Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Fall / Chalkie Davies / "Wot? No Fish!!"

It has been pretty much 35 years since I first saw The Fall, in Cardiff University’s Great Hall, and have caught up with them at intervals ever since, although the last time was at some point during the last century, at St David’s Hall, which seemed like a poor fit. When I saw a gig announced for The Globe, a short walk from my residence, I felt that it would have been impolite to resist.

First up on the night were local 6-piece, Chain Of Flowers (melodic, electro-inflected punk-pop, charismatic lead singer); followed by (slightly older) Manc quintet As Able As Kane (industrial indie, beat-based but with live drums; keyboardist and female bass-player/vocalist periodically instrument-swap; co-lead vocalist looks like Peter Hook’s bricklayer brother).

Then came the mighty Fall themselves, Mark E. Smith growling from off-stage, referencing J. G. Ballard, before emerging, to huge applause from a capacity crowd of devotees of all ages. Dressed in his customary “1970s geography teacher” style, he was on vintage form, his remarkably tight band (including two drummers) laying down something of a “solid groove” over which he ranted and snarled poetically, whilst wandering to all areas of the tiny stage. As far as I can tell, he seemed good-natured: no-one got sacked, he spent a good deal of the time actually facing the audience – even briefly handing over a microphone to a thrilled fan – and actually played a hit: the vaguely topical “Sparta FC”; although the bulk of the set was devoted to new album “Sub-Lingual Tablet” (at least, I presume so – I have yet to catch up with it). There was even a crowd-pleasing, sing-along encore – “White Lightning”, which sent me and my fellow worshippers out into the drizzle dazed and ecstatic. Wonderful and frightening indeed.

The Fall

In further rock’n’roll nerd news, I can heartily recommend the Chalkie Davies exhibition at the National Museum of Wales. The Sully-born photographer was on the staff of the New Musical Express in the late 1970s and was one of the founders of biblical style magazine The Face. The cliché is true: his moody snaps truly define an era of working-class (or faux-working-class) defiance. Expect the museum to be crawling with teary-eyed old punks for the next few months.

The Clash (Chalkie Davies)

As I recall, there’s no mention of the punk rock revolution in “Wot? No Fish!!” my most recent reviewing assignment for the British Theatre Guide. The story of a London Jewish family, told via a series of drawings presented to East End shoemaker Ab Solomons to his wife Celie virtually every week of their lengthy marriage, it’s lovingly presented by performer Danny Braverman. Alternately heart-breaking and heartening, it is a beautiful, deeply involving experience.

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