“Black Midi, New Road” Christmas Extravaganza! at The Windmill, Brixton (19/12/19) – Live Review
‘SOLD OUT. Please don’t even ask’ is pasted on the ramshackle door of The Windmill. It is packed. Innumerable print outs of christmas songs litter the stage. Every ‘BM’ chord is written in bold. A nod to Black Midi’s ‘BmBmBm’. There is a real homeliness to the venue. Not at every gig do you see a man and his dog sitting at the bar.
Opening up, Wood plays a low key solo set. He’s sat on a bar stool with his guitar playing slowed down doo wop. He delivers lyrics about how he “stripped out his insides” telling someone “he loved them in front of Black Midi”. His legs are trembling along to his nervous shudder of a voice that goes in and out of a yodelling type falsetto. Although brief it was an intimate, theatrical moment of brilliance. The guest live.
Following a short break, an insane, progressive jazz jam is formed. The only few absences come from Ellery and Kelvin. A real shame. Especially when Kelvin was in the audience (only making a very brief appearance). Nevertheless the group still deliver. Sounding a bit like Miles Davis electric period mixed with King Crimson. Evans sax playing is in free form ‘Bitches Brew’ and ‘On The Corner’ style. To the point where he had to stop for a coughing fit. While Kershaw’s keys are very reminiscent to its predecessor, ‘In A Silent Way’. The other members play in tones not unalike John Mclaughlin, Johnny Sharrock and Greg Lake. The members jumped off each others energy. Wayne and Simpson play mind altering rush hour traffic drums. Both fighting bits of the streamer backdrop off their bodies. At one point Wood throws his guitar down to become a conductor. He raises his arms convulsively up and down. In response Simpson and Wayne deliver dynamic shifts in tempo.
The members interchange with some dangerous leaps from stage monitors to get their pint fix. One streamline jump from Simpson made me question if he trained for the olympics. The substituting members somehow carry the jam forward seamlessly. Their devoured bottles of becks are now smashed, lining the front row of the audience. The pint glasses from band members and audience alike are piled up shrinelike on the speakers.
Mid way through the set Greep leaps behind the drum kit while Wayne gets a pint. He grabs the mic and shouts “For one night and one night only. Geordie Greep on drums!” as if he is some kind of circus announcer. Wood makes a secondary announcement for those at the back. Greep delivers a collected drum solo alongside Simpson. This soon turns into a wild solo. While he does this he never removes his winter coat. Nuts.
In a third set the group play some festivities. A few eyebrow raisers in the mix. The band deliver their own version of Fontaines DC ‘Boys In The Better Land’. They replace ‘the better land’ with ‘the christmas hats’. I suppose this gives them an excuse to cover it. Vocals are switched between Wood and Greep as they commemorate their label mates. Speedy Wundergrounds Dan Carey stands next to me open mouthed. He quotes it as “fucking amazing”. Greep delivers bluesy licks teasing his later ‘Christmas Blues’. A piece where he puts on his best Robert Johnson impression. Another set highlight.
They play BCNR’s ‘Sunglasses’ and Black Midi’s ‘Ducter’, replacing the lyrics with ridiculous festive ones. ‘I am invincible in this christmas hat!” for example. Between a beer flying moshpit, a monitor convulses violently half way from the stage into the front row. It is saved milliseconds before a deafening floor smash by good samaritan audience members.
Covers of ‘Last Christmas’, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ and other festive classics are performed to finish the set. Picton takes the lead on many of these, ending up in a humorous falsetto on ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Hereby Morgan struggles to keep his composure. He’s in a fit of laughter. Greep starts an alienistic ramble. “Christmas, christmas. Geordie! It’s been said many times, many ways! Merry Christmas oo-ee. Black Midi. Black Country New Road. Sponsored by The Windmill”.
Following the set everyone converges for drinks. The band members and fans discuss everything from business deals to Scott Walker. A fan goes round with his polaroid camera taking pictures with everyone he meets, and many leave the venue in festive spirit.
3 pints later Picton sets up a drum machine and macbook, Greep a microphone. They introduce themselves as ‘DJ Dairy and MC Spritz’. The most bonkers freestyle is performed over popular instrumentals. “Lets go lets go! Change the beat yo” Greep shrieks. He goes on to ask the audience questions. “Who would win, Tyson Fury or Mahammid Ali?”. Without a chance to respond he answers ‘Mahammid Ali’. He takes fast shots of straight whiskey.
This is followed by inviting fans up to ‘freestyle’. Over these ‘freestyles’ remarks are made from the pair. Somewhat alike to DJs over dodgy bootleg records. ‘Lets Go Motherfucker. Lucas from Manchester’ , ‘Anthony Joshua! Anthony Joshua’. Picton is waving his hands in the air rollercoaster style and they both sing fragmented versions of Kanye West songs.
Later Wayne staggers on stage and him, Greep and Picton form a trio of out of tune drunk singing. The song is ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by Elton John. Greep and Wayne share a microphone. They have their arms around each other and swing backwards and forwards. Following suit are May and Kershaw (now in the audience), their pints clutched between their hands.
In the early hours of the morning a fan has collapsed on a sofa in the back room needing his friends to lift him up. Another fan lights a cigarette inside the venue, getting in an argument with a woman at the bar. Then there’s me. I missed the last tube and ended up in an abandoned old bank. No further questions. I present to you a normal night at The Windmill.