Chas & Dave, Amersham Arms, London
Wednesday 16 January 2008
You need to peer closely to spot how these purveyors of cockney novelty have aged. They look much as they did on Top of the Pops in 1986, when they last had a hit. Of course, even then they were session veterans who looked grizzled compared to the show's other guests, something exacerbated by their boots-and-braces outfits. Tonight, their beards and tinted specs give them a uniform look.
Any act is ripe for rediscovery in this age of the long tail, but this revival is unexpected indeed. They owe it to none other than The Libertines, who bonded over their quirky mix of rock'*'roll and music-hall patter. Although enamoured by American music, Chas & Dave always sang in their own accents; thus their own genre, rockney, was born.
The duo supported The Libertines in 2003, and although both have hit 60, they continue to perform relentlessly. Between now and the end of June, the twosome will fit in another 40-odd dates.
Here, Chas & Dave show that they have maintained a multigenerational fan-base, from younger trendies to fortysomething blokes. The function room of a south London boozer might seem familiar ground, yet the Amersham Arms is an upmarket New Cross bar in disguise. Bitter isn't available, but there's an old Take Courage sign outside, a reminder that the band came to fame on the back of adverts for the brewery.
Certainly, the duo appear at home as Chas Hodges sets things off in brisk fashion. At their best, Chas & Dave warm the cockles and quicken the pulse. Chas's piano technique has improved, so boogie licks and Jerry Lee Lewis flourishes refresh the standards.
His voice is weaker now, but that's hardly a problem when the crowd belt out the choruses to "London Girls" and "Margate". When Dave Peacock joins in, you could almost believe they invented rap, never mind punk, something they have cheekily claimed. Certainly, the rapid vocal gymnastics of "The Sideboard Song (Got My Beer in the Sideboard Here)" are still thrilling.
Less successful are attempts to slow the tempo, among them a meandering instrumental and a sugary ballad, dedicated to Dame Vera Lynn, bless her.
The hurt complaint in the moving "Ain't No Pleasing You" and the "Rabbit" put-downs could suggest Chas & Dave are unreconstruct-ed chauvinists, but that would be churlish given their warmth and love of performance, which turns the most trendy of venues into an old-fashioned party.
Touring to 28 June (www.chasndave.com)
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