The Island Records 50th Birthday Party
My Champagne Friend was coming to tea so I'd loaded up on Millionaire's Shortbread and scones, but I'd got wind of some tickets to the ISland Birthday Concert in the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and sure enough they were there when I picked up my next load of marking from the University of the West.
We tubed it down there, being confidently directed to the new West somethingorother shopping centre by the tube assistant who didn't listen and assumed we were going shopping, and hung around as the crowds gathered, having got there massively early as we're not used to going to Big Things. A nice girl gave us tags to hang round our necks to get in to the after-party, and told me my ear-rings were Tanzanian. Adrian Sherwood was playing some interesting music, surrounded at the front of the stage by a clutch of Sherwood-a-likes.
we knew that Kid Creole was playing, and Sly and Robbie, and much later on, Grace Jones. We also knew there was no way we would be able to stay till then, so we would take whatever came and see what it was.
An MC with an uncanny resemblance to Mr Burns strode on and whipped up the crowd, and on bounced Kid Creole and the Coconuts, colourful, happy and busy. August Darnell is a consummate entertainer (although I've never liked his songs, which are not a patch on those by his brother Stoney Browder Junior who ran Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band). Kid Creole and the Coconuts released a clutch of duff singles in the 1980s, with thin, hard production that did nothing for the fantastic variety of instruments and musicians in the group, with not even Darnell himself sounding any good.
Live, though, they are great, almost like a holiday camp band with an emphasis on the camp, and a bit too smutty for the children! The jokes about cocnuts wore thin, but Darnell was wearing a fantastic bright purple Zoot Suit and flirted with the audience, all dimples and smiles, and showed what an influence on Prince he had been. The Coconuts were dour and tarty, never smiling, looking like a bunch of shop asissistants from Manchester; that's probably what they were supposed to look like, I think. There was a great horn section, and the energy coming from the stage was powerful, positive and dancey.
they came back for an encore, with a cute girl singing My Boy Lollipop, and then vanished back to Sweden in a puff of charisma.
Mykaell Riley, who had got us the tickets, turned up fresh from a rehearsal with Steel Pulse, who are playing there tonight. He was buzzing and excited, zooming about to see all the people he'd got tickets for.
The Rasta grandpappys started gathering, huge, huge hats with a lifetime's dreadlocks tucked into them, and serious grey beards. The smell of ganja permeated the area, though no smoke was visible. It was time for Sly and Robbie!
What they lacked in visual impact they more than made up for with the power of their music- it was crisp, deep, even, you name it, the bassiest bass, the clickiest snare, and with a guest trombone player with the richest, fattest tone, you've ever heard. I love Sly and Robbie and they didn't disappoint. None of their grooves were self indulgent, which is what makes them so great- economy and musical wisdom. What a fantastic thing to get to hear!
It was time to go home. And it's time for me to go to the dentist as I have the most appalling tooth ache.
One last thing that made me very happy. My Champagne Friend told me her teenage kids think Lily Allen sounds like me!
(in that order!)