The first live review I ever did was back in 2011 when The Urban Voodoo Machine played at the old Fibbers venue in York. It seems fitting then that the first live review I write for RPM is of that very same band who are now celebrating 15 years of bourbon soaked gypsy blues bop ‘n’ stroll.
Billed as ‘An Evening With The Urban Voodoo Machine’, the band will play 2 sets and there will be no support band. Like entertainers did at theatre shows back in the day, the (virtual) curtain will drop between sets and there will be an intermission where you can go and buy merch, puff on your E-cig or go eat one of the Brudenell’s famous pies. Whatever you do, make sure you’re back in 20 minutes, as you won’t want to miss one second of the entertainment Paul-Ronney Angel and his gang of ne’er do well’s have to offer.
In black ‘n’ red, the band enter from the back in procession and take to the stage for ‘Theme From The Urban Voodoo Machine’, the rip-roaring instrumental from their debut album that opens most shows. There’s a good reason for that, it creates drama like a shot of adrenaline to the arm, a spaghetti western styled UVM theme song that distills everything that is to come into just a few minutes of carnival-themed chaos. The 8 piece band establish their onstage boundaries and try not bash into each other, as our ringleader of this crazy circus Paul-Ronney Angel bounds about the stage like the bastard son of Andy McCoy and Barnum on crack.
Where do you look? Do you watch the two drummers who have their own little sideshow going on, the ever cool guitarist Tony Diavolo, the accordion-wielding Slim Cyder, do you eye up the goddess of sax appeal Lucifire Tusk or just concentrate on their fearless leader? Your guess is as good as mine, but before you know it he stops the show, addresses the audience, mouthing words with no sound. The slapstick comedy has begun and we are all laughing and waiting on his every move, he has the packed room in the palm of his hand already and that’s when you realise they haven’t even played a song yet!
You want songs, they got em! What follows is the greatest hits set, sorry TWO greatest hits sets. ‘High Jeopardy Thing’ and ‘Cheers For The Tears’ fly by, they are just two of the many highlights from set one. ‘Not With You’ builds to a glorious, righteous sing-along and the shufflin’ ‘Train Wreck Blues’ is so, so good tonight. Dedicated to Nick Marsh and Robb Skipper, ‘Fallen Brothers’ is a firm live favourite that ends the set leaving us wanting more.
A short break and set two is where the real fun begins. The entertainment resumes with the surf-inspired instrumental ‘Police Paranoia’. With a fresh shirt and a killer straw hat and shades combo, Paul-Ronney Angel and the band take us ‘Down In A Hole’ before ‘No Bail Blues’ transports us back to the juke joints and watering holes of a different place, a different time.
You want swampy blues, cabaret, gypsy music, and the finest drunken sing-along’s the band can muster? You got it. Do you want audience participation? They even got that covered! ‘Orphan’s Lament’ is still one of my favourites and it’s performed to perfection. ‘Crazy Maria’ has become a live favourite the last few years, a typical example of the upbeat, gypsy folk drinking songs P-R pens seemingly at will.
The crazy chaos tonight includes P-R licking the legs of Lucifire (she’s his sister, don’t you know?!) when she knocks over his JD & Coke. That same woman later removes her high heels and performs a full-on Irish jig routine, in fact, the band members all get their solo spot to shine in the introductions. But it’s Paul-Ronney Angel’s invitation to buy everyone a drink if he manages to throw his hat on the mic stand that steals the show. Of course, his routine succeeds with a bit of help, before he wrings out his sweat-drenched headscarf into the mouth of a worryingly eager female fan, who then immediately spits it back at him. It’s all in a nights work for The Urban Voodoo Machine.
And just when you think they are done after two sets, the band return for encores. An acoustic ‘January Blues’ precedes a full band return for ‘Heroin (Put My Brothers In the Ground)’. You could not ask for anything more.
The Urban Voodoo Machine is still my favourite live band in the country. The fact that an independent band can fill The Brudenell and give fans what amounted to 3 hours of the highest quality entertainment, is a testament to all the hard work and passion this band has given over the last 15 years. They never compromise their music or their art and they never put on anything less than a top quality show, let alone a bad one. I’ll raise a glass for the next 15 years!