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Drew McConnell

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Barbarians of Birmingham

Posted: 23/10/2013 17:47

We roll into dear old Brum around midday, peering out of our tourbus as the rain falls in sheets of biblical proportions. It's no weather for cycling, so we forgo any exploring in exchange for a relaxing trip to the cinema. At least that was the idea... we go to the movies, but it's anything but relaxing. We watch Filth, an interpretation of the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name. It's a brilliant piece of cinema, but deeply traumatic. Perhaps more so because many of its themes prove a bit too close to home. Good to see that British Independent Cinema ain't going soft on us though.

During soundcheck Adam is keen to run any tunes I think Peter could surprise us with -this has happened a few times already on the tour- so we fire through A'Rebours and French Dog Blues. The Birmingham Academy is a cavernous old room, and soundchecks here are notoriously unhelpful when trying to gauge what the actual show will sound like. Venues always sound different, and better, when full of bodies. Meanwhile, from the stage we spot Jai setting up the merch stall and wave hello.

A recent addition to the merchandise is a very limited edition vinyl run (200 copies) of my Helsinki album, Coast Of Silence. Jai tells me its been selling pretty well. Coast Of Silence is to have a general release in 2014, but as something special and collectable I've done this small batch of pre-release vinyl to coincide with the 'Shambles tour. I'm dead proud of it, and the artwork, by Barney Bodoano, is stunning. Peter, bless him, has been listening to it on his scratchy old record player, and has actually posted a review (jabbed out on his typewriter then scanned) via his website, albionrooms.com. It's hilarious, worth checking out.

It's interesting to see kids these days getting into vinyl again. I guess with mp3/streaming becoming the ubiquitous mode of music consumption, the need for cds is becoming increasingly tenuous. A piece of vinyl however, that's a very different prospect. It's big, substantial, and committing to buying one feels like a statement of intent. I covered all areas though, the Helsinki vinyl contain a card with artwork on one side, on the other a code to download Coast Of Silence in mp3 format. Cottage industry alive and functioning in 2013, folks.

The Birmingham horde is on form tonight. And yes, 'horde' is an appropriate description of the mob we're confronted with from the Academy stage. I'm pleased to say we tend to get a fairly 50/50 gender count at Babyshambles shows, but the audience tonight are predominantly male. Indeed, they rather bring to mind an image of the Barbarians at the gates of Rome. Albeit closer shaved, and with less giant catapults. Though at one point during the set a reveller (displaying a worrying degree of premeditation) sets off a red smoke flare, adding to the general air of disorder. It's all a bit football terrace-y. Watching the security start to panic I smile, shrug and get into the spirit of things.

Some nights Babyshambles shows feel more like manning the decks of a ship in the midst of a cyclone than just Rock n' Roll. Boring this gig ain't, and for that I'm thankful. Tomorrow we roll into Leicester, a student town- I'm expecting a slightly calmer show there. Goodnight Birmingham, and thank you for an utterly berserk evening you pack of savages. Next time bring your womenfolk along though eh? We could use the oestrogen.

 

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