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The Office, South Shields (Jan 2003)

Saturday 11th January – “Ten Years On And Still At Their Best”

Seventh Line-Up: Lenny (Vocals), Dave Lunn (Guitar), Woody (Drums), Chris (Bass), Stephen Wakefield ‘Waka’ (Guitar)

Tubesnake played The Office just last weekend and was pleased to see that the band hadn’t lost any of their dynamics nor sparkle. I was surprised to hear that the band had actually been in action for a full decade now and quite honestly I didn’t think they had been around that long. It’s great to know that some acts have the passion and longevity to be on the scene for all that time and still enjoy playing as much today as they did when they first set out. There’s a few others that have lasted that long (and sometimes longer) such as The Force, Sticky Fingers, and many more that don’t immediately spring to mind but have all won their spurs on the Northern circuit and are honorary members in the rock ‘n’ roll PUB hall of fame. Tubesnake are one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands on the scene and I mean that with a big R’N’R! They epitomise that classic scene running from the late sixties through to the mid seventies. Although they can feature the odd off-the-wall numbers that are a lot more recent, overall if you picture the Rolling Stones, The Doors, Lou Reed, David Bowie, & T. Rex all having a big jam session then you start to get a feel for the true essence of this band.

I got to see the band for the very first time when a good friend of mine Marion highly recommended me to see them a good 5 years ago. She was so determined that I check them out that she even drove me and my missus all the way from South Shields to Stanley to see them play a gig at The Blue Boar. I was blown away back then by the pumping sound of the band and the superb choice of material. I knew then that I had to get this group to play in South Shields as they’d go down a storm. Well they’ve been at The Office about 4 times before over the last 3 years or so, so they’re hardly regular visitors yet they always go down superbly when they play here. I’ve managed to miss them on their last couple of visits because their gigs always clashed with bookings for my own band but this time I had the night off and there was no excuse. January isn’t the best of months to play live gigs because the crowds tend to wither after the Xmas season, and this town isn’t exactly well known for being a ‘party town’ in January and February. So I wasn’t expecting a huge crowd in for this night, but ended up being even more disappointed by the poor turn out. A crying shame because Tubesnake were on fine form.

Len as ever was the charismatic frontman. A great singer but an even better frontman as he strutted about the stage with precision sure confidence and oozing persona. I’ve always admired Len for his excellent attitude on stage as he knows how to entertain and to never be boring to watch. There’s plenty of room on this stage as the room is fairly large yet he still did his best to pace backwards and forwards across it and to use it to his best ability. Even then he couldn’t resist jumping off the stage and on to the dance floor occasionally for a mooch around before hopping back up with the band. Off stage he’s a totally different character and comes across as quite laid back and easily approachable, yet when he’s up there with the band Len is a very different animal altogether and prowls the stage with a predatory manner. He’s the only surviving member from the original line up and the last link to the first incarnation of the group. A marvellous singer too who sub-consciously seems to slip in to the manner of whoever sung the tune originally. When he sings Ziggy he IS Bowie, when he does the Velvet Underground he IS Lou Reed, and when playing Doors songs he does a great Jim Morrison.

I’m taking nothing away from the rest of the band here as they’re all damn fine musicians. A strong solid rhythm section in the form of Chris on bass and Woody on drums. The drummer in particular was a nice hard hitter and I was amazed to see that the kit wasn’t even miked up, yet the back beat still kicked through. Waka the rhythm guitarist created a strong image as he’s a very tall bloke and his playing was everything that you could want it to be. He filled in all those parts when the guitar solos kicked in and played it simple when the vocals needed to be heard. Dave the lead guitarist is a marvellous counterpoint to the leggy and swerving Waka. He’s very much the opposite in probably being the most laid back guitarist that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen some chilled out bassists in my time, but Dave can often look as if he’s just come off a 24 hour shift (maybe he had). He always has these sleepy eyes and with a tab hanging out of his mouth in a ‘Keef Richards’ kind of style then he does give the impression of looking pretty out of it. Yet you couldn’t be more wrong in judging a book by its’ cover as his playing was totally on the ball and he pulled out some superb solos. Apart from being a damn good musician he’s one of the best backing vocalists on the circuit and he can reach some ridiculously high notes. Any song with female backing vocals and he does the job brilliantly (must be those tight underpants).

The set has a strong retro feel to it and ranges from the Doors ‘Love her Madly’ to the glam rock majesty of Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. Some fantastic choices of material including another Bowie number ‘Starman’ and an original re-working of the Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’. All of it works really well and often numbers are extended to give the band a longer instrumental workout. One example of this is the old Them song ‘G.L.O.R.I.A.’ (better know as a Van Morrison tune) which the band use to their best ability to build up to several climaxes only to chill it all out again and keep the song pumping along. Len gave some stupendous vocal performances too and proved that his on stage confidence isn’t a ‘front’ but that he has the talent to back up his assertiveness. My personal favourites are the Rolling Stones songs in the form of the classic ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and the magnificent ‘Gimme Shelter’. On the latter Dave did some truly astounding backing vocals as he reached those high pitched notes normally sung by females on the “Whoah Children” lines. The night was finished off by Cream’s ‘White Room’ which gave the opportunity for some great guitar solos, but by that time Len’s voice was starting to give a little so it became the final number.

The band didn’t disappoint me in the slightest and I was pleased that they haven’t lost it or gone soft after being on the road for so many years. I was gutted that there wasn’t more folk in to appreciate the fine show that had been on display, but screw those fools because those who saw the band loved them. A good few of the punters didn’t even know who the band was that night and just wondered in off the street to see what was on. All of them stayed through out the gig and made a point of asking me who the band were and why they’d never seen them play before. At least Tubesnake did a great job and entertained those who made the effort to come and I’m sure that through word of mouth the crowd will more than double for them on their next visit. Ten years on and still going strong, this band are very good indeed. I was handed a CD at the end of the night by their guitarist Dave and listening to it makes you realise just how talented this lot are. I’m looking forward to having them back here again in the spring and if you want to catch them in the meantime then check out the Riffs listings. Take my word on it and go and see this band play live, you’ll not be disappointed!

… Colin Smoult, posted on Riffsonline website, Jan 2003