LIVE REVIEW: Henri Herbert & The Fury, Howlin’ Bones @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle (29.09.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by David Wala

Channelling a drunk midnight porch jam, support band Howlin’ Bones set the tone for the night with a stripped-back drum kit, cowboy hat bedecked/guitar slung vocalist, and a double bass, of course. Spirits are high throughout their rockabilly set; they openly allow themselves to disintegrate into laughter while closing with an appropriately ramshackle cover of Hasil Adkins She Said, which, while not quite as demented as The Cramps version, is still a good few minutes of swampy daftness. 

Henri Herbert doesn’t mess about. As soon as Henri and The Fury grace the small and low Cluny 2 stage, the sweat begins to fly. Tonight Henri is smashing a poor electric piano around as, unsurprisingly, Ouseburn doesn’t have a real piano on hand. Henri’s playing is insanely mesmeric and as the audience crowd around for a better look, those mad hands are unfortunately obscured from view for most. This man needs festival style screens flanking the stage, showing his hands in close-up, preferably with certain parts played back in slo-mo for the marvelling drunks among us to fully appreciate. There’s a reason there’s 7k comments and counting on a video of him playing a delightfully out of tune piano at St. Pancras station. 

No matter that we can’t see his blurred fingers though, as the talent on his instrument is only matched by the frenzy in the rest of his body. Evangelical gurns, Jerry Lee Lewis thrashing and Elvis pointing are all incorporated with a terrifying authenticity – yes, it’s posturing, but it’s from a genuine excitement and kinetic reaction to loving what he’s playing. He barely even needs to look at his hands, it’s incredible.

His time touring with rock ‘n’ rollers The Jim Jones Revue clearly honed his stagecraft. Vocally, Henri is a less narcotically mumbly Jon Spencer, all “YEYUH” and Presley crooning; but it dodges being pastiche or club singery, because this guy can actually play and sing like the greats he’s influenced by. Manic boogie woogie numbers and tumbling ostinatos make way for rock ‘n’ roll, sleazy blues and even a ballad – mainly original material from Henri’s repertoire, including their new EP which launches with this gig, but covers of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Whole Lotta Shakin’ are a lot of fun.

There’s a lovely energy between the band as the rakey Lux-alike bassist paces relentlessly and exchanges grins with Henri. The only thing missing is the connection with the crowd. The talent and adrenaline onstage is incredible, but there’s a hint of shyness – there’s no eye contact with the audience or energy directed outwards and shared, even when a few wild girls begin whirling around at the front. I can’t help but feel that an Elvis style ‘thank you very much’ or a couple of grins would have lit a fire under an eager crowd and turned it into a full boogie woogie dance party. However, it’s still a fascinating and electrifying display of talent, and in the words of my favourite YouTube comment on aforementioned video – ‘HE MADE THAT PIANO KISS HIS ASS!’

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