When I heard that one of my all-time favourite bands were reforming for a one-off gig, this was my early Christmas present to myself. Like most of the bands that I love and attempt to champion, Jonny Cola And The A-Grades were doomed to obscurity. I did warn them; “if I love you, there’s no hope”. Though this is not entirely my fault; the public is not known for their great taste.
Twenty years earlier, and they could have been on a par with Suede and Pulp, deservedly so. Their album ‘Spitfire’ is still one of the best I’ve ever heard, so I headed to Paper Dress Vintage with great excitement. The boutique come venue suits their unique brand of glam pop anthems well.
I was relieved to get there in time to see the support set by Sister Witch. Theirs is a darker mood, but complements the atmosphere. Lux Lyall is ethereal and enchanting upfront, while David Ryder Prangley is still masterful with a sleazy riff. That’s another album I need to get.
And so, The A Grades take to the stage, launching into ‘Wronghead’, and Jonny reaches the mic just in time, to a round of applause. Boys, you have been missed. Classic, lost single ‘Marlborough Road’ follows, and I lose track of the set list and embrace this special moment. The small room is packed, everyone knows the words, and my few photos are wobbly as the floor is shaking.
Highlights? They possess so many great tunes, but hearing ‘Halo’ one more time is fantastic, while ‘Ripples’ threatens to make my eyeshadow run. Just something in my eye. Jonny is clearly a little shocked at the warmth of their reception. But all of us here know; this was a special band. ‘Straight To Video’ is epic. I’d have loved them to have played ‘Spitfire’ in its entirety, but it’s all good. Jonny refuses to end the set with a slightly wobbly ‘The Party’s Over’, so we get a rare airing of ‘Disappearing Act’. One early sign of Christmas that I can forgive is Jonny’s Santa hat for encore ‘All I Want For Christmas Is An Action Man’.
And tonight, for me, was like Christmas and birthday rolled into one. A bittersweet farewell, but one to treasure.
On such a spectacular sign off how could it be that RPM had two people at the venue – both with notebooks and pencils in hand Role Models Rich Ragany was also in attendance and had this to say about the return of Jonny Cola & The A Grades
Reunions and farewells are cuttin’ onions and church bells. Ring, ring, ringing away and forcing tears, representing the death knell of some glorious, glamorous misspent youth or past. Jonny Cola & The A-Grades never seemed too interested in that schlocky nonsense. They always seemed more about the here and now, giving Saturday night’s cracked actors a cracked pavement to amble down. Romantic, lust filled and knowing there may be some suffering tomorrow. But it’s worth it. It always was, and Friday reminded me of that.
Alice Cooper met up with Jarvis Cocker and Lou Reed. Bought something unmentionable from Elliot Easton and, hey… does anyone have David’s number? Not Jones’… he never answers. I mean Johansen’s… To say there is an eclectic mix of influences present in the band’s music is an understatement. They proudly flaunted that on the night. Wonderfully, I never thought once of anyone else but The A-Grades. Doing without trying. Cool.
There. I said it. The good ones never try.
With each member an excellent player (making the ranks of such wonderfully ongoing concerns as Simon Drowner’s Desperate Journalist and Mauro Venegas in The Speedways), you never got a sense of overplaying. Just bright, shimmering, slutty entanglements on the exact right side of falling apart, letting us know we in the audience were as well. If we want to be.
And Jonny. Jonny, please. What an engaging performance. Sly smile worn warm… and real. I was moved
The songs and legacy of the band are not relegated to reunions to cast your mind back. This show was a reminder of the songs that should remain part of our soundtracks.
Those weekends were great, sure. So was this one.
Well played boys.
*Footnote RPM has copies of their final single ‘Blow Up’ on white vinyl available just email us with a sob story and we might open the vault and sell you one*