ROCK / No twists but lots of shouting - and a big tease

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The Independent Culture
FIRST OF all: the end of the show. It's Friday night at Brixton Academy and Chaka Demus and Pliers ask: 'Are you ready for 'Twist and Shout'? Are you ready for 'Tease Me'?' They then tease the audience with 30 seconds of a soulful version of 'Tease Me', say good-night, and walk off. That's one way to guarantee you'll be invited back for an encore. You announce your two most crowd-pleasing smashes, then leave when you are halfway through the first one. Just to be on the safe side, the MC immediately arrives on stage: 'Do you want more Chaka Demus and Pliers?' Put like that, how can we refuse?

Like the chart-topping album Tease Me (Island), the show comprises accessible ragga. Unlike the album, it does not feature the legendary reggae rhythm section, Sly And Robbie. The live backing band do a passable impression of them, but always remain a backing band, musically and visually. They skulk in the shadows, so that the concert's spectacle consists of two blokes striding from one side of the stage to the other. The music is efficiently mellow reggae, but it is never more spontaneous or outstanding than the 'encore'.

Personality-wise, though, Chaka Demus and Pliers are an engaging double act. The outsized Demus is the boss, rapping gruffly, smiling like an indulgent big brother when Pliers sings a chorus, and ordering the audience to join in: 'Come on, I want to see some hands] Come ON] I want you to sing, after three]' The crowd obeys, and he pronounces: 'I am satisfied.' Pliers, with his sinuous, feminine voice, is the flash younger brother of the pair, giving out high-fives to anyone within reach.

And there is something to be said for the breadth of their appeal. There are parents with toddlers on their shoulders alongside the hard-core concert crowd. And people whose previous knowledge of reggae was limited to the jingle on the Vitalite advertisement are doing their best to jig around to the Bob Marley snippets which are spliced into the running order. It's good clean fun. Lots of shouting, but no twists.

There's a Mary-Chapin Carpenter song about her perfect day, 'I Feel Lucky', which contains the lines: 'Dwight Yoakam's in the corner trying to catch my eye . . . Hot dog] I feel lucky tonight.' At the Hammersmith Apollo, several hundred women feel lucky. Yoakam is having no trouble catching their eyes, with his ten- gallon hat pulled over his brow and a pout-and-leather-trousers combination not seen at this level since Jim Morrison died. A gaggle of cowgirls and cow-senior-citizens scream and take photos. It's Yoakamania. Old Take That fans never die, it seems, they just don stetsons and bootlace ties.

Yoakam has a buckskin boot in every camp. Country- and-western mavens hail him as a committed artist who deplores the glitz of Nashville. Those who wouldn't be caught dead in one of the 'It's Cool to Be Country' T-shirts which are a favourite this evening have decided that he, like Carpenter and Lyle Lovett, is too cool to be country, and so have arrogated him as an off-beat rock 'n' roller. Then there are those who are more interested in his hips than his hipness. Yoakam, who had a hit with Elvis Presley's 'Little Sister', has also pinched the King's patented pelvic swivels.

His material is divided into bitter ballads, hard rockers, and mid-tempo honky-tonk country. The former two categories are great. His voice has the right blend of sincerity and warble, and as he drawls, 'Lonesome roads are the only ones I ever travel', the fiddle drawls along with him. For the fast numbers he says coyly: 'It's early in the week, I know, but we're prone to cut loose once in a while,' and his sidekick Pete Anderson turns into Chuck Berry. The disappointments are the plodding, nodding-off songs in the middle. 'This Time', the title track of Yoakam's latest album, drags its feet in a 'horsey, horsey, don't you stop' rhythm, exacerbated by metronomic drumming and a twee twiddle from an electric piano with all the timbre of Rolf Harris's stylophone. But two out of three ain't bad.

Getting earnest nods of agreement for songs about the environment and the rise of fascism is one thing. Getting a crowd to bop ecstatically to such songs is another. And when your frontman is a bearded, white-hatted gnome, preventing the crowd laughing at you is most difficult of all. Galliano manage all these things, and are consequently both one of the most serious and one of the most exuberant bands in the business.

On their album, The Plot Thickens (Talkin Loud), they play laid-back, languid acid jazz, the David Crosby cover, 'Long Time Gone', being one of the few tracks on which they work up a sweat. But at the Forum on Tuesday it's sweating room only. Valerie Etienne's silky black voice counterpoints Rob Gallagher's abrasive white rapping which ricochets off everything else. Two of the nine people in the band are there for no other purpose than to dance and clown around, kicking a giant inflatable globe at each other, leaping from speaker stacks. If Galliano are polemical, they are polemical pantomime.

Gallagher gives modest introductions to each of the songs, without preaching: 'It's the same old thing about getting together and all the rest

of it,' he shrugs. 'But we thought we'd push it out again anyway.' Similarly, his lyrics eschew browbeating in favour of rational argument, as in the anti-BNP 'Bloodlines': 'Some they be chattin' to keep the nation pure / But the island hatch / From a mix'n'match / Norman, Norse, Celtic, Gaul / We're all that . . .'

At the opening of 'Twyford Down', the new single, Galliano are joined by one of the protesters against the Government's road-building plans. Her appeal to save the Down, 'sacred to King Arthur and Boadicea, meeting place of the ancient tribes', is nowhere near as persuasive as Galliano are when they get into the groove.