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The Nightingales (Liverpool Magnet Club), 30th May, 2006


ImageTwo nights earlier I'd seen Morrissey, resplendent in tux and dickie, at the home of British Light Entertainment that is The London Palladium. He and his band stood at the front of the stage - the same stage (as Morrissey himself jokingly pointed out) where Sacha Distel and Gracie Fields amongst others had once performed - their arms wrapped around each other, soaking up the crowd's adulation like a load of old luvvies. And this wasn't any old adulation - this was adulation of giant proportions.


Two nights later, The Nightingales play a small, seedy, basement club in Liverpool in front of a small hardcore following and some locals who had stayed on after watching Liverpool singer Dave Jackson and wife/bassist Becky Stringer perform with a couple of their bands, Benny Profane and The Dead Cowboys. It's hard to believe now that when I first heard The Smiths debut single, Hand In Glove, all those years ago that I tipped Morrissey and his former cohorts to be 'The new Nightingales'!


But whilst even the firmest Moz basher would probably concede that he has achieved fame (and adulation!) on his own terms, The Nightingales have taken the word 'uncompromising' to another level. They might have made sure they had a single out before they set out on this tour, but once they're on-stage nothing else seems to matter, except the noise they're creating. The last time I saw them, some 18 months ago, The Nightingales treated us to a greatest hits selection - Paraffin Brain, The Crunch, How To Live and lots of their other 80's favourites. Tonight, well let's just say that if the current version of The Nightingales (made up of old-timers Robert Lloyd, Alan Apperley and Eamon Duffy, together with a new drummer who was dressed for a Stray Cats re-union, and a guitarist who doesn't look a day over 12) were to appear on Stars In Your Eyes, they would be saying, "Tonight Matthew, we're going to be Captain Beefheart".


From the very start, this set was about Lloyd spouting his border-line surrealism over intricate little riffs playing against each other, just as the old Don used to do. None of the aforementioned old favourites were included - indeed I must admit I was probably unfamiliar with something like half of the set - although it was good to hear the old acapella fave Well Done Underdog live (though unfortunately the new, updated version doesn't include the fab final line about having free phones in Cuba!!). They ended with a rollicking rendition of their excellent new rockabilly styled single, Let's Think About Living, which in an ideal world would be troubling the charts as we speak. Indeed, if they persisted with this more Nightingale-lite style they'd no doubt be playing bigger venues, but then they wouldn't be half as interesting. Forget all these NME Band of the Week types, who make out they don't care, they won't compromise, etc, whilst wearing the same indie uniform and churning out the same tired old riffs. They don't need your attention. The Nightingales do. Because rock'n'roll rarely gets as uncompromising as this. The new album should be a cracker.


I had missed the start of the Benny Profane set, which was a shame because this was apparently a one-off performance by the former Peel favourites as a result of their two albums being re-issued on one cd. And they were on good form, too. OK, they cocked the ending of one number up, but as Jackson pointed out it is 16 years since they split up. Otherwise, apart from Jackson struggling a little on the high notes of Skateboard To Oblivion (and his dancing veering towards embarrassing uncle at a wedding at times!), I enjoyed them, particularly when they were at their most Velvet-like. And it was good to hear the likes of Devil Laughing again.


A short time later, Jackson and Stringer returned with their current band, The Dead Cowboys, and once again treated us to some fine material with Stringer providing some great basslines. I'd not heard The Dead Cowboys before, but I was converted early on. No surprise there though - Jackson and Stringer have been coming up with quality goods since their time in The Room more than twenty years ago. The wedge hairstyle might have long gone, but as with Robert Lloyd and his merry men, there's life in the old dog yet...


Author: Keith Astbury