With a formidable reputation and a high energy, fun-packed live show, London collective The Urban Voodoo Machine are currently celebrating 20 years as a band with shows throughout this year and I’m sure I heard rumours of an upcoming live album somewhere along the line, but don’t quote me, you would have to ask their ringleader Mr. Paul-Ronney Angel for more information on that one.

They were celebrating 10 years as a band when I first saw them live, and they are still celebrating. That’s a long-ass party by anyone’s standards, but P-R Angel’s standards are very high.

With no support act tonight, The Urban Voodoo Machine take to the sold-out Trades Club stage bang on 9pm and they are firing on all cylinders from the word go. Now, in my experience every UVM show has a different dynamic, this is part of what makes them so exciting and fresh. You usually get the core 7-piece band, but the additional members vary depending who is available to tour. There could be fiddle players, someone on a washboard or a whole brass section if you’re lucky. The more the merrier and it all adds to the crazy, carnival-themed chaos that goes down every time they play.

Tonight, P-R’s faithful sidekick Lucifire is missing on sax appeal, general circus style introductions and entertainment, so its left to the frontman to bring the entertainment to the max, which of course he is more than capable of doing.

The on-stage Paul-Ronney Angel persona is equal parts drunken pirate, mariachi musician and Mexican bandit. He’s Charlie Chaplin in technicolour, he’s Harold Lloyd minus the stunts, well there are stunts, but they involve a hat, a microphone stand and a very, very sweaty headscarf (if you know… you know!).

The stellar instrumental ‘Theme From The Urban Voodoo Machine’ gets the crowd warmed up quickly and a triple assault on the senses from the new album follows in quick succession. ‘Empty Plastic Cup’, ‘Living In Fear’ and ‘Johnny Foreigner’ all have that classic bourbon-soaked, gypsy blues bop n’ stroll sound that the band have been playing for all these years. With killer choruses and thought-provoking lyricism from the pen of our illustrious leader, it’s a carefully honed live show that gives the appearance of falling apart at any moment, but the tight and energised band are never gonna fall off the tracks, not until the show is over anyway.

Clutching a wine glass filled with god-knows-what, our ringleader for the night entertains with the perfect mix of slapstick humour and punk rock attitude. Some songs are jammed out, others are rearranged slightly and it’s all good. Raucous drinking songs like ‘Love Song 666’ and ‘Goodbye To Another Year’ incite crowd singalongs and much dancing. Accordion player Slim, drummers Jary & J-Roni-Mo and guitarist Tony Diavolo all help with the crowd interaction and although it’s a more straight rock n’ roll show than a circus sideshow tonight, they still make the majority of other bands look as dull as dishwater.

Highlights for me tonight would be a spiritual ‘Help Me Jesus’ and a sombre and emotive encore with P-R Angel on an acoustic guitar and Slim on piano doing Tom Jones ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’ dedicated to P-R’s father.

It’s impossible to leave a show by this band disappointed. The Urban Voodoo Machine drip entertainment from every pore, night after night, gig after gig, and tonight was no different. 20 years down the line it is never too late to join the celebrations. If they roll into a town near you this year, I highly recommend The Urban Voodoo Machine live experience, it’s the soundtrack to the craziest party you have ever been to and for me they remain the best kept secret on the UK music scene.

Author: Ben Hughes