[sic] Magazine

Upstairs at Eric’s. (and The House Of Love)

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“We’re going to kick you down this street”

Not the friendliest welcome to a new city that I’ve ever experienced. Yet those were the words spoken to (or rather, spat at) me by two doormen outside the iconic Liverpool new wave club last weekend. My crime? Non submission. Having been told I couldn’t sell my surplus tickets outside the venue, but rather find someplace else, I suppose you could say I ‘politely declined’ the advice. I had tickets for a concert in Eric’s that night. Where was I supposed to go? The Philharmonic Hall?

I should say right away that I have every respect for security staff and the job that they do – checking the authenticity of arrivals, throwing out undesirables, taking all manner of crap…. not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t want to do that. But these two goons weren’t doing much of that either. It was Sunday night, it was quiet . Nothing was happening save for the occasional tourist popping to have a look at the Cavern Club so I suppose these guys felt the need to play alpha male with me? Worse than that, they were actively intent on provocation – trying to create a situation out of nothing.

“We’re not going to let you back in. That way your night will just get even worse than it is, mate”

Thank you boys, thank you.

Liverpool has a red side and a blue side of course. Clearly my face was about to become one of those colours.

Now I want to stress something. I do not believe these two uniformed Terminators work for Eric’s . The security seemed to be subcontracted and covered other venues along Liverpool’s Matthew Street besides Eric’s. Their attitude shouldn’t reflect on the legendary club. Eric’s were wonderful that night. New owner and Director of Music, Ethan Allen in particular did his venue and his city proud and I wish to thank him for a top evening.

What Allen has done with Eric’s is pretty cool too. It’s exactly the same site as before, (unlike the aforementioned Cavern). There is no upstairs in fact, just the basement venue and the street level. The decor is pretty minimalist, lots of black, but they seem to have addressed the various ‘plumbing’ issues which dogged the club back in its heyday. What a thrill to step into a place that has played host to the likes of the Sex Pistols , Joy Division and OMD . The ceilings are still pretty low. Didn’t Elvis Costello once smash his head and refuse to continue? Either that or he had a couple of spare tickets that he tried to offload outside!

As to The House Of Love , they are never the same two times running but they were on form in Liverpool. Not a great deal in the way of crowd interaction – a couple of footie quips here, a joke or two there. “This one’s nice” Guy Chadwick would often proclaim before unveiling a song from the new album. Somebody shouts for ‘Jump Around’ (by House Of Pain )… Mersey wit, eh? (Or maybe I made that up) Memorably someone from the audience compares Terry Bickers ‘favourably’ to Johnny Marr . That’s the polite way of putting it. Think more along the lines of one man defecating from a great height above the other. Bickers takes it all rather sedately. Personally (and I have actually met the man) I cannot reconcile this modest, self-effacing Terry with the ‘Bonkers’ rumours of old. I can’t comment on the Marr comparison either, – two completely different guitarists if you ask me, but Bickers is brilliant. Occasionally the music gets the better of him and he’ll wig out, whirling and leaping around, legs jack-knifing all over the place.

Of course leaping can be a dangerous occupation downstairs at Eric’s. Ask Elvis Costello.

HOL"

I’m never quite sure how much Guy Chadwick appreciates all the Bickers adulation. The two men have shared a strained relationship and still find it testing to work together, even now since their reconciliation. Earlier Chadwick arrived at the venue wearing a kind of drab beanie hat more associated with Birkenhead dockland than rock star. People around me were genuinely shocked to discover it was him. Chadwick didn’t remember me, which is by the by, but more than that appeared edgy and taciturn. The point being, not everything appears well in the HOL camp. I hope I am wrong because the new album has a genuine shout for best HOL album so I would hope not to lose the band again.

There are three House Of Love incarnations in fact – the original, the one after Terry left and this latest comeback version. The first version was probably the most misunderstood of all. People remember the ‘hits’, the ‘Christine’s’ and the ‘Destroy The Heart’s. But in and around that, yes, shoegazey stuff there were all manner of classic, crafted songs. The House Of Love are great songwriters and their new stuff fits perfectly alongside the old. As such we have a setlist which draws heavily upon the bands first and latest albums, and the period where Terry was missing has been largely written out of the bands history. This is understandable enough but it does mean no ‘Feel’, and that is a pity.

Terry Bickers with Guy Chadwick? Or Terry bickers with Guy Chadwick? It’s upper case at Eric’s this particular night. HOL are without doubt better with Bickers in the band, but not only for his guitar playing. One aspect that many people neglect in their appreciation of HOL is the vocal harmonisation Whenever the two sing together the performance is elevated to a whole other level. This is apparent from the word go when the band open with the innocuous, but pretty ‘Low Black Clouds’. There are no black clouds tonight or if there are, they left them in the dressing room.

Or upstairs.

Of the newer songs, ‘PKR’ (actually an older song brushed up) and ‘Holy River’ are the best and go down pretty well with an audience that appears for the most part to be unfamiliar with the new stuff. I would have liked ‘Eye Dream’ but it just wasn’t quite my night.

Ups and downs.

Upstairs and downstairs.

The band close with the classic ‘Love In A Car’ but return to encore with crowd-pleasers. ‘Shine On’ and Destroy The Heart. Then they left us and left me to reflect on a bizarre day all round. It had been my first time in a great city with wonderful people – a pilgrimage to an iconic venue and a pretty good gig to go along. A couple of booted gorillas will never be able to tarnish that.

~Thanks to Eric’s and Cherry Red Records. For those in search of more traditional writing, my wife, Luna, made a blog on the gig and my mate Cath Aubergine reviewed the following Manchester date. Both come highly recommended and can be found via the link below. Me, I don’t get out much.~

~Band photo by Luna.~

Review: She Paints Words In Red

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