We often have a good moan on here about bands advertising UK tours and then post 4 dates in middle England or 6 dates with the token in Scotland. Well, the Bellrays do it old school. they take one of the finest bands out as tour openers and also throw in the excellent The Charlemagnes for good measure and then charge us less than fifteen pounds! yup, all that Rock and Roll for the price of three pints – what a bargain. Oh and they pop over the bridge (like they always do) and play in Wales.
It’s the excellent Newport Le Pub where we find ourselves for this post-Christmas celebration and we’re reminded by Lisa Kekaula that this is the evening of the bands thirtieth year in existence and funnily enough the last time they were in this very venue it was the night of hers and Robert Vennum’s wedding anniversary. Anyway, before we get to the main course there are two very tasty appetizers ahead of us and the first course is The Charlemagnes a four-piece from outta Sarf London but with an exotic past and existence. They’ve been here before but that was several years and maybe now is the time for some sleazy garage Rock and Roll. they get down to business and then a string is broken but it doesn’t derail the band nor does them playing two songs at the same time hey nobody would have known but we appreciate the attention to detail and after a false start they regain composure and go again. It’s not long before they are motoring through their material and boy does it sound good. They have swagger and most importantly of all they have the tunes to back it up. the highlights from their brief but most enjoyable set were ‘(No) Pay Day (In the USA)’ and ‘Shellshock Shuffle’. Sadly the set was over and off they went but they’d left a mark on those watching who couldn’t help but be impressed by The Charlemagnes.
Next up is the magnificent Los Pepes. A band bristling with energy and great songs. With four studio albums, a Greatest Hits compilation and a raft of 7″ singles under their collective belts it’s fair to say that Los Pepes don’t wait to be invited into the studio and Ben must sleep about half an hour a day such is his output because it seems that when they’re not playing somewhere in Europe they’re recording a new record. Now if you’ve not heard of Los Pepes until now there is a wealth of records for you to go and invest in before you settle down to kick yourself over and over for joining the party this late in the game. But, the fact you’re here now is good and better late than never.
It’s been a while since I last saw the band and there have been a few line-up changes but they move so fast it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a revolving door put in their tour van. I’m sure it’s not easy keeping up the pace but tonight (their first show in Wales) they are on form as power through their set of motorhead using AC/DC’s amps playing power-pop (that just about sums them up) oh and chucking songs out like prime time Dee Dee and da Brothers. Hooks they’ve got em, Melodies got them too. Catchy body movers? Of course, you can’t stand still because they can’t either. If I had to pick a song then when they plowed through ‘Automatic’ and ‘The Trap’ but there were so many great songs in their repertoire it doesn’t matter what they play to be fair they could play the yellow pages and make it sound vital and exciting.
I was in power pop heaven as my ears were taking a pounding. The PA was shaking due to the volume they play at but if it’s too loud you’re too old. Los Pepes came, saw and conquered. Now you’ve popped your cherry don’t leave it too long before heading back this way – Newport Loves you long time Los Pepes.
Onto the Bellrays. To have such a strong pair of opening acts is quite refreshing that they want to offer as much VFM and are confident in themselves and their own catalogue of songs that they brave following Los Pepes. Anyway, the walls are beginning to sweat as Lisa gets on with the show and rock the house with ‘Bad Reaction’ from their last studio album and for the next hour and some the proceed to turn up the Rock and Roll quota with their soul meets garage meets Rock and punk attitude tunes all lead by the awesome vocals of Lisa Kekaula as she compares the finale of this rock and roll revue and not for one second throughout the bands faultless set do they drop the energy or delivery. Sure you get the bluesy soulful funky workouts James Brown-style but we all need to catch out-breath. This band are relentlessly entertaining and have the songs in the bank.
The set was building and building and the three out front all took turns on vocals that lead to the finale of ‘Love And Hard Times’ and ‘Black Lightning’ after dipping into songs from all throughout their career their thirty-year career that is. All around were exhausted smiling faces after the perfect ending to a wonderful night of Rock and Roll and it has to be said how sharp and right on the money the sound was tonight. Loud but never too loud and all three bands brought their best.
Always a good time watching The Bellrays and here’s to many more anniversaries held in the confines of Le Pub, see you next time.
Author: Dom Daley