Monday, 15 September 2014

6/8/2013 The Datsuns @ The Islington

So from one extreme to the other; Two days ago I saw one of the biggest metal bands in the World at the enormous O2 Arena, and now here I am in one of London's smallest pub venues watching a blast from the past. Around 2001 The Datsuns were the hottest ticket in town. The band moved to London from their native New Zealand and quickly established a well deserved reputation as the most exciting live band in the UK. They started off playing every dive in Camden, and it wasn't long before every gig was sold out with queues round the corner. The music press raved about them. I saw The Datsuns a few times around then, and I can say the hype was entirely justified - they were rough and ready, like a punk rock AC/DC. To this day there are still one of the most exciting live bands I have ever seen. Their hard work paid off and it wasn't long before they were signed. In 2002 they had their first album out and were soon playing bigger venues instead of pubs. They moved to headlining places like the Underworld, Mean Fiddler, and The Garage. Ozzfest dates followed, along with playing the Big Day Out festival and supporting Metallica on an Australian tour. Their first album was all over the radio, and they made a big enough impression to get John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame in to produce their second album.

Although The Datsuns made several more albums they disappeared off my radar and as I hadn't heard anything about them for a few years I assumed they had split up. So I was surprised to say the least when I discovered they were playing at the tiny Islington. Surely some mistake right? This can't be The Datsuns can it? This very intimate venue is more suited to acoustic and singer/songwriter acts - not full on electric ROCK shows. I arrive to find three amplifier stacks crammed together behind the drum kit - this show look's like being LOUD!
There's no mistake - this is The Datsuns - and it is LOUD! In fact my poor old ears take more of a battering at this gig than they did at the Iron Maiden show a couple of nights ago. The songs are as in your face and direct as ever - 'Motherfucker From Hell', 'Sitting Pretty', 'Lady', etc - virtually all of the first album in fact.
Most of the songs that I used to hear them play from back in the days before they recorded their first album are played tonight. And they sound bloody good. The sound mix is surprisingly OK considering the limitations of the venue, but the lighting is crap! So are The Datsuns still any good as a live act? Yes they are! It's not the full original lineup though, as guitarist Phil is taking a short break while his wife has a baby - his stand-in is ex-Tokyo Dragons man Steve Lowe. As you would expect, the place is rammed, but that doesn't stop frontman Christian from doing the old 'audience participation' trick of getting everyone in the crowd to squat down on the floor - and then jump up again on cue.
The Datsuns are still a very exciting live act, and this is one of most incendiary  gigs I've been to in a long time. I don't know how they managed to get booked into such an unsuitable venue though - The Islington really can't handle a show like this. It reminds me of seeing Towers Of London at the Proud Gallery - that show was pulled after about three songs! There is absolutely no security here, and it's not long before things start to get out of control. The monitors on tables just in front of the tiny stage are soon getting shoved off as the crowd surges - needless to say there are no proper barriers - only some ropes on poles which are no use at all. Things decend into punk rock anarchy after a while and it's lucky no one is hurt. The band are true rock 'n' roll troopers and play on regardless.
I still can't believe that it's Tuesday night and I'm watching the semi-legenday Datsuns - in a pub! The band are electrifying and the crowd is going mental! There is no air conditioning and this is the hottest sweatiest gig I've been too in many years - I think the only one I can compare it to is 3 Colours Red at the 100 Club before the air conditioning was put in. It's like a sauna and sweat is dripping off everybody in the room whether they are dancing or not. I think the setlist includes pretty much everything to please most fans, with first album tunes like 'Harmonic Generator' and 'Fink For The Man' to more recent songs to show lasts for well over an hour.

There isn't really much room in this tiny venue for the band to leave the stage and come back for an encore, so they opt for a Supersuckers style 'fake encore' and stay on the stage to launch in the last song the fans are screaming out for - 'Freeze Sucker'. They couldn't have picked a better song to end on. The crowd drain out into the warm summer night - fortunately not as hot as it was last week or there would probably have been ambulances outside! I cool off thinking a Tuesday night in a pub can't get much better than this...

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