The Murder Capital at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth 18.02.20
I like the Wedgewood Rooms. In the heart of Southsea, with a selection of old and new pubs dotted around this largely residential area of Portsmouth. I’ve driven over – a fair old hack on a working day in the bleak mid-winter.
Parked up on one the streets to the north of the high street (Albert Road) that this venue is on, as recommended on the website. Doors open 7.30pm. It’s sold out – new band excitement – The Murder Capital are over from Dublin for a UK tour to promote their new album, ‘When I Have Fears’. A regular Radio 6 play, especially in the evening with Mark Radcliffe, mean they’ve caught my ear.
The regulars clearly know the timings and it seems like everyone’s staying in the nearby pubs until the last minute.
A guy comes on stage and starts talking. I was waiting for a bit of ‘two two.. one two’ (I’ll get to do that one day!) but this was a poetic Irish raconteur – the 2020s Dublin answer to John Cooper Clarke – support to every punk band going at the end of the 70s. People are filing in and listening…. hanging on his words. What good way to start. Different and he had feelings to share with a bit of man time on the mental health front, referring to the loss of a mate.
This was Unorthodox Coolock, Craig Doyle. Cheers Craig. Let him explain: https://youtu.be/Yxkr5vgKZac
Around six ‘pieces’ and some chat and he left us.
All going to time and we (partner Sally has been pressure sold this opportunity) are lingering at the back having lost a mixing desk spot to a giant – a swish manoeuvre – we took our eye off the ball – split second and the giant was in. To be fair ‘the back’ isn’t far from the front in this square, well proportioned venue.
Egyptian Blue are on. From Brighton, these guys are young, intense and serious.
Very good. No chat. No song intros, just heads focused and getting on with their opportunity. I can hear a bit of a Gang of Four guitar thing going on. Described as ‘post punk’, it should be no surprise, I suppose, that they have so many early 80s potential reference points: post post post-punk and I like it.
‘Collateral‘, the song and the EP, seems to be the big one for Egyptian Blue. I’d like to see them again.
Now it’s the short, perfectly timed wait for The Murder Capital….and we know what time to expect them. We’ve got it so easy these days. I remember waiting for bands for ages, hours, with one eye on the Timex watch, and one on the train times to very suburban London. I have missed encores as I ran for the station, half sets and in one extreme case (The Scars at the Venue, Victoria) I missed the whole set, having waited without any idea of when the band were coming on.
We are ready. It’s 9.30. We’ve restablished a mixing desk position – the giant needed a drink.
The audience profile reassures me that I’m not a weirdo. There are a couple of lads and dads, an early 20ish studenty throng and a heavy presence of ageing John Peel disciples in dark, well worn clothing and some sturdy coats. Yes there are Idles t-shirts and I reckon half this lot would jump at the chance of a Fontaines DC gig. I feel comfortable here.
The band are on. The lighting is minimalist but highly effective – lots of shadow use. It’s no surprise as to what they play – one album from a new band and a heavy hint from the mixing desk…
A well orchestrated mosh pit gets going in the faster numbers but The Murder Capital have a good range of pace within this first album. The atmospheric mournful ‘Slowdance I’ and II contrasted with the more frantic songs like ‘More is Less’ . More essence of Gang of Four abrasive guitar sound appears – maybe I’m just hearing it more in light of Andy Gill’s recent death.
The lead singer is James McGovern. He thanks the audience, the country, for the welcome these Dublin boys are getting ‘especially the way things are here’ at the moment. (It hadn’t struck me that these were EU imports but I pondered that.)
In a slower track McGovern spends a while with his back to the audience and then does something I haven’t seen for years… he turns with fag in mouth …. it’s weird how unusual a stage fag has become. The audience is gripped…all eyes on McGovern…he’s gonna light it: what about security, ‘elf ‘n’ safety, alarms, the fire brigade. Lips are quivering…go on go on ..light it. He does. Who’d have thought that having fag on stage could be such an art form and so tense.
I wander to get a different aspect and as I return McGovern gets the audience to lower lower down.. right down on the floor. A few creaking backs and a bit of half-hearted stooping (like atheists at prayer in a long wedding ceremony) but most of the audience is on the floor before erupting into the body of the song.
This is followed by a full on stage dive and crowd surf by McGovern. Such extremes. Only minutes ago he was a picture of peace, sensitively talking about men’s mental health and looking after each other..planting a kiss on the cheek of his bandmate.
No encores. Nothing left. A beautifully packaged set. The Murder Capital have so much to look forward to but just enjoy this: I hope they do.
The sound engineer went and retrieved a set list for my partner Sally – the promised one was given, understandably, to poet Doyle’s dad who was over from Dublin with him.
Home we go.
The Murder Capital on a Radio 6 session, doing my track of the night ‘Green & Blue’: