It seems every time I see Dalston’s finest gypsy blues merchants The Urban Voodoo Machine, it’s a different venue. They sure like to get around. I’m not complaining though, great variety gives a different feel to each show. Not that this London collective need any help in the variety department. Every show The Urban Voodoo Machine perform is different due to the ever revolving line up and the crazy stage antics that go down. So while regular guitarist Tony Diavolo and saxophonist/all round entertainer Luci Fire Tusk are MIA for tonight’s performance, their replacements for this tour do a mighty fine job in bringing their own thing to Paul-Ronney Angel’s party.
The last time we crossed paths was an epic two hour/two set 15th anniversary show at The Brudenell just a few miles away. That was an incendiary, packed out and sweaty gig, probably the best I’ve seen them. Tonight at The Wardrobe is a much more intimate affair, but none the less a bombastic rock ‘n’ roll show to behold. After all, it is The Urban Voodoo Machine and this band does not do mediocre.
Joining the core band that includes upright bass, two drummers and accordion/keyboard player Slim, are a two piece brass section and a young guitar slinger who happens to be the offspring of one of the band’s past players.
Instrumental surf jam ‘Police Paranoia’ gets things off to a ripping start, as ringleader Paul-Ronney Angel, a whirlwind of black ‘n’ red and his face grease painted white, leads the 8 piece band through a magnificent set that spans their 15 year career.
Our illustrious leader takes us into old classic ‘Down In A Hole’. With its bluesy, big band sound and cool gang backing vocals, it’s an early highlight that gets the crowd a-movin’ and a-groovin’. Live favourite ‘High Jeopardy Thing’ is brassy and classy in equal measures, the band incite the crowd to click their fingers, as the reverend Gavin Smith plays that skulking bass line. P-R, his voice as gravelly as his soul, has the crowd in the palm of his hand, taking us back in time to some sleazy speakeasy for a shot or two.
New single ‘Johnny Foreigner’ fits the set just fine. The laid back groove leads into a jubilant and overly-catchy chorus. The topical lyrics are backed up by the ‘Fuck Boris’ pin badge P-R wears proudly on his hat.” I’ve been living in this country 25 years” he shouts…” Fuck the Tories!” Well, this is billed as the ‘fuck Brexit Autumn Tour’ after all!
The sombre ‘Fallen Brothers’ and ‘Goodnight My Dear’ are dedicated to lost band mates; guitarist Nick Marsh and fiddle player Rob Skipper, gone but never forgotten. Other highlights? Well, ‘Orphan’s Lament’ sounds as fantastic as ever and ‘Crazy Maria’ is a high energy blast of mariachi infested glory that can never fail to get the crowd moving and the glasses emptied.
Crazy stage antics and slapstick comedy moments are rife. They include the frontman wringing the sweat from his headscarf into someone’s glass, getting a crowdsurf lift to the bar to collect a shot, and miming into a supposedly broken mic (is this thing on?). Paul-Ronney Angel is a pro who has this entertainment lark down to a fine art and manages to enrapture a whole room no matter the size or the clientele.
The band end the show as they began by forming a procession through the crowd, and culminates with the whole band standing on tables by the merch stand for an impromptu jam to close a memorable show that was more of a raw, rock ‘n’ roll show than the usual over the top circus.
With a new single and a tribute album (‘Friends & Family Album’) on record shelves, plus a new album due out before the spring, the future looks bright for The Urban Voodoo Machine. Let’s just hope those damn Tories don’t scupper their plans for world domination. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, it’s reassuring to know every night is a good night when The Urban Voodoo Machine rolls into town.
Author: Ben Hughes
Photo credit: Matt Seddon