sat 20/07/2024

Barry Adamson, Komedia, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Barry Adamson, Komedia, Brighton

Barry Adamson, Komedia, Brighton

The don of industrial easy listening fails to sweep his crowd off their feet

Playing it smooth

Barry Adamson has recently moved to Brighton and is clearly delighted with his new home town, which he refers to, shortly after starting his set, as a “dressing-up box by the sea”. Later in the evening he introduces the Hammond organ-laden “The Sun and the Sea” by telling his audience it was written about Brighton a few years ago, before he moved there, dryly informing us that he couldn’t fail to be drawn to somewhere that has “hail in the springtime and pebbles on its nudist beach”.

He appears to have already gathered a coterie of local fans who crowd to the front of the low ceilinged-venue and are vocal in their appreciation. Behind them, however, ageing punks and other interested parties mill about, hinting that not everyone's attention is being held.

Adamson has cut a string of albums that range from the enjoyable to the great. After a storied career playing with Magazine, Visage, The Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and others in the 1980s, he developed into a solo act that took easy listening and John Barry-esque film soundtrack music, and filtered it through a personal vision encompassing gritty industrialism, voodoo blues and sleazy swamp-rock. It worked a treat and, on his new album Know Where To Run, it still does (as you can read in Guy Oddy’s recent review). Unfortunately, his ideas lose much of their lustre translating to a live performance in this Brighton basement.

Adamson appears in a crushed velvet purple jacket with black lapels, a black open neck shirt and shades. He certainly looks the part, and is backed by a proficient four-piece, kicking off with a couple from the new album, “Up in the Air” and “Cine City”. The latter is packed with suitable Duane Eddy twang. He is not, however, a natural singer, and, while affably chatty, lacks a thrusting stage presence. As the evening progresses, these factors, combined with a rather leaden pace underlying the music, create an unintended turgidity where there should be sonic wit and sparkle.

Things perk up from time to time, as when he growls his way through the epic “Evil Kind” or the Link Wray-does-jazz-funk attack of “Death Takes a Holiday” but there is, somehow, a lack of engaging energy about it all. Perhaps this is why an enraged heckler, much to Adamson’s cheerful bemusement, starts bellowing for him to “fuck off” halfway through the concert. Adamson, responds by dedicating a number called “Civilization” to him.

Adamson’s stage performance would benefit from money thrown at it, a big stage show, a brass section, some theatre, more crispness - either that or fuzzed-up, lo-fi, rock'n'roll velocity - because tonight's performance slowly lost steam as it went along. Only at the very end, when Adamson paid tribute to David Bowie, using the superbly stompy backing track from Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” for his own 1998 corker “Jazz Devil”, did the energy levels amp back up and grab our attention. By then it was too late and, as he assayed a brief funky attack on Sly & the Family Stone for his second encore, the back of the hall was already drifting towards the exit.

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