I’ve known these boys for a good few years now, and been a fan a bit longer and it has come as absolutely no surprise to me that they are now beginning to knock on the door of mainstream national (international?) fame and stardom. Actually, that’s not entirely true, I am quite surprised that it’s taken so long.
Last night was the first gig of their latest UK tour, during which they are going to play out their latest album ‘Crown Posada’ to packed crowds who will immediately buy their record and tell all of their friends to do the same. How do I know this? Because Smoove & Turrell are the best live band currently touring the UK and they have the best album currently available, that’s how. If ‘Could’ve Been A Lady’ doesn’t reach number one then I’ll display my (photographs of Mike Porter’s) bum in Fenwick’s window and lose what little faith I had left in the decision-making abilities of the British public.
The Wylam Brewery in Exhibition Park is a fantastic venue, surrounded by the town moor and sitting resplendently betwixt a lake and a, well I think it’s a child’s play area; it’s domed roof makes for a unique space perfectly suited for the occasion, if a little difficult to work in as a sound engineer. Despite the bar being 3 people deep I managed to get a pint of Wylam’s finest brew, Jakehead…its strong. As I enjoyed the beats provided by Flint & Steel (Mick Henderson) the already sizeable crowd swelled onto the now un-knee-slideable parquet flooring. I had bumped into drummer Lloyd Croft earlier on who told me he knew about 90% of the folk making their way in…I think it was Jermaine Jenas who described Newcastle as a goldfish bowl, well, when you are riding a wave like these guys that can only be a good thing. I’m pretty sure most of us had seen Smoove and John’s early morning pint on BBC Look North too, nobody is judging lads.
By the time they hit the stage the place was completely packed, and after a brief into from S&T manager Ema Nosurak they launched straight into the final track of the album, ‘New Jerusalem’. It was a good choice, because the joint was immediately jumping with knowing glances and smiles being exchanged, but it wasn’t until they started ‘Giving It All’ that the realisation that this was something different collectively dawned. There is something different, like a renewed vigour (not that they had lost any), it’s as if they’ve sat down and decided the messing about is over, now we are going to crack this. That’s not to say they don’t mess about onstage, they wouldn’t be Smoove & Turrell if they weren’t constantly extracting the Michael. On this note, one of the highlights of the night was Andy Champion’s extended slap bass solo using a massive rubber thumb, at least that’s what they told us it was…
While there were several chances for oldschool S&T fans to geek out over classic tracks such as ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Hard Work’ (not that it matters) last night was all about ‘Crown Posada’, the album and the enigmatic little pub on the Quayside (in case you are wondering, a Posada is an inn in Spanish and the Crown Posada was previously owned by a Spanish sailor, you can read about it in the Chronicle). The boys onstage have clearly spent time perfecting their sound, as each track was delivered with absolute perfection, regardless of John Turrell’s admission that he was using cheat sheets (which my pal swept up on the final whistle and had signed by the man himself…E-BAY!). The feel of the tracks is overwhelmingly upbeat, with only a couple of slower numbers, but to be honest, this is a party, the Wylam Brewery was a mass of gyrating bodies getting down and sweating, which to me, is exactly what a gig should be like.
It’s difficult, and unnecessary, to pick out any one member of the band for praise, they are all incredible exponents of their craft, but I should mention something I feel strongly about. Mike Porter is often the subject of fun, with his daft (expensive) Stone Island goggle coats, unique haircut (I wish I could have any kind of haircut) and propensity to climb his keyboards, but what is less often mentioned is his ability as a musician. Make no mistake; Mike is a bona fide solid gold first class keyboard player and deserves to be recognised as one, in fact it’s the main reason he can get away with all that other stuff, including spraying sweat over the front row by shaking his head like a ridiculous St Bernard…but only just.
Smoove & Turrell’s genesis continues apace, and if they continue on this trajectory they are going to smash straight into the consciousness of the public at large, there is no chance of them being ‘found out’ because they are the real deal. Last night’s gig was funk, but somehow with a style that will appeal to the chart-listening non-funkateer (nobody’s perfect) in equal measure. Craig Charles is known for his ability to spot a gem, and he has been right behind these guys for almost a decade, unwaveringly, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, then listen to the UKs undisputed funk authority. Tour dates are available on their website, and if you have owt about ye, I’d get along sharpish.
Photographer – Joe Fowler
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