Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Gig Review: The Real McKenzies at The Camden Underworld 13/9/17

What do you do when you're off work and have a day planned in London? Go to a punk show, of course. Canadian celtic punks The Real McKenzies were playing at The Underworld in Camden, somewhere we seem to have been to loads lately, and had Counting Coins supporting them. This promised to be a evening full of fun.

When I saw that there was only one support band on the evening's bill, I must admit that I felt a little disappointed - it felt like I was paying full price for a gig that wouldn't be as long as normal. Any disappointment that I was feeling was soon forgotten as Counting Coins took to the stage. The five piece from Hull play a hybrid of ska punk, hip-hop and gypsy music and kind of felt like strange bedfellows for The Real McKenzies for this tour. I wondered how a crowd of predominantly older punk rockers would take to this band. They took to them very well. I think that this was down to the infectious energy that the band put into their performance. Lead vocalist Harry is sometimes hard to make out due to the sheer speed that he delivers his lyrics but he has me smiling and enjoying myself anyway. Because Counting Coins were the only support band of the evening they were afforded a little extra time for their set. This seemed like we were able to get the full Counting Coins experience. Playing a selection of songs from their entire back catalogue as well as at least one new one, the band got a few people in the crowd that had gathered early dancing. The band had become great friends with tour pals Real McKenzies over the previous week or so and it was great to see some of those Canadian chaps down the front singing along with the band. It's always great to see some camaraderie develop between bands whilst on tour, it really shows the strength of the community in the punk scene. Counting Coins really impressed with a high octane set.

Next it was time for long running celtic punks, The Real McKenzies. The band formed way back in 1992 so this was the band's 25th year in existence, an incredible achievement. Frontman Paul McKenzie is the only original member who still plays with the band and as soon as he took to the stage he got an standing ovation from the Underworld crowd. This is where I must admit that I'm not overly knowledgeable on much of The Real McKenzies music, I know a couple of songs and I've always enjoyed listening to them but have never fully been on board the McKenzies bandwagon. I now am after witnessing an incredible live performance. I don't think I've seen many more entertaining live shows this year. I think a key part of the band's longevity has been the excellent selection of musicians that Paul has surrounded himself with. Watching them all interact with each other on the Underworld stage is an absolute delight. It reminds me of Paul being the serious teacher and the rest of the band behaving like naughty school boys behind him. Bass player Troy Zak in particular likes to act out, being the one to mock Paul's age and answer back when asked to do something. It's all in good fun of course and adds a great dynamic to the set. There wasn't a single song in their set that didn't get me dancing. Whether it was a faster paced punk track, a slower drinking song or a sea shanty - everything was just fantastic. Of the songs that I did learn favourites of mine included Droppin' Like Flies, Bugger Off, My Luck Is So Bad, Fuck The Real McKenzies, Due West and Barrett's Privateers. If you've never seen The Real McKenzies live you are really missing out. Amazing.

In all honesty this was a gig we went to just because we were off work and we like going to gigs. This was a great decision as we had a brilliant night dancing along to really good bands from different sides of the punk genre.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

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