“This was the first club I ever went in, back in the days when I was underage. We all were.”
The club in question being The Welly on Beverley Road in Hull, and the speaker Roland Gift, formerly of the Fine Young Cannibals, in town on Saturday, December 2nd for a solo gig in his former hometown. Judging by the warmth of the reception he got there were plenty of people present with fond memories of the venue and of the era and of Gift himself.
The place was pretty well packed and the temperature at the front was terrifying. The Welly has ridden out the Year of Culture urge to gentrify and is still doing what it’s supposed to – being a proper old-fashioned sweatbox rock and roll venue – one of a dying breed these days.
Gift is a very cool performer, chatting with the audience (many of whom he seemed to recognize) about the City of Culture bunfight, and sipping tea between songs. He arrived on stage in a white kurta and blazer combo with a ballpoint pen clipped in the top pocket, in case inspiration should strike or he feels the need to take any names.
There’s a sly air of mischief about him and he’s happy not to take himself too seriously, pausing the show halfway through to draw a raffle for a huge bag of meat (including a nice rack of ribs and some venison sausages), into which everyone who had made a purchase at the merch desk has been entered. There is of course a meat free option – it’s a 5 lb. bag of potatoes. I guess you don’t get that many vegetarian cannibals.
Time has done remarkably little to his vocal and the trademark effortless falsetto is still in fine order and the set is a crowd pleaser, taking in all the hits, but it’s the variety of the Cannibals output that was most striking.
Until this gig I hadn’t revisited the Fine Young Cannibals or The Raw and The Cooked (did they really only make two?) albums for some time and it’s amazing how fresh they sound today, and tucked in among the tunes we all remember (like “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Johnny Come Home”) are several that have slipped my mind and come back fresh and shiny as new, in particular covers of Suspicious Minds and The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love”, reminders of an era when U.K. pop music hadn’t been consumed by posh boys and girls and we were all underage, at least for a while.