Pop Levi - Birmingham Bar Academy
Here at CD Times, you can expect the utmost professionalism when it comes to contributors reporting on the hottest gigs and giving their verdict on what makes live shows a hit or miss. Usually. On a nippy January evening, I was witness to an astounding gig from rock-star-in-waiting Pop Levi. The thing is, I was astoundingly drunk when he took to the stage. As for the support act, the most I can recall is him having bags full of confidence and a rather naughty word adorning his T-shirt. The electro/hip-hop hybrid that was his music is less memorable. As is his name.
The main man, however, proved that good ol' rock and roll ain't dead. Joined by a fellow eleccy guitarist, a bassist and drummer, the Liverpudlian got the ball rolling with the album's lead single Sugar Assault Me Now (my Single of the Week). It's better live than on record and that's saying a lot. Levi likes to play with his songs, the extended intro for Sugar... heightening anticipation levels for a crowd that already seemed to be rather interested. They weren't dancing though - myself included, my drunken boogie pumps rooted to the ground save for an odd toe tap or two. This is bizarre because all the tracks played were wickedly danceable, Levi choosing to ignore the couple of ballads that make up the numbers on his debut long-player (to be reviewed soon). Maybe the Birmingham crowd were too super-cool (or too wasted) to show their appreciation by shaking their booties but, alas, Pop Levi wasn't one to care! He was pulling enough shapes himself to make the floor tremble - maybe the wickedly dirty bass lines in songs like Dollar Bill Rock had something to do with that too. Either way, Levi struts, grinds, cavorts, makes love to the dancefloor like a hyperactive and morally corrupt Duracell bunny. He has stage presence to burn.
The songs did not take a backseat to the entertaining stage show, though. The latter is all just fancy dress, a sexy outfit in which to present the songs to his audience. Blue Honey was the real star here, the pick of a bunch of groovy and tightly-played set of dirty rock beasts that, when played live, makes Pop Levi and his band sound like a modern-day T-Rex. The guilty bubblegum pop of Uppercut was also a favourite, the repeated hook of 'Pick me up, pick me up, pick me up/Uppercut, uppercut, uppercut' refusing to leave my head in the gig's wake.
From there, it's all a haze. In the best kind of way, no less. One more thing to note; the Bar Academy venue is the canine's pleasure parts. I've never been a fan of the dingy main room at Birmingham's Carling Academy venue, always preferring to see bands upstairs in the smaller and more intimate Academy 2. However, Bar Academy redefines the word 'intimate'. The stage is the teeniest ever and barely even raised, meaning Levi was directly within my eyeline all night. I took my camera to get some photos and, with a venue like that, they would have been less amateurish than usual due to the complete lack of boundaries between performer and gig-goer. I did not walk up to the stage and stick my digi-cam in his face though. Yep, I was so drunk I forgot it was even in my pocket! Luke McNaney, gig reviewer of the year. Yup.