Luke Haines, The Old Queen's Head, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Monday 14 November 2011
Luke Haines's mission to confront today's youth with the weird realities of the 1970s reaches its brutal conclusion tonight, when he offers the crowd plates of liver sausage sandwiches. They are eaten by those who are too young to know better.
A man dressed in the hood and cape of the wrestler Kendo Nagasaki sits in an on-stage sofa, beer in hand, staring at a portable TV showing a vintage Giant Haystacks bout.
The former leader of the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder and Baader Meinhof, who the French fondly dubbed the Butcher of Britpop, is in this pub upper room for a one-off performance of his new album, 9 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early 1980s. Having positioned himself in two hilariously bilious memoirs as a deliberate outsider, this seems his most absurd gambit yet. But the new album is an addictively melodic and strange record.
"Inside the Restless Mind of Rollerball Rocco" introduces it tonight, ridiculously funny yet full of resonant detail. Transport-café food is the spur for the year's best chorus: "'Do you want some more?' 'Oh please God, no...'"
"Saturday Afternoon" is a 1970s childhood reimagined as a haunted acid trip. Never one to miss a chance to give the rock canon a kicking, Haines concludes it by radically reconfiguring the oedipal drama of The Doors' "The End", repeatedly intoning: "Mother... what's for tea?"
Haines always has a heartbreaker in his apparently cynical pocket, and "I Am Catweazle" flickers with faded memories of its forlorn subject, a TV staple long ago. Haines wrote the album partly because it was something he could share with his Dad, who is currently unwell, and its nostalgia isn't only ironic. Tonight, though, with his acoustic guitar replacing the record's psychedelic murk and facing an indulgent crowd, he lays on the laughs too often, puncturing the emotions of the songs.
During the encore, too, he needlessly interrupts "21st Century Man", his greatest collection of late-20th century memories – shared passwords to those over 40, meaningless to most who are younger. The Yorkshire Ripper song "Leeds United" and its sequel, his smirking hymn to the Surrey commuter belt, "English Southern Man", round off a highly entertaining night, spoiled only by its star's self-deprecation.
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