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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Lene Lovich

The Underworld, Camden Town, London
August 5th 2006

I always thought that Lene Lovich was the bee’s knees, as nice as ninepence, the cat’s whiskers, A1 at Lloyd’s, the real McCoy, and the mutt’s nuts. Know what I mean? Jozzer called her “a load of old codswallop. Ear candy, that’s all. A nine-day wonder”. Maybe he was right, because she seemed to exit my musical life almost as quickly as she entered, leaving me with nothing but a copy of her first album Stateless, which must be lying ‘round here somewhere. In fact apart from those of her tunes that seem to be on the permanent mega-gigabytes of randomly shuffled music that plays round my head day and night I’d sort of forgotten all about her, until I recently saw a much younger singer on TV somewhere who was clearly trying to ape her inimitable style. So when I saw the advert for this gig the die was, as they say, cast in stone.

So that’s why we’re in this dive of a place in Camden Town, the Underworld (actually it’s under a pub), a sleazy Punk and Metal venue, although tonight it’s devoid of the sleazy rent-a-punks who normally hang out at Camden Tube station, charging tourists a fiver to have their picture taken. Indeed apart from a few clearly disorientated student-visitors, the fat balding bloke with glasses (the Fan), and the friends and family of the two rather indifferent support bands, it’s a pretty sparse and uninteresting crowd. And uninterested – the Spanish girl next to me spends the whole night smoking, texting, and grunting at her boyfriend. Rock and roll!

And when it said Lene Lovich it should have said Lene and Les, because she is accompanied by long-standing partner, co-writer and co-producer Les Chappell, who supports with keyboards and guitar. No disrespect to Les, but had it not been for Lene you might have mistaken them for a Sunday lunchtime pub bar outfit. But not with Lene. She should know better – her bus pass can’t be far away, but rather than slowing down she seems to have camped it up. And if she’s not clinically insane then I’m an, err…Englishman. The clothes and bedraggled bits and pieces are heavier and blacker, her Transylvanian accent thicker (by the way- she was born in the USA but brought up in Hull in the UK, a city once, and perhaps unfairly described, as “the arsehole of the universe”), her voice richer, her dancing dafter, and her songs darker. Self parody was never too far away. It’s a bit like coming across a pair of Goth pensioners at the Bowls Club.
But I have to give the old girl (and Les) credit – clearly sitting at home watching the National Lottery show on a Saturday night with a mug of cocoa is not for them. So instead they give us a mixture of songs from last year’s Shadows and Dust album (anyone desperate to buy a copy might care to drop by the Cancer Research shop in Chiswick in a week’s time, ‘cos that’s where mine’s going), at least one that I haven’t tracked down anywhere, and of course some of the greatest hits from the Stiff years. It was fantastic. ‘Little Rivers’ from Shadows was a really good song well performed, on like ‘Bird song’ she used her voice like a Theremin, ‘Wicked witch’ (also from Shadows) was bonkers, but how does she dance around like that? And Stateless classics ‘Sleeping beauty’ and ‘Home is where the heart is’ were as truthful to the original as they could be with just one pub guitar or keyboard, rather than a six piece backing band. Strangely the worst of the lot was encore ‘Lucky number’, the ‘Ooh ah,ah ooh’ (or was it ‘Ah ooh, ooh ah’?) song which propelled her to fame. But by that time we were enjoying ourselves too much to care. You know sometimes you just have to suspend your critical faculties and say “respect”. Lene and Les, I honour performance, and I honour your performance, and may you never stop. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

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