It’s getting so that Curse Of Lono’s popularity has to push them into larger venues in the very near future. Over a short course they have captured the attention of Bob Harris (who awarded them the AMAUK’s Emerging Act Of The Year award back in January), released three albums and regularly sell out their UK shows. Tonight was no exception with the audience packed like sardines in the tunnel like confines of The Blue Arrow. An added bonus was the presence of the enigmatic John Murry as the support act but there was much more to his presence than just singing some songs before the main act as he and Curse Of Lono seem to have bonded somewhat and each helped out the other’s set.
Murry was first up, playing solo with an acoustic guitar. He was on top form especially with his barbed comments on Brexit, sectarianism and the rise of the far right (who have the right to blow themselves up as he described a Youtube video of some fanatic who severely injured himself.) These incredibly entertaining flights of fancy took second place however to his songs with killer versions of ‘Oscar Wilde’ and ‘Wrong Man’ delivered. A new song, from a forthcoming “pop” album sounded like a darker version of The Cars. Excellent as he was in solo mode, he shifted up several gears as Curse of Lono (minus lead man Felix Bechtolsheimer) clambered on stage as Murry strapped on an electric guitar and the familiar piano intro to ‘Little Colored Balloons’ swam into view. With the band very sympathetic to the recorded version, Murry wrang out his emotions on this very naked song and midway through they erupted into a glorious welter of crashing drums and wailing guitars. Just magnificent. They then poured out an excellently grungy ‘Southern Sky’ with Murry tearing some wicked squalls from his guitar until, all too soon, his set was ended.
Accompanied by loud throbbing music from the PA, Curse Of Lono then took to the stage. It has to be said that the band and Bechtolsheimer know which buttons to hit to get the audience going. A classic rock line up, rythym section, guitar, keys and lead man, they seem to have amalgamated their sound from an in depth knowledge of classic rock music. There are hints of The Doors, The Stones, Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, J. J. Cale and even Blue Oyster Cult woven into the songs. It’s apparent from the cool slyness of the opening song, ‘Blackout Fever’, that it’s a winning combination while the following song, the pulsating ‘London Rain’, with Doors’ like keyboards merely confirmed this impression. That said, when the pummelling drums and liquid guitars of ‘Way To Mars’ weigh in, it’s difficult not to get caught up in Curse Of Lono’s boho universe.
Bechtolsheimer commanded the stage. ‘No Trouble’, an excellent country rock lament, was dedicated to the late Ginger Baker while he mentioned past drug problems in his introduction to ‘And It Shows’, a song he wrote many years ago and then recorded with the band in the Mojave desert. The crowd were lapping up this lengthy set and there were cheers aplenty as the band launched into ‘Welcome Home’ towards the end. John Murry was onboard stage next to join in on ‘I Need My Girl’ and then a riotous and rollicking ‘Dead Flowers’ which knocked dead Curse Of Lono’s own approximation of the song, ‘Send For The Whisky’ (complete with Band like harmonies), which they had played earlier. The set closed with a tender and moving ‘Don’t Look Down’, the packed crown listening in silence.
An inevitable encore commenced with Bechtolsheimer and keyboard player Dani Ruiz Hernandez playing ‘All I Got’ before the whole band bounced back on stage for introductions over a pummelling Bo Diddley beat leading into ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ and then a closing ‘Valentine’ surged from the stage. An American gothic tale with growling guitar and pulverising percussion, it glowered and grimaced as the show slouched towards its end.