth. Not that everything about the show is rooted in the past: opening song Ashamed is a withering demolition of TV reality shows which lays the blame for their existence firmly upon us, the viewer's shoulders. Beset by technical difficulties the show takes some time to catch fire as Justin struggles first with a faulty microphone and then a silent guitar, but he doesn’t let it phase him and by the time the band arrive at Chickens, with its attendant vocal histrionics, the spell is cast. Not that the place ever really erupts into mass adulation, there’s too much curiosity in the air for TJs to really let go of inhibitions. Curiosity killed the mood, which is unfortunate as the band are on top form, with Hawkins voice at times recalling The Cure’s Robert Smith; in fact Hawkins is in many ways the negative image of Fat Bob tonight – painfully skinny with a bleach blonde rat's nest of hair.
Chas ‘n’ Dave notwithstanding, I’m not a great advocate of humour in music and was always left resolutely unmoved by The Darkness. Tonight, however, it works, with tongue deftly lodged in his cheek Hawkins leads the band into Spinal Tap pose after Spinal Tap pose, and salvation from comedy hell lies in his innate understanding and love both of harmony and the genre of metal itself. Hyperbole is a great friend of mine and I’ve invited him to join me in scribing this review. Here he comes now, listen close to what he has to say: Hot Leg have made the best heavy metal party album since Motley Crue overcame drink, drugs and Sixx (count ‘em) imposters to unleash Girls, Girls, Girls on the world and, here’s the thing, they are even better live.
AC/DC, correct me if I am wrong, have just sold upwards of a billion copies of their new album which, let's face it, is not great. Angus ensures that they remain possibly the best live band in the world but, the new album is one great(ish) song and some rushed studio outtakes. Hot Leg, however, have knocked up the best of the 80s metal scene and sired a host of screaming lycra-clad babies which, when corralled onto one disc, may be derivative but tower above anything else around in the genre today. Set closing song Cocktails, which amusingly gets the TJs axe murderers chanting “Cock, cock, cock” in unison, refers to all your favourite drinks in one glass and those seven words sum up the metaphorical mass appeal of the band.
It is easy to dismiss Hawkins and his bands as being trivial but you should really do yourselves a favour and let your inhibitions loose for an evening of 80s hair metal nostalgia. OK, so you may have to use a few cans of hairspray and subsequently have to scourge yourself with a raffia whip, whilst begging BA to sell you some offset carbon emissions in order to really get in the spirit of things but I promise you it’ll be worth it. Feast upon the filthy, decadent extravagance of Hot Leg and have a blast destroying the planet.