John Peel Tribute, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Friday 14 October 2005
The figure most closely aligned with Peel has long been the crotchety New Wave icon Mark E Smith. His band The Fall has cemented a recent return to form with the current album Fall Heads Roll. It's the most minimal and intense Fall for years. Smith himself was at his dissonant best, knocking over his mike-stand and chewing lyrics into a primal snarl.
Similarly unreconstructed were the reggae veterans Misty In Roots. Forged in the Seventies, their strident, UK version missed the rich tones of the band's horns here, though they retained enough fire to bring the songs to life. In between, Laura Cantrell soothed raw nerves with her elegant take on classic country.
Meanwhile, the one-man band Jawbone pared down rock'n'roll even further than his fellow Detroit residents White Stripes. With searing harmonica, itchy guitar and big bass drum, Bob Zabor resurrected the early field recordings of blues pioneers, but his performance failed to fill the space. There were no such problems for Canada's Aaron Funk, known better as Venetian Snares, here to represent the barely listenable portion of Peel's radio show.
Super Furry Animals have been on a more accessible trip of late, but they could still surprise a crowd. A rare treat was "Run Christian Run". Its pastoral mood was quickly broken by the whimsical space-rock of "Calimero". They were gone far too soon.
That left 20 minutes for a band of which something special was expected. New Order's previous incarnation, Joy Division, was championed early on by Peel, so the spirit of the long-lost frontman Ian Curtis hung over proceedings. His former band-mates rose to the occasion with a short set of Joy Division songs. Barney Sumner's dry delivery was no match for Curtis's brittle intensity, but the band was an unstoppable juggernaut to cap a memorable evening.
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