The Brand New Heavies – Hoochie Coochie Newcastle – 21-11-15


The Brand New Heavies are UK funk royalty. Formed way back in 1985 they cut their first and self-titled studio album for Gilles Peterson and Eddie Pillar’s fledgling Acid Jazz label five years later. Among the founder members of the London soul and funk scene along with the likes of Galliano and the James Taylor Quartet, US R&B chart success came in the shape of the single ‘Never Give Up’ making TBNH the first UK band to enter that chart since Soul II Soul some years earlier.

The band line up has essentially remained the same since its inception – Simon Bartholomew, Jan Kincaid and Andrew Levy with a Who’s Who of female soul vocalists during this time, Jay Ella Ruth, N’Dea Davenport, Siedah Garrett, Honey Larochelle and Carleen Anderson, the god-daughter of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

Twelve studio albums later the band returned to Newcastle’s Hoochie Coochie for two back to back shows. As you would expect, they’ve appeared on the venue’s gig roster before, each one a sell-out. The latest gigs were no exception. I joined an expectant and enthusiastic crowd (it’s a Saturday night in Newcastle, so you get a lot of enthusiasm obviously) and after the dj sets subsided the eight piece band entered the stage, led out by the extremely charismatic, talented and flamboyant guitarist, songwriter and producer Simon Bartholomew. Now for those of you of a certain age (like me) and you haven’t been afforded the opportunity of seeing Simon before (unlike me) and you don’t know what he looks like, let me take you back to the 1973 FA Cup Final and the victorious Sunderland team ( WOAH don’t all shout!!). This guy is a dead-ringer for legendary goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery. I’m sure that Jimmy also used to wear a similar glam-rock style sparkly blouson top open to the waist with bling adorning his chest, although he probably saved this for away games.


They launched straight into the immediately recognisable BNH, an instrumental track from the debut album, an album I seem to remember that snapped whilst in the tape player of my Renault 11 after repeated playing …even the pencil couldn’t save it. Bartholomew was right on the money from the start, backed up by the unmistakable bass of Andrew Levy, two piece horn section, the funky drummer and some sublime work on the keyboard.

This led us straight into ‘Never Stop’ and the band was joined by lead vocalist Honey Larochelle. This lady can sing with the best of them, confident, soulful and above all you could see she was enjoying it and the feeling was mutual, the audience arms aloft, dancing and singing every word (nearly).

The Brand New Heavies have been around for so long that you forget how good they are and how many chart hits they’ve actually had, 16 apparently. Twentyfive years worth. Where did it go?! We were treated to quite a few. ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ which got the biggest reception of the night, ‘Dream on Dreamer,’ ‘Sometimes.’ ‘Gimme Some of Those’ and ‘Brother and Sister’ amongst them.
I was slightly disappointed and a bit surprised that there was nothing from last year’s album ‘Sweet Freaks,’ but that aside…..

After a couple of hours of non-stop classic old school UK funk, the night was brought to a close with ‘You Are The Universe’ and encore ‘Dream Come True’. It was a great night, helped by the intimacy of Hoochie Coochie and enjoyed by everyone in the house. Make no mistake, this lot are as good as they ever were.

I understand they’re at The Clapham Grand December 4th, so if you’re in the area do yourself a favour.

Photographer – Les Aitch

Les Aitch

Les Aitch

Passionate about quality funk soul and jazz , with an emphasis on those from the North East. Writing for NE:MM since 2014 and will tell it like it is. Currently enjoying the pleasures and frustrations of managing THE seven piece Newcastle based funk band - King Bee.
Les Aitch

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