by Michael Canning
This is a previously unpublished review of the Shocking Pinks playing in Liverpool in October 2015. This show was part of a world tour for the band which took in shows across Europe, the USA, and China.
On Saturday the 10th of October I made the 60 mile journey to Liverpool to see the Shocking Pinks. Its a big deal for me seeing a kiwi band these days in the north of England, and going to Liverpool is a bit of a treat as well – its a fascinating place, an ancient port city, eternal party city, with hills running down to the famous Liver building and the Albert docks. I also have a family connection to the city so its always good being there.
The venue was located in a funky part of central Liverpool, which despite nearly 20 years of regeneration thankfully still has some rough edges left to it. It consisted of just a small door and glass front with a small performance space painted black out the back, but what a great idea: pizza, beer and music, what else might one wish for on a Saturday night?
Two acts played first, there was no stage just a small PA at the back end of the room. The first was a singer songwriter who had a line on George Formby jokes, a bunch of resonant chords and a nice rhythmic action on dampening his strings that punctuated his tunes. I liked it, an affecting and engaging kind of urban folk music. The second, another solo act, this time a garrulous dude with a laptop and a looping device. He gave a short set of short concise synth pop-like tunes that kind of resembled some of the approach of the late Michael J. Hex, the less grim Suicide songs, and a less Teutonic Kraftwerk. The audience danced and it set the scene nicely.
The Shocking Pinks set up, drums, sampler, bass and guitar and vocals. And then, with no introduction whatsoever, began their set with a simple funk-like bass groove which grew, twisted and mutated over the next 40 minutes into a fantastic set of tunes. At the start, slightly disconcertingly, the bassist Ash Smith, kept his back to the audience as if they were in a private jam session, but then began moving around and swaying quite unself-consciously with the music – utterly aligned with the force and power of it. This occurrence provided the theme for their set and in the next song he left his bass on stage and proceeded to dance off and out into the audience. I hadn’t seen anything like this in years. It was intoxicating.
Some songs like ‘Nostalgia’ were a beautiful mixture of sparse and heavy, with the aforementioned beginning on a simple tom pulse and delayed guitar and then turning into an absolute monster of sound, whilst others unveiled themselves as thumping pulsating psychedelic dance tunes. The audience of perhaps maybe 40-45 people in this small room just went nuts. The energy in the room was incredible. The drums throughout were an utter delight with the kick drum and periodic samples threatening to flick your ears off at points.
On the most obvious level the Shocking Pinks set reminded me of things like Pylon, 1980 PiL, or Gang of Four, and maybe ‘Glider’ era My Bloody Valentine but the thing which really came to me like a real jolt was the absolute parallel in spirit and energy they had at this show with the excellent and much underrated Auckland band Figure 60 who I saw maybe twice in the mid 90’s, once with Superette at the Globe on Wakefield Street.
The Pinks featured Cory Champion on drums, who is undoubtedly one of the best drummers I’ve seen play in many years, and at the end he was punctuating cleverly syncopated drum bursts into a Stooge-ish ‘LA Blues’ type ending with guitarist/vocalist Nick Harte making unearthly noises in the feedback from his guitar and Ash Smith thrusting his bass guitar to the ceiling of the room with electronic growling noises, and the audience howling at the gods with the beautiful din of it all. Blissful and 21st Century bacchanalian. I went home a slightly deafened but happy man.