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Fashionably Late – An Evening With Blackdog Ballroom, Live At Cherry Cola’s Rock N’ Rolla, Mod Night IV

 

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

 

Mod Night at Cherry’s is always entertaining, sometimes if only for the enthusiasm that the participants deliver. After conditioning our ears to the sounds of the sixties with support sets from Jack The Lads, and The Jammed, an aurally if not visually Jam clone, we’re primed to turn our attention to the Main Attraction. It’s not easy trying to spearhead the third revival of anything. More kings have died trying than their illegitimate children would care to acknowledge. But then, Mike Stanfield is a different kind of king.

 

Gum firmly lodged in mouth, phone bulging out of one of the tightest trouser pockets imaginable, you’d wonder if this modman/madman is capable of owning the stage, no matter how well he’s dressed. Well, he doesn’t just own it – he designed it, hired the contractors, oversaw its erection, and deigned to grace it with his presence. Yes, you got the bill, but it was well worth every penny.

 

Blackdog Ballroom is an interesting phenomenon. To the left of Stanfield, there’s a slightly awkward bass player about as large as her very typical bass which, to her credit, she plays masterfully. To the right, a damn near perfect clone of Barney Sumner, c. 1978 (right down to the SG and skinny tie), but with the rock and roll enthusiasm of an almost as young Bruce Springsteen.

 

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

None of this matters, of course, because as soon as your eyes settle upon Stanfield, they’re locked in for the duration. Wielding an Epiphone Casino (an obviously impressive upgrade) with all the confidence and poise of a young John Lennon, this man commands, nay, demands your attention. And he earns it. Tenfold. Enough to make you forget about everyone else in the room, no matter how much they’re dancing. And they are dancing. They are shaking, they are shuffling, and we still can’t take our eyes off of Michael. Very few people have the ability to engage quite like this, which is why it’s sometimes disappointing to survey the rest of the stage.

 

Don’t get me wrong – musically, they are about as tight as it gets. But Mike’s shit-eating, devil may care grin, and hip twitching swagger look effortless. Like his birthright, even. I’m just not certain that anyone else on the stage is up to his challenge. Fuck, sometimes I wonder if anyone in this city is.

 

The band have a remarkably refreshing take on a sometimes worryingly misunderstood sound, and top marks for that. Their ability to blend extremely well crafted originals seamlessly with a smattering of classic British Invasion (and onward) covers is astounding. I even suspect that one or two people were convinced that they were seeing a cover band the whole night.

 

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

Photo courtesy of Leclair Studios.

And that’s the important part – the music. Mike Stanfield knows how to construct a song. Either he’s done his homework, or it’s second nature, but it hardly matters. It’s quite easy to listen to, and often hard not to dance to. The asses shaking across the floor can testify to that a damn sight more effectively than I could put into words. It’s only a shame that sometimes there were breaks in the music. A bigger shame that the breaks were filled with slightly grating stage banter between the guitar and the bass. When a crowd is hanging on your every motion, they’re also hanging on your every word, so it helps if you have something to say.

 

As the set approached terminal velocity, we were handed a virtual eargasm of a tribute. After favouring us with numbers from The Sonics, The Who, Elvis Costello, and the Rolling Stones – all handled with grace, dignity, and the almighty roll of the rock that such names are associated with – we were too exhausted for more. His answer? A Champagne Supernova in the sky.

 

I’ll let the gravity of this sink in. Michael Stanfield and Co. made the second most un-listenable Oasis song almost magical, for all seven and a half what I would normally refer to as self-indulgent minutes. Tonight, Manchester cocaine-riddled self-indulgence turned into a true rock n’ roll epiphany of grand proportions.

 

Apart from the parts that are too obvious to regurgitate, there is nothing in the world that could prevent Blackdog from making at least three fifths of this planet their own personal Ballroom. If you’ve ever missed out on the next big thing and kicked yourself for years, do yourself a favour. Put on your dancing shoes and just get to that Ballroom.