Stranglers, Damned, Ruts DC & Johnny Moped band members play Brighton gig
WINGMEN + THE DUEL + WITCHDOKTORS – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 29.1.23
It’s like a joke isn’t it…..”What do a Strangler, a Supergrass, a Damned, a Rut and a Moped have in common?”. Answer…“They are all Wingmen”.
For those that aren’t aware, Wingmen is the new ‘supergroup’ which was formed in pandemic lockdown isolation by Baz Warne (The Stranglers), Paul Gray (The Damned), Leigh Heggarty (Ruts DC) and Marty Love (Johnny Moped), along with the live assistance of Rob Coombes from Supergrass. And for the record they are no joke!
The lads dropped their self-titled ten song debut album ‘Wingmen’ this week (on 27th January) via Cadiz Music. It’s on CD at the moment, but I understand that a white vinyl format will be available some time in early March.
In celebration of the release, the superstars decided to head out on an exclusive nine date tour, taking in Colchester, Milton Keynes, London, Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, and rounding off this evening in Brighton at the ever-popular Concorde 2.
With only ten songs under their belt to my knowledge, I was thinking that it might be a swift performance this evening. However, us lucky punters were all in for a half dozen extra surprises. More on that shortly……
First up tonight at 7:49pm after DJ Peter Fox had done his thing were London four-piece WitchDoktors which is spelt with a K!. This outfit administered a potent blend of garage psych mixed with punk rock’n’roll and have been the scene since 1993. The band are skilled and experienced practitioners of their voodoo art, which conjures a comic book fantasy world of sci-fi and swamp, fast cars and movie stars. With retro style exuding timeless cool, they possess a huge stash of panache.
It was pleasing to note that the Concorde 2 venue was already rather busy for the first outfit of the evening, and after the lads had finished their 42 minute ten tune set, I knew exactly why!
Frontman ‘Planet’ Andy Last very much runs the show here, with his 50’s vintage style microphone and fancy silver Gretsch with Bigsby guitar. He plays the effing and blinding part well, and is ably assisted by Tony Major on Reverend ‘Greg Koch’ Gristle 90 guitar with 2 x P90 pickups and a Bigsby Tremolo arm (to his right, our left), Lee Page on Fender Jazz bass and bv’s (to his left, our right), and the younger Joe Colfar on silver drums (to match Andy’s guitar), far stage left (our right). They are all in a line.
They opened with ‘Movie Star’ and ‘Jackhammer’ which certainly set their blues style rock ‘n’ roll set up nicely. In fact, third number ‘No Pain No Gain’ is even more so in this style and can be likened to vintage Dr Feelgood. ‘New Set Of Wheels’ was up next and then there was a change in vibe with the arrival of the reggaesque ‘Spanner In The Works’.
‘Planet Of Pain’ with its rumbly bass and drums break was rather welcomed. ‘Brothers’ came and went and then we were served ‘Voodoo Eye’, after which Andy disclosed that there will be a new album out later on in 2023. I’m 100% certain that several in attendance had made mental notes of this and were willing to part with their hard-earned cash straight away if they could!
Andy then disclosed that the next tune was about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, in this instance, Covid. The track is titled ‘Before The War’. They signed off with the rockabilly style ‘Common Prayer’, which was their longest tune and was the most entertaining visually on the account of Andy joining Joe on the same drum kit for part of the number, sounding like the Sweet ‘Ballroom Blitz’ intro.
WitchDoktors are clearly very good at what they do and they went down very well with the appreciative punters. I’m surprised they aren’t headlining Concorde 2 in their own right. At 8:31pm, they handed over the soundsystem to DJ Peter Fox for fourteen minutes.
‘Planet’ Andy Last – vocals/guitar
Tony Major – guitar/vocals
Lee Page – bass/vocals
Joe Colfar – drums/vocals
‘No Pain No Gain’
‘New Set Of Wheels’
‘Spanner In The Works’
‘Planet Of Pain’
‘Before The War’
The clock had rolled onto 8:45pm and it was time for The Duel to take to the Concorde 2 stage. They refer to themselves as “UK DIY Electro Punk Rock -Post Punk- New Wave – Now Wave”. They have been at it since 2001 and cite inspiration from Ramones, Dead Boys, Clash, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Iggy & The Stooges, Patti Smith, UK Subs, The Vibrators and The Damned among many others.
Tonight we are performing as a two piece, consisting of Tara Rez on vocals and laptop duties, and Paul Laventhol on Gibson guitar and backing vocals. The live version of the band floats between this duo and up to a quintet, which also features Chris McDougall (bass), Ed Sonsino (guitar) and Seb Frey (drums). Local folks might already be aware of Tara as she is Brighton born and bred – with “Bry-Unn” aka Brighton local dialect) – having attended Blatchington Mill School and BHASVIC, and has since 2017 hosted a weekly radio show on Monday’s at 8pm supporting Brighton Community Radio Station 97.2FM RadioReverb.Com. You can find it on Mixcloud HERE.
The Duel recently supported Spear Of Destiny on tour. Interestingly, their frontman Kirk Brandon is in attendance this evening, as are Ruts DC’s David Ruffy and John “Segs” Jennings, as well as Monty Oxymoron from The Damned. I’m sure there were other famous names kicking around the venue, but I was obviously concentrating on tonight’s stage area as opposed to the front bar and backstage area.
The Duel two piece were giving it a more post punk/dance feel to tonight’s 32 minute 8 tune set, which allowed Tara’s slightly at times husky vocals to come through and thus the essence of The Duel music was to be heard. They were a different proposition to that which had come only minutes earlier and the crowd had to adjust their music zones in order to benefit more from The Duel’s set, which opened with ‘Maze’, a new composition that will be seeing the light of day this coming May.
Track two was ‘Dying Sun’ which had that distinctive drum sound that’s been heard on many Sisters Of Mercy tunes. This tune reminded me of another duo who go by the name of The Webb, as well as forgotten gems Poeme Electronique. ‘Fight On’ and their 2011 ‘I’m On To You’ single followed. The latter very much flagging up Tara’s punk mentality, with its Honey Bane and Poly Styrene style vocal delivery.
New unreleased tune, ‘Rule The World’, which is planned to see the light of day this June, was up next. No doubt this will be included live on the band’s ‘Unite & Rule Yourself Tour 2023’, which they will be embarking on later this year. It will feature the band as a two piece and full line up with shows coming in from the UK, rest of Europe and the USA.
Tune six this evening was ‘Urgency’ and it was delivered with some venom, which certainly endorsed my Honey Bane and Poly Styrene statement above. It was a decent tune, but was actually eclipsed by the following number, the Sigue Sigue Sputnik-esque ‘Hold To Love’ from their 2016 ‘Waging War Hold To Love’ album. This was for me the choice composition of their set. They bowed out with ‘Shadow Of Dreams’ and at 9:17pm they were done. Let’s hope that their forthcoming tour includes a local Brighton date as I would like to give these another outing.
Tara Rez – vocals/laptop
Paul Laventhol – guitars
The Duel setlist:
‘I’m On To You’
‘Rule The World’
‘Hold To Love’
‘Shadow Of Dreams’
It’s 9:33pm and time for Wingmen to show us what they can do! But first it’s the matter of their intro tape music to set the mood….’633 Squadron’ written by the British composer Ron Goodwin (17th February 1925 to 8th January 2003) for the 1964 film of the same name. This tune was performed by The Central Band Of The Royal Air Force Conducted by Wing Commander H.B Hingly MBE. The stage backlighting was blue and the lights moved around the stage and out amongst us in solid bright white in order to emulate searchlights endeavouring to locate the Wingmen….they were located and flew onto the stage, where they remained for the next 80 minutes until 10:53pm. Suffice to say the venue was rammed with “Wingnuts” (Wingmen fans) and filled with anticipation for this, the final night of their tour.
Standing right in front of the stage speakers, I was fully aware that the volume had been cranked up a few notches. The pilots were on the ‘Starting Blocks’ and were away with their instrumental tune of the same name.
The secret fifth member, Rob Coombes of Supergrass fame, was seated behind his Nord Electro 6 keyboard situated to the rear stage left (our right). Next to him on the high-rise was Marty Love (from Johnny Moped) on Pearl drums. In front of them were the trio of Leigh Heggarty (stage right, our left) of Ruts DC on decent looking red and black Gibson guitar and backing vocals; in the centre as you would expect was Baz Warne (from The Stranglers) on lead vocals, Northern wit and banter and metal looking James Trussart guitar; completing the quintet (on stage left, our right) was Paul Gray from The Damned on distinctive blue and white Rickenbacker bass.
Baz noted that this was the first time that he himself had played at the Concorde 2. I know that at least three of the four others had previously performed here, as I’ve witnessed live sets from their other bands, The Damned, Ruts DC and Johnny Moped. Rob Coombes, the elder brother of Supergrass vocalist Gaz, joined that band back in 2002 and that year the outfit played the Concorde 2 on 27th June, so it’s quite possible that Rob has also performed on this stage before.
The band initially appeared to be performing their ‘Wingman’ album live to us in the correct running order, with ‘Starting Blocks’, ‘The Last Cigarette’, ‘Louie Smokes The Bible’, and ‘Brits’ all getting an outing. The latter, the best thus far, certainly reminds me of the 1977 ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ song by The Stranglers. But then they went off-piste and segued straight into a rendition of David Bowie’s 1972’s ‘Hang On To Yourself’ from his legendary ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ album. This was the first of a number of wonderfully surprising homages, which highlighted the band-members’ thought process during their formative school and teen years. Classic songs stay with you for life and clearly ‘Hang On To Yourself’ being one such example. At this stage in proceedings, I had concluded that it had already been worth venturing out into the crisp January air on the account of them playing ‘Brits’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’. More was to come…..
Two more tunes from the ‘Wingmen’ album followed in the form of ‘I Would If I Could’, which Baz informed us was written by Paul Gray and ‘Down In The Hole’, which not surprisingly sounded like a Strangers or Damned number. Baz stated it was about depression, adding that his parents had worked for the NHS for a combined 70 years and thus he knew what he was talking about.
I was expecting ‘Mary Go Round’ to come next, but instead we were treated to a Stranglers number, albeit a latter one found on their 2004 ‘Norfolk Coast’ platter. This tune in question being ‘Long Black Veil’. ‘Mary Go Round’ followed.
Crumbs! Is that the opening notes of Kraftwerk’s number one masterpiece ‘The Model’ that my ears are telling me it is. Yep sure is! I’ve heard a punky-rocky version before on several occasions as it is a staple of the Spizzenergi live sets. They also play ‘Virginia Plain’, which would have also fitted in well this evening. Tonight’s rendition, dare I say it, had been given a slight early Dire Straits vibe to it.
Baz then made the “Wingnuts” even more excited as he announced that the band are looking to do more live performances this coming autumn.
The currently unreleased Wingmen composition ‘Don’t Look Back’ was played for us next. I am reliably informed that this will be surfacing on the forthcoming deluxe version of the ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album. This tune saw Rob in full flow on his Nord from the outset of the song. Sounding not unlike the intro of ‘Sleepwalk’ by Ultravox and then morphing into something akin to the Stranglers ‘5 Minutes’. This was an absolute corker and one of the set highlights. There were more to come…..
‘Don’t Look Back’ segued into ‘Oh! What A Carry On’, which reminded me of a combination of ‘Down In The Sewer’ from the Strangers 1977 ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ album and ‘I Know But I Don’t Know’ from Blondie’s 1978 epic ‘Parallel Lines’ masterpiece. Clearly things had got hotter as Baz offloaded his leather jacket for the final two ‘Wingmen’ album tracks ‘Backstage At The Opera’ and ‘It’s Raining All Over England’. He also changed his guitar for one of these as well. Well that’s the album done. What next?…
Well let’s go out on a blaze of glory and leave the fans wanting more of course! Thus ‘It’s Raining All Over England’ led straight into Iggy Pop’s ‘I Got A Right’. Iggy told Clash magazine that he wrote ‘I Got A Right’ after being dropped from Elektra records soon after the Stooges second album, which by reckoning would have been ‘Fun House’ from 1970. However ‘I Got A Right’ was apparently recorded from July to October 1972, but it wasn’t released until 1977 along with its B-side, ‘Gimme Some Skin’ which some state these as probably the first hardcore punk 45.
The five guys left the stage at 10:42pm and fans were crying for more. After a minute Baz, Paul, Leigh, Marty and Rob were back in action with a great singalong version of ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’, made famous by Eddie & the Hot Rods. After which a really decent version of T. Rex’s ‘Solid Gold Easy Action’ was blasted out of the band’s speakers at us! Leigh on his guitar certainly made this his tune in my estimation. They even threw in a few lines of ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ by Supergrass to end with.
In keeping with the Wingmen theme, their outro tape was ‘Finish Of Race/End Title’ from the 1965 film ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’. This was also penned by Ron Goodwin.
In my opinion, it is almost always the case that these ‘supergroups’ can be self indulgent affairs with musicians trading off their respective band names in order to record material that simply doesn’t really sit in with those mother bands remit. In short some disappear up their own backsides, this is absolutely totally NOT the case with Wingmen. They are a bona-fide new band in their own right and were totally superb this evening. “Best of the tour!” I heard on my way out of the venue. Great way to sign off then, plus it was live screened too. Roll on the deluxe version of the album and the next tour! Must fly….
Baz Warne from The Stranglers on vocals/guitar
Paul Gray from The Damned on bass
Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC on guitar
Marty Love from Johnny Moped on drums
Rob Coombes from Supergrass on keys
(Intro tape) ’633 Squadron’ by Ron Goodwin performed by The Central Band Of The Royal Air Force Conducted by Wing Commander H.B Hingly MBE
‘Starting Blocks’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘The Last Cigarette’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Louie Smokes The Bible’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Brits’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Hang On To Yourself’ (David Bowie cover)
‘I Would If I Could’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Down In The Hole’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Long Black Veil’ (The Stranglers cover)
‘Mary Go Round’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘The Model’ (Kraftwerk cover)
‘Don’t Look Back’ (from forthcoming deluxe version ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Oh! What A Carry On’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘Backstage At The Opera’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘It’s Raining All Over England’ (from ‘Wingmen‘ 2023 album)
‘I Got A Right’ (Iggy And The Stooges cover)
‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ (Eddie & the Hot Rods cover)
‘Solid Gold Easy Action’ (T. Rex cover)
‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ excerpt (Supergrass cover)
(Outro tape) ‘Finish Of Race/End Title’ from ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’ by Ron Goodwin
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