Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Live

Normanton Street and Portmanteau: The Hootananny, Brixton, London 17/03/2015

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A long overdue trip to Brixton's long-standing live music venue, The Hootananny, was on the cards for us here at B&S towers...it had been quite some time since we had been through their portals and after being frisked two/three times on the way in, it was time to enjoy the merriment this popular hostelry offers.

First up was Portmanteau, a nine-piece Leeds band who were already in full swing as I caught their act halfway through... Mid-tempo greasy grooves were the order of the day, adorned with a meaty horn section (think Tower Of Power) and an entertaining singer who looked uncannily like Sean Lennon! This outfit were enjoying themselves and the audience were digging their music, which was tough sounding and earthy. Their soca inspired version of "Lean On Me" showed a sophistication few bands could match, an ingenious touch that will bode well for them as they attempt to rise up the UK funk ranks. They put a smile on my face with their natural bonhomie and infectious grooves, proving the trip down from Yorkshire was well worth it.

Headliners, Normanton St. are a different kettle of fish, not so easy to pigeonhole as their influences are not laid out on a trowel like their predecessors. It's rare for me to see something so unique and refreshing as this Brighton-based outfit. Intriguing, absorbing, enlightening, impassioned, fragmented are just a few words that roll off the tongue describing this lot.

Their collective strength gives them a mighty head start as all three; Ned, Nicholson & Phoebe are frontman/woman, with stark fatback beats backing their urgent efforts. The entire show vibrated with a masterful balance of lean, sinewy bass, earthy jazzy guitar and velvet seduction that ushered in the audiences’ collective appreciation. Spoken word fused with soulful/organic hip hop and a whole heap of attitude was going down extremely well, suffice to say the sound was good enough to showcase the Normies’ music in all its vibrant stickiness - especially Phoebe's voice. A tremulous sound of sassy slinkiness to stop all in their tracks.

It's a big sound considering it's just guitar, bass and drums - there's plenty of space in the music (which reminds me of a Quincy Jones quote, he leaves space in the music so that God can walk through it!) The future looks bright for this enterprising act and they aren't short of tunes either as "Take Time", one of their barnstormers, proves.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay til the end, due to the fact that I was getting continued grief from an over-officious security guard, who kept asking me what was in my camera bag (4/5 times at least) and constantly bugged me to put it in the cloakroom, aggrieved, I left in a huff - needless to say, I was also frisked on the way out!!

PHOTOS: EMRYS BAIRD
Words Emrys Baird

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