I've been an avid follower of Graham Day's music for more years that I care to remember. How time flies! But I haven't seen Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard play together since the formation of the Forefathers last year. The last time was as The Solarflares in the early '00s. I figured it was time to put that right, and when I was given the opportunity to review this gig I grabbed it with both hands, and booked my flight.
I arrive at the 229 venue on Great Portland St. around 9pm, full of excitement. There is a distinct buzz and general good vibe in the air. The Fallen Leaves are halfway through their set already, nicely warming up the crowd - and is it just me or is the stage really high? There's a good crowd here. Predominantly male and middle aged mostly dressed in '60s attire - more about that later; and I'm pleased when I see some fellow females dancing down at the front.
Lest we forget that tonight's gig also marks the band's official album launch. Good Things is a much aniticipated compilation of re-recordings which spans the careers of The Prisoners, The Prime Movers (first album), the painfully underrated (and my favourite) Solarflares, with a few more recent Gaolers numbers thrown in there for good measure.
Once the Leaves have wrapped up their set (with a nice cup of tea - you had to be there!), there is a short break for DJ Dave Edwards to spin a few '60s British tunes, leading us nicely onto the main attraction.
The Forefathers open, appropriately, with the no nonsense 'Good Things'. Then onto a relentless and groovy Solarflares number 'You Want Blood' - filled with Day’s trademark screams - "hold onto to the seat of your pants" I tell myself. The excitement of the crowd is palpable, and they’ve only been on stage for 8 minutes! They carry on with a couple more Solarflares numbers (hooray!), until Prisoner's classic - 'Be On Your Way' with its unmistakable 'Midnight To Six' on speed intro. The crowd erupts at this point - I have the feeling that a lot people here have been devoted fans of The Prisoners / Day since the early '80s, and I'm not kidding when I say that I'm feeling the love in the room. I look around, and I can't honestly see anyone that isn't singing along. 'Open Your Eyes', (a personal favourite from The Solarflares era) is next, and Day comments afterwards that B sides are always better than A sides. We, the crowd, concur; but it has to be said the A side 'Reflections' is also a killer.
'Sitar Spangled Banner' goes down a storm, Day and Crockford both man-handling their guitars at this point, throwing them this way and that. Day's rubbing his guitar all over the speakers. I watch his foot as it skillfully works the various effects pedals - wah-wah and fuzztone, you are truly spoiling us.
It is however The Prisoners songs that really move the crowd this evening. They play the poppy and melodic 'I Am The Fisherman', but things really reach an epiphany with a passionate rendition of 'Coming Home'. The crowd is going bonkers at this point, in a good way. I look around and see a wave of buttoned-down males surging forward, hugging each other and singing their hearts out. Crockford says at one point "let's see you bust some moves over your beer guts!" a playful and affectionate dig at the said middle-aged crowd, followed by "oh alright, just your beer guts then"! Cheeky monkey.
This is where it gets a bit sketchy; I was too busy dancing around at this point and lost all interest in writing the tracks down on my trusty notepad.
The Forefathers return to do two final numbers; fabulous Barry Grey-esque instrumental 'Lunar Girl', and finishing aptly with a final Prisoners song 'Reaching My Head'. Exit stage left. A couple of guys in the crowd shout out "Nags Head!", I can only presume that they are referring to the pub in Rochester, and I'm only aware of this because I have recently read the excellent The Kids Are All Square - A History Of Medway Punk by Ian Snowball & Bob Collins (but that's another review).
With the combination of Day, Crockford and Howard there appears to be no pretence, no frills, no ego, no act. They are just doing what they do, and it's so true and pure - triple distilled if you like. They are surely at their peak, sounding better and stronger than ever. Day recently said in an interview that writing lyrics was hard work, but look at the results. I'm hoping, I'm sure like the rest of the crowd, that there will be more to come in the way of new releases, perhaps new material? The Forefathers are so unified in what they do, they are a wall of sound that could knock you off your feet, not to mention blow your mind.