At the end of their first UK tour New York City’s Jeremy & The Harlequins made the first of their two back-to-back London stops at the Water Rats, with an appearance planned for the BBC’s Andrew Marr show thrown in as an extra. This series of firsts left them undaunted as it was a supremely unfazed band that took to the stage – a rock and roll vision in denim and leather jackets, with lead singer Jeremy Fury coolly hidden behind aviator shades. This is the last gang in town ethos re-born: a band of individuals who’s on-stage presence, the grouping for harmony vocals, the flamboyant playing and guitar duelling define them as more than the sum of their parts.
Kicking into a set that would be dominated by their most recent album ‘Remember This‘, Jeremy & The Harlequins led off with ‘Cam Girl‘ – a hand-clapping, rock and roller that’s getting all excited about the new girl around. It could be a perfect fifties throwback, the girl glimpsed at the drug store or in the diner – only in this case she’s at the end of a camera, and the level of romance now includes the deathless declaration, “You don’t need a ride / you don’t need to go outside / you could be all mine – online“. Sweet.
Things took a swerve on ‘California Rock‘ which had the Harlequins taking on a much rougher edge – Stevie Fury pounding out the beats and new Harlequins Drew Robinson and Geoff Bennington adding a rough and ready pulsing bass and cutting lead guitar licks respectively whilst front of stage there was a dynamic duel of frontman posturing. Jeremy may have the distinctive rock vocals, the shades and the cool poses, but the lean framed Chris Bon has practised his guitar posturing to good effect. It’s a dedication to attention seeking that later on comes within a whisker of disaster as he launches himself off the bass drum and heads for the Water Rats’ low ceiling, missing it by inches.
‘Starlight‘ is a song that Steve Van Zandt has heaped praise on – and it’s easy to tell why. A solid rock groove, a huge chorus that cuts together stabbing guitar licks with lyrics that celebrate girls and cars. Sound familiar? If a band were looking for an early Springsteen comparison then they’d write a song like this and then play the hell out of it live, “Out in the darkness / haunted by ghosts / My compass is true / I’m holding you close“. It’s the right side of anthemic, and oh so uplifting – if Jeremy & The Harlequins don’t have you by now then they’ll never have you. ‘Nothing Civil‘ starts with a punchy, almost punk, approach on this appeal for a cessation of bitterness ostensibly between two people who can’t find any points of agreement – but there’s a reflection of a greater national malaise, “All the news is fake but your guy’s real / and you don’t give a damn how the other guy feels“. It brings the band in close for harmony vocals and god-damn if there isn’t a little jangly guitar adding a Jayhawks feel to these parts.
Even giving it a fifties makeover, ‘Like a Prayer‘ is an oddity in the set – as it is on the new album but things are properly back on track with ‘Little One‘ which over a loping beat has Jeremy Fury declaring rock’n’roll love. ‘Little One‘ is also the big fist-punching rocker of a single from the new album – it’s Jeremy & The Harlequins stripped back to the bare roots of rock, with a dash of Glam rock revival thrown in for good measure. it’s nicely coupled with the set closer of ‘You’re my Halo‘ a full bloodied rock ballad, like a 21st century take on Roy Orbison or Richie Valens. The single encore of ‘Remember This‘ slips back into the edges of that early Springsteen territory – capturing the excitement of youthful optimism and the feeling that bands – and love – can’t fail: “Seventeen infinite and endless / Seventeen magic still exists“. Nostalgia may not be what it used to be – but Jeremy & The Harlequins’ classic rock poses filtered through 21st century sensibilities have surely found a certain sound worth hearing.