SEATBELTS centre around the proven songwriting partnership of Ryan and James from Hooton Tennis Club and are a side-project of sorts, but one that’s taken on a distinct and rather intriguing identity of its own.
The four-piece have the alternate singing and songs formula we’re used to from the two men; It Is As If I Am A.I., Hey, Hey Tiger!, Capitalist Confession are all strong but it’s Song For Vonnegut – not the poppiest song by a long stretch – that’s the major ear-botherer tonight. It’s worth noting all eyes are on Abi Woods out front on keyboards here at the Shipping Forecast; her vocals are bloody terrific and once she whips out her cowbell we’re 100 per cent sold.
The last time BOY AZOOGA played Liverpool supporting fellow Cardiffians Estrons across town at Buyers Club, they assembled a sign onstage made up of oversized scrabble tiles announcing who they were. The string of letters were the sort that light up so you can see them better, you couldn’t help but notice the bloody things, fully visible from space, probably.
Six months is a hell of long time in music and we have no need for such an information service at this, their first headline show in the city. Now signed to Heavenly, the band are rarely off the wireless, they made their telly debut a few weeks earlier on Later… and the debut album is due hits the shelves within hours.
If we want to get technical, the album 1, 2 Kung Fu! is released minutes after Boy Azooga finish their set this evening, so it’s very much the night before Christmas for noticeably thrilled frontman Davey Newington. We get an inevitable celebratory atmosphere as a result, although with Newington a sugar-rush sense of excitement at every stage of the band’s development is evident and it’s giddily infectious.
It’s a fun gig, this, and an inevitable cheeriness about a singer who uses a big woolly sock as an impromptu mic pop shield. A lucky sock, maybe? No need for any good luck charms, as it turns out. Audience participation is a big thing at Boy Azooga shows, sleigh bells handed out and obediently rung in time, out of time. Who the hell knows, it’s the taking part that counts. The audience totally taking possession of William Onyeabor-inspired Face Behind Her Cigarette both during and after the song is finished is, quite frankly, brilliant.
“We should play Liverpool every night,” grins Newington, in response. OK, the crowd slaps the ceiling so hard there is a concern at one point it might bloody well fall in, but let’s go with the spirit of this.
Boy Azooga are not a band to stay still. The album might have taken five years to make and many more to write, but over the hour we get songs not on 1, 2, Kung Fu!, and an interpretation of The Keys’ I Tried To Find It In Books, a song covered for Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show a couple of months ago.
Newington’s songwriting strikes a chord with people. Take Loner Boogie, the tale of an outsider looking in – everyone’s felt like that at some point. Jerry is a simple tribute to pleasing memories, no high art metaphor or hidden meanings, not that I can work out anyway, sometimes a song is about someone or something that needs to be remembered and made permanent and fixed. There’s a grounded, irony-free sense of honesty about that. The line in Jerry “Where did you go to get that smile?” is a bit soppy, but who can’t help but understand exactly what he means.
Boy Azooga should play Liverpool every night, you say? That’d be nice.