The Heavy, Relentless Garage, London
Monday 07 December 2009
Genre-bending voodoo rockers The Heavy produce the kind of raw, infectious, down-and- dirty sonic assault that your mother warned you about. And judging by this storming gig at the Garage, the West Country four piece are going to be worrying a lot more parents by this time next year.
The spaghetti-Western mangling "Short Change Hero" kicks off proceedings with its "This ain't no place for a hero" catchy-soothing chorus, lulling the crowd into a false sense of cosy security. But this doesn't last for long – by midway through the second track, "Coleen", the charismatic frontman Kelvin Swaby rips off his shirt to reveal a white vest, the guitars and drums are ramped up and The Heavy are in full effect. The crowd – a cosmopolitan mix of young and old which clearly illustrates the band's growing cross-generational appeal – eagerly laps up everything that's thrown at them.
Heavy rock mashes up with hip-hop, a dollop of reggae, a liberal seasoning of southern soul and a side order of garage punk to create a thoroughly modern hybrid sound. It's very much of the moment – but at the same time there are echoes of long-lost hidden classic tracks, which could just as easily have been spawned by Arthur Lee's Love or even Led Zep in their full-on pomp.
The quartet perform a mix of tracks from both their albums – Great Vengeance and Furious Fire and The House that Dirt Built – and where on disc the genre-bending can seem at times a bit jarring, as a Seventies funk-inspired track goes straight into a hard rock jam, live it works perfectly. The accomplished musicians, who appear as if they've been jamming together for years, seamlessly swap styles. It's like being tuned into the ultimate radio station where the DJ is artfully mixing the greatest ever tracks.
If I have to pick stand-out songs, then "Sixteen", where the ball of energy Swaby is joined on vocals by bass player Spence, and the funk-rock driven monster "How You Like Me Now?", which conjures up the spirit and soul of the JBs, are my choices. But it's the whole show that really impresses. Where other bands are happy just to play it safe, The Heavy push the boundaries to create a winning formula.
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