Courtesy of Studentvine.com
Wandering into the Chelsea FC Stadium complex felt like trespassing on the way to see London-based funk and soul outfit Mamas Gun last week. This sense of transgression was compounded by foolishly following the huge neon sign further left than it pointed which seemed to suggest the venue was through the tunnel underneath the East Stand of the Stadium. In the absence of further signs and upon reaching the end of the open access area, ready to turn back, a glimpse of floodlit turf confirmed this was not the right place. This was an early, if self-inflicted, blight on an otherwise spotless night.
The right place turned out to be an intimate, if opulent, gig/bar combo. It has Abramovich (is he aRed Hot Chilli Peppers fan with a sense of humour..? Perhaps he has ‘people’ to be witty for him) cash written all over it with walkway/wheelchair access across the rear of the semi-circular space leading into the ‘pit’ complete with breakfast bar-esque leather seats hugging the edges and surrounding the two central pillars which presumably secure the basement from having Stamford Bridge come in through the roof. The sound and lighting engineers loved its state-of-the-art-tech such as hydraulic desks, banks of monitors and a great vantage point to the stage. There are no doubt hundreds more features, but these were in plain sight. All of these facilitated the production of what felt like a big show in a relatively small room. These production values translated on stage as you could hear everything lead-singer Andy Platts was saying to a rapt audience and each member of the band’s performance was highlighted as Andy threw over solos to Jack Pollitt, Cameron Dawson, Dave Oliver and Terry Lewis throughout the night.
Mamas Gun has released three albums to date. This gig was part of the ‘Cheap Hotel mini-tour’ to showcase the newer material (as well as a healthy handful of old favourites). However despite the setlists knocking around, they are not a band to play their songs by numbers and move on. Most included extended jams from a very talented band. Terry has worked with jazz, funk and soul artist and producer Leon Ware, while Jack played the drums on Beyonce’s ‘Green Light’ (to provide but two name drops). Andy worked the crowd relentlessly with various modulations of “na na na na na” or “do-bi-do-bi-do” for them to sing back at him. At one moment of crowd participation, a gentleman jumped the gun and belted a reply all on his own. Platts seized on this mercilessly, getting into the fans to find him and cueing up the band to get this man to lead the next set of ad-libs. A favourite moment was an outbreak of the chorus from ‘Ghostbusters’ which glided seamlessly into ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ by Michael Jackson. Too often you see well-drilled, professional musicians unable to convey charisma because they are too busy trying to reproduce their studio sound. Not today.
The encore was an extended splurge of continuous instrumentals with the formula of the individual songs thrown out of window in favour of playing more of what the crowd wanted.
Andy Platts has a wonderful vocal range. He can switch from a delicate high-pitch or a soft and smooth croon to a full-blooded pop-outcry at a moment’s notice, quite often in the same track – and especially when singing live. Layers of backing vocals from his wingmen are essential though to build up the texture to each song. We learned that Terry had cut his finger pre-concert and that they had superglued it to enable him to play. He later joked that it might have actually improved his performance. In holding up his damaged finger for demonstration, which was by coincidence, his middle-finger, another odd moment of improvisation occurred as everyone ‘Under The Bridge’ was encouraged to return the compliment. Dave ‘Eighties’ Oliver, in his check blazer, bold tie and temporarily, a Christmas-light bedecked red top hat was not to be outshone. As he posed for camera-wielding fans mid-song and pulled a multitude of ‘unusual faces’, it was hard to miss him.
MG is big in Australia, Japan and Korea and while they have received love from BBC Radio 2 and Smooth Radio, they are as yet underappreciated outside Mamas dedicated fanbase. Apparently in Korea, at the end of a countdown which features in ‘Rocket To The Moon’, 400 paper planes were launched by adoring and clearly well-prepared fans.
‘Under The Bridge’ was a night of musical variety, character and fun. The only slight disappointment was from the lack of trolls. Otherwise, go and see them next time they are in the UK, whether they perform under a bridge or not.