It’s the season of office parties, saucy photocopier antics and the like ”â of fumblings, of ill-advised snogs, of regrettable dalliances that can be explained away (in time) to over-exuberance in the season of goodwill. And the spirit. Large spirits. It’s a time, in other words, to cut loose and get carried away.
So ”â with ears still ringing and blood still tainted with lager, Bailey’s and sweet chilli Pringles ”â this reviewer’s softly mashed brain is advising a new, unchartered review course. Why waste a couple hundred words explaining how great Hot Snakes were and why? asks my currently over-excited mind. Why not bang on a bit, instead, about something ethereal and tough to verbalise. Something I’ll be likely to cringe over come breakfast-hangover time. Yeah. Let’s do something mental. Let’s explore John Reis’s relationship with his guitar.
As Speedo, ring-leader of the Rocket From The Crypt circus, our man would push his bright white, dragon-emblazoned axe through neck summersaults, fire-breathing displays, and synchronised dance routines with the horn section. As the Elvis-y one in Drive Like Jehu, John could be observed to punish his instrument cruelly for its bad, bad thoughts. He would thrash it and it would shriek in pain ”â while we, bastards that we are, looked on in glee.
As the Swami-like head of Night Marchers, we could see the relationship between John and his instrument had matured. The wood and wire beast, finally tamed in his hands, would be gobbed on (a big old greenie at the beginning of the set) and throttled by the master. John Reis was boss – the guitar would do his will.
This time around, as a quarter of newly-reformed Hot Snakes, it’s all smiles between the pair. John and his guitar are at one with the world. Complicated, twisted, untimely riffs are put through their paces while the man with the fingers behind it shares smiles with the front few rows. Every sound has a facial expression to match it ”â a laugh, a grin, a tongue in cheek for concentration… that sort of thing. It’s astonishingly exciting to watch John hammer through a motif of his own devising and for it to sound every bit as good as the intro from ”ËComplete Control’; but it’s even better to watch him do so with eyes flickering proudly across the people at the front, as if to say “are you getting this? How cool is this?!”Â
While I’m still a bit off my head, I’ll finish with a ridiculous claim. I’ll leave it to others to give you a balanced review of the gig, or to tell you what happened. There were antics and it was good, really good. But my over-riding impression of tonight is one I have been left with many, many times before; over many, many years at the hands of John and his various bands. Here is a man who understands rock’n’roll and its magic powers. A man who ”Ëgets’ it, who can work it, who is well placed to preach it ”â a pioneer, every bit as valid in the great lexicon of this ageing art form as Chuck, as Jerry Lee, as Jimi or as Keith. Am I right? Or am I mashed?