BLOOD BROTHERS – THE MISSION – Nottingham Bodega – 14 September 2012
With the worst kept secret in their small plain of existence, Blood Brothers, being a Mission tribute band of Mission members, performing Mission songs during 'off' nights on Mission tours, play their fourth show in twenty years (or, if you prefer, The Mission are playing under another name to avoid any contractual hooha). Tonight, whilst under an assumed name, there can be no doubt – not for the sea of identical black t-shirts in the pub opposite the venue, or the generally very familiar names and faces in the crowd, what is happening.
Of course, does this mean anything? My wife, who find this kind of music somewhat not quite to her liking – though we share around 80% of the same bands in our record collections – is probably baffled by the actions of a man of a certain age who goes to see in bands in pubs hundreds of miles away at no small personal expense. But also, how does this differ from going to the football, or fishing? I suppose it does, and it doesn't. Not that it matters. Every human being, always, had had to find their ways to make this life easier. To shine a light into the dark.
Then again, she texts me and says she wishes she was with me. Though perhaps if she listened to the records, she might not necessarily think so. My tastes run slightly nearer old rock than hers sometimes. Life would be boring if we were all the same. We'd all like Take That, and Robbie Williams.
Then again. All rock stars are liars, sort of. Last year was meant to be a one-off 25th anniversary show. Now, with three European Tours, and a string of South American shows, The Mission are once again, an active rock band, and touring more than they have in a decade. So much for the one-off. Then again, given that this is the smallest venue I have ever seen any form of this band in, let alone the respected original lineup, it seems worth it.
Whilst also playing a joint tour with The Cult which sees a hit-packed 75 minute set, the occasional off nights are different experiences. Instead of the 5,000 Hammersmith Odeon, tonight is the 330 capacity Bodega in Nottingham, which is about the size of my living room. In a basement pub with a bouncing floor is a altogether different experience.
They open with their cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Being classic Beatles, its both an old-fashioned old-skool opener from their their early tours, and a song they didn't always open with. The room explodes. Sweat drips off the walls. The floor bends and creaks. You can feel the floor bouncing and undulating with five minutes. Confetti and glitter explodes across the room. At any random point, a huge hole opens up in front of the stage, as most of the tightly packed venue falls over. “Serpents Kiss” is greeted as some kind of long lost friend. After all, there was a time two years ago when it seemed likely that you would never hear these songs ever again. Let alone played by 3/4s of the band that wrote them. The music? It's a variation on classic,aspirational epic rock. Some of the lyrics are appalling. There's a debate about whether one lyric describes a ten-inch dwarf, or a ten inch wall, running through the streets of New York. Or is it a singing dwarf? Oh, who cares.
There's two new songs – the Mish-by-numbers of “Chernobyl Heart” and an out of sorts quiet/loud thing called “Falling”.
But it's not until “Belief” that the night really elevates for me. Given the cramped capacity, the venue is made often, of the more aggressive Mission fans. From the the first song to the last the area in front of the stage is mostly made of jumping up and down, violent, moshing of middle aged men. At least two fights break out and the band delay one song early on to tell off some of the keenest participants. At one point, someone gets dragged out of the crowd by someone else. Well, cheers. Whats wrong with just enjoying the whole thing without massively pissing off other people? That, and the nincompoop with a seven foot haircut and the Cinderella painted leather jacket that manages to obscure the view for dozens of people. Go see Warrant or LA Guns or some other shit instead.
It could be I'm getting older, or that I'm more just losing patience with assholes. But it is overall a great band, playing a good set, with a minority of dickhead(s) that are lost in the music and acting to the expense of everyone else. I don't need explaining about the usual old rubbish of it's rough down the front. I know that. I've only been to about a thousand gigs. I know that is how it works. Lose yourself in the music, but don't lose sight of other people. We're all here together.
It's not all greatest hits : “Butterfly On A Wheel”, “Beyond The Pale”, “Hands Across The Ocean”, “Like A Child Again”, “Garden of Delight”, “Stay With Me” are absent. Even at the time, though, a band can become a slave to the hits – and weight around the neck. As tradition dictates, the band end the evening with “Tower Of Strength”, their very own “Kashmir”, loaded with epic string sweeps, rampant hands-in-the-air singing, and human pyramids that touch the ceiling. During this, as people in black t-shirts hang from airconditioning units that sway precariously, as the floor bounces and vibrates with the accumulated weight of 330 people in a tiny room, and arms reach for the heavens, I think how glorious, how stupid, and how utterly absurd this world is. And it's better this way than many others.
Set: Tomorrow Never Knows. Serpents Kiss. Over The Hills. Naked And Savage. Chernobyl Heart. Severina. Into The Blue. Belief. The Grip of Disease. Falling. Sacrilege. Wasteland. Deliverance.
You'll Never Walk Alone. All Along The Watchtower. Like A Hurricane. Blood Brothers. Tower Of Strength.