Friday, 22 November 2019

Gig Review: Hot Water Music at The Underworld, London 17/11/19 (by Emma Prew)

It’s not often that you have to buy tickets for a punk gig a whole year in advanced. When Hot Water Music announced a European tour of album shows for – arguably their most popular albums – No Division and Caution however, tickets were snapped up. The UK leg of the tour consisted of Caution shows in Manchester and London and a single No Division show in London. We opted for the Caution show at The Underworld in Camden and patiently waited for the day to arrive. Meanwhile, the supports were announced as CPRW – well, pretty much everyone’s – favourites Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio so it couldn’t really get much better. Did it live up to my expectations though? Read on to find out…

The thing that stopped me from getting too sad about having missed Spanish Love Songs’ set at Fest (by not going to Fest) at the beginning of the month was that I would be seeing them at The Underworld. It’s no secret that they have become one of my absolute favourite bands over the past couple of years – I went to three dates of their UK tour in May – and so I’m always keen to scream my lungs out to their songs. On Sunday night, Spanish Love Songs had me hooked on every single note – from their opening song, Losers, through to the closing song, Beer & Nyquil – whilst putting in as much effort as if they were the headlining band. I wasn’t the only one who was hooked as, despite the early hour (6.30pm), The Underworld was pretty busy with those down the front raising their fists in the air enthusiastically. Such is our love for this band. I was particularly pleased to hear (No) Reasons To Believe live for the first time. But was 30 minutes enough? No, not for me. The good news, however, is that Spanish Love Songs will be back in just a couple of months to support The Menzingers(!) on their February UK/EU tour – I’ll be there!

After going a little hoarse singing along to Spanish Love Songs, it was time for more singalongs with one of the very best rock ’n’ roll bands in punk. There aren’t many better front people in punk rock than Red City Radio’s Garrett Dale either, he and his band sure know how to put on a good show. There’s a kind of theatrical nature to it, a little over the top but just the right amount of punk attitude to balance it out. I know Colin always refers to Red City Radio as being a singles band or at least a band with a lot of hit songs from their whole back catalogue, this is something that becomes apparent when they play live. Every single song is a banger, whether it be Whatcha Got? or Electricity from their 2015 self-titled album or the slightly older, highly singalong-able Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You – ‘I am a fucking juggernaut!’. Of course the setlist also featured tracks from last year’s excellent SkyTigers EP, such as If You Want Blood (Be My Guest) and Rebels which have become future classics in their own right, as well as the brand new song, Love A Liar. A killer set from a killer band.

So, we’d had two quite different but equally excellent sets from Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio but, as The Underworld packed out even more, there was only one band that everyone cared about. Hot Water Music have been a band for 25 years – that means they formed when I was just three years old! (Sorry if that makes anyone reading this feel old!) Sadly, Chris Wollard wouldn’t be joining his bandmates on the tour but, as with the last (which was also the first) time we saw Hot Water Music in 2018, the highly capable Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners fame would be stepping up to fill Wollard’s shoes. It can’t be an easy task to temporarily replace a founding member of a legendary band such as Hot Water Music, particularly when that person is also one of the band’s lead vocalists but Cresswell does an outstanding job. This being a Caution album show meant, of course, that Hot Water Music’s set opened with a double whammy of Remedy and Trusty Chords – quite possibly two of the band’s biggest hits from their whole back catalogue, never mind of the album itself. Playing big hitters so early on in a set is a sure fire way to get the energy levels of the crowd up from the outset and the energy didn’t relent as the band tore through the remaining ten songs of Caution – Alright For Now and Wayfarer being notable highlights for me. I was half expecting Hot Water Music to exit the stage when they’d played the entirety of Caution before returning for an encore consisting of a handful of other songs but, instead, they stayed put to play nine songs from other releases in their 25 year back catalogue. With songs ranging from Shake Up The Shadows from this year’s EP of the same name to Turnstile from their 1997 album, Fuel For The Hate Game, there was something for new and old fans alike – and we even got to hear a song from No Division. Judging by the crowd at The Underworld on Sunday night, Hot Water Music are adored more so now than ever and I hope that they are still here for many years to come.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew. (Photos also by Emma.)

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