Engine Rooms, Southampton 27.9.19
Can there be anyone more classically early 80s than China Crisis? I associate their synth pop sound with 1982-83-84….. and I had largely left it back there until recently. I saw them support The Thompson Twins at Hammersmith Palais on 12 April 1982 and later in ’82 supporting Simple Minds at Birmingham Odeon in December 1982. Despite hearing their singles at every student night out going and listening to my Brum housemates’ albums, I didn’t buy any of their material.
Earlier this year in Basingstoke
For me they remained back in the 80s until April this year when we popped up to the rock ‘n’ roll town of Basingstoke to see them at The Haymarket Theatre. Vocalist Gary Daly had lots of stories and jokes – almost stand up at times – great sense of timing. He got the audience going at a mention of Brexit at one point, asking for a show of hands on a few key questions and nearly whisking the audience off on an unwanted tangent before calming them down with another gentle 80s hit.
It was a quiet seated gig and we were near the back so I thought I’d take the opportunity to see them again on a Friday night, at Southampton’s Engine Rooms.
Tonight’s venue: The Engine Rooms
This venue is in an even less likely location than Southampton’s 1865 and looks even more like a light industrial unit – this one on the inside as well – ventilation pipes and all – it is an industrial unit. It is Unit K on the Quay Road Industrial Estate, just beyond IKEA down towards the docks in a street off to the right. A 0.7 mile walk from Southampton Central train station through the retail park or if driving you can park at the cinema complex, next to the casino visible on the main road. There is a bar in Franky and Benny’s in the cinema complex (this later closed permanently) TGI Fridays is just up the road but these are not really pre-gig pub substitutes. Wetherspoons (The Standing Order) down the bottom of town is a bit more of a walk away.
The venue holds between 400 and 800 people (says the website) and there is a divider curtain that can make the bar area bigger or gig area bigger to suit. With a band on I would think 600 max with the stage up.
A packed Charlatans gig here in February 2016 opened my eyes to the place – how they landed that one I don’t know. They get some good medium popularity acts and older well known acts. I’d heard the sound wasn’t that good but this seems to depend where you stand – I’ve been several times now (Undertones, Ride, Nick Lowe, Sleeper, Graham Parker). I don’t think standing next to a side wall is a good idea and, as usual, hanging around the mixing desk area is a good bet.
The stage is quite low and some neck straining to see sometimes but it goes with the small venue experience and this place is bringing the bands to Southampton.
No support band and two 50 minute sets tonight. The first one less familiar tracks and second half with the better known hits but both sets well received. This is ‘hard not to like’ 80s classic synth pop.
Setlist link below:
Lead vocalist Gary Daly does nearly all the chat. He’s a cheeky comedian having a mock dig at 80s ‘rivals’ like OMD with ‘even less live instruments on stage’ and pulling his hair down over one side of his face in a pop at Human League’s Phil Oakey.
Eddie Lundon on guitar does lead vocals on some songs and he is the face and voice I remembered most from the old pub video juke boxes, but Gary Daly is the main vocals man, still with a beautiful voice.
Here’s Eddie Lundon on the 1983 video of ‘Wishful Thinking’:
Joining originals Gary and Eddie on tour are a talented young keyboard player, Jack Hymers and saxophonist, Eric Animan. Brilliant. (Thanks to Kim on China Crisis Appreciation Soc Facebook group for their names.)
The second half included favourites King in a Catholic Style, Christian, Wishful Thinking and Black Man Ray. These are great songs. Mellow and nostalgic.
The thoroughly 80s video for ‘Black Man Ray’: https://youtu.be/7WOAyDLxD9g
The room is fairly busy but still space to get close for a few pics. I do like the freedom to be able to wander about in a gig and get a few different views and sounds. No sweaty crush tonight.
What a lovely night and friendly feel. I wonder if Sham 69 will be like this? 😎We hung around for a bit and grabbed a few selfies. My partner Sally asked for a poster from the box office (thank you guys) which she got signed. The benefits of a smaller local venue eh. I’m sure we’ll be back here soon.
New solo material
Gary Daly has released some new solo material this year. CDs on sale at the gig and downloads available through Music Glue link below which was posted on the China Crisis Facebook pages.