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Michael Stuart revisits the past

As die-hard rock and blues fans, my brothers and I like a bit of live music and so, on a half-recommendation picked up by one of us in Putney’s Half Moon pub, we congregated last night at The Borderline club off the Tottenham Court Road to watch some young bands strut their stuff.

It’s been a while since I worked in Soho and, though there’s a lot of new Tube station road works going on in the vicinity, not much seems to have changed. We pitched up at the venue to check the score and, after negotiating our way past a gaggle of 13 year-old girls trying to convince the doormen they were 16, discovered it was a case of ‘once you’re in, that’s it’ (there was no system of ‘stamping’ your hand with die, as there is elsewhere, so that you can go out and in again as often as you like).

As the first of the main two acts were not going on stage until 9.15pm earliest, we opted to retire to the Delhi Brasserie, three doors down from Ronnie Scott’s, for a curry and catch-up chat.

Back at the Borderline at 9.00pm, we went downstairs and straight to the bar. The crowd was between 100 and 150 and a young band called The Tones were giving it some on stage to their enthusiastic fans. The lead singer sported a post-modern Sixties Mod haircut, think Small Faces or Paul Weller, but my lasting impression was how callow they looked – I’ve since googled them on the internet and learned that they come from Epsom and formed in 2012, when they were all 13.

Narrow your eyes and you could just about imagine this is what it must have been like on the club scene in the early Sixties – speaking of which, this was also about the average age of a comforting minority of the audience (20%?) that we three brothers belonged to.

In my heyday, it was standard practice that the hiatus between one disorganised, probably-stoned, band leaving the stage and the next ditto setting up and being ready to go could mean a wait of 45 minutes to an hour, but not here last night.

Within ten minutes, the next band (The Turning) were firing up. About three years older – their promotional blurb lists their plans for 2014 ‘once they leave school’ – they were more confident and displayed greater stage presence and attack. They seemed to be the prime object of the female fans’ attention and soon had the place rocking – especially after they switched to playing a succession of classic cover songs in the second half of their 50 minute set – standouts were Leiber & Stoller’s Kansas City (memorably given an outing by the Fab Four on the album Beatles For Sale), Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business and Richard Berry’s Louie Louie from the 1950s.

Finally the headline act, Aaron Keylock. He’s a 16 year-old rock/blues guitarist who hails from the Oxford area, described as ‘Jimi Hendrix meets Rory Gallagher’ by his manager to one of my brothers. He was long-haired, stick-thin and plainly good, though not quite the stunning revelation that we had been hoping he might be. To my eyes, lack of stage presence was a factor in this diagnosis, but I guess that when you’re as young as Keylock, you should be forgiven a fair bit. His singing was okay, his guitar-playing excellent yet not quite mind-blowing: I took it as indicative of something that the floor in front of the stage cleared of hormone-rampant teenage girls and the atmosphere switched somewhat from enthusiastic chaos to respectful concentration.

As we travelled home with the clocks nearing midnight, the consensus was that we hadn’t quite witnessed the future of rock and roll but – having thoroughly enjoyed a fun evening out involving some live music – we were going to do it all again, and soon.

Regarding the first half of the above sentence, National Rust readers can just for themselves by going to the links below:




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About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts