The Boat That Rocked....
The Purnells, HM Bark Endeavour, Stockton
We’re on a boat.
Bit harsh actually, referring to it as just a boat - it’s a full scale replica of the Endeavour [the ship Captain Cook sailed when he discovered Australia, for those - like me - that didn‘t pay a great deal of attention in History lessons. Passing notes to boys was just so much more exciting] moored on the River Tees in Stockton, and tonight it belongs to The Purnells. Permission to come aboard? Granted…
Nestled in the orlop deck, the stage is set for what promises to be a unique evening. A lively crowd buzzes around the bar as support act Ten Foot Tom And The Leprosy Crooks kick proceedings off with a rousing, toe tapping start. They’re good - very good - but my proximity to one of the speakers spoils it a bit for me. Rookie mistake rectified by venturing upstairs vowing to catch another of their gigs, second support act Tusk electro-riff their way through another solid set with youthful enthusiasm and an offbeat, play-it-on-repeat kinda sound. All too soon, they’re done. Enter The Purnells, stage right. Hang, on, is that a harmonica??
The man behind said harmonica is effervescent frontman Stu Blackburn, and it’s not the only prop we’ll see tonight - first up is the pimp stick, pimp stick number two to be precise as the first one broke (having seen the way it’s flung around I’m not surprised!), which gets a bit of a hammering through blistering opener Sins. The sound is bass-heavy, old school rock in its best sense, with stops, starts and random harmonica moments thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately (or maybe it’s a compliment) I’m that busy tapping along and watching what is becoming a brilliantly surreal performance unfold that I totally forget to write down the set list, and the band don’t have one. Bugger. However, thanks to bassist Ian, I do have all the songs, just not necessarily in the right order. Many are from first album Resurrection Men, which can be downloaded here, a personal favourite being Low Down Shake.
From my vantage point above the stage I can see Stu doing a low down shake of his own, as he ends the song literally shaking across the floor, at the feet of the audience. Quite the performer, this lad, with his Mick Jagger strut, Mercury-esque showmanship and a pimp-sticked swagger reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange’s Alex, but without all that pesky Kubrickian ultra violence. Backed up with Ian’s moody bass, Glen’s soaring melodies and Ricky’s relentlessly on-point drums it makes a bloody big swell of sound as well as a visual spectacle.
Nameless is a masterpiece, with following song The River taking it back down with a more mellow tone. This ebb and flow not only works, but gives Stu a chance to get his breath back after covering pretty much every square inch of the floor space, writhing on the floor, getting all intense with Pimp Stick Two, unexpectedly donning a ski mask halfway through Empty Pockets (and coming up to the top deck to see us, scaring the shit out of Tusk in the process) and painting audience members’ faces whilst singing Animals. He’s brilliantly, unpredictably entertaining. And just the right side of utterly bonkers.
This is a band that have been together since 2007 and don‘t half know how to rock a boat (yeah, I’m singing it too now. Sorry). Second album A Half Step Into The Shadow is due for imminent release, and if Saturday’s songs were anything to go by it’ll be just as good as Resurrection Men. If well-made, massive sounding indie rock with a sprinkling of mild lunacy is your thing, give them a listen. For the full experience, go and see them live.
Full set list in a vague order; Sins, Ghost, Here Before, Penelope, Low Down Shake, Nameless, The River, Back To The Sea, Empty Pockets, Change My Skin, Animals, Little Red
.With thanks to Nouvelle Musique.