The Three Johns – Live Review-The Continental, Preston- Saturday 4th February 2017

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Strange days have found us, alright.
For all his doom laden prophesising even Old (Lizard) King Morrison would have been hard pressed to conjure up a more bizarre political landscape like the one engulfing the West at the moment. History’s repeating itself; a British female Tory Prime Minister getting into bed with an insane US Republican President, creating a potential 21st century Cold War situation with China cast as the bad guys rather than Russia (a potential ally) this time round. May, with her Thatcher vocal mannerisms down to a tee to the point where it’s barely a joke to refer to her as ‘Maggie May’. Trump, a carrot tipped Leviathan with the manners of Jabba the Hutt and the facial features of Garfield after a particularly heavy night on the Angel Dust. In the midst of such unimaginable madness we need musical guidance, socially conscious, politically charged, funk-informed music with a heart, soul and a smile on its face. This is where The Three Johns come in. More about them later.

I never need an excuse to visit The Continental. It’s a wonderful riverside pub in central Preston with a great bar and an even greater live music venue, a perfect place to savour some good quality singer- songwriting. Tom Hyatt (son of Three Johns frontman John) is here to show all the pretenders to the throne (yes, I’m talking to YOU here Ed Sheeran) how it’s really done. Ably accompanied by Maya McCourt on cello, Hyatt turns in a short, sharp set of dazzling acoustic wonder. Alternating between guitar and keyboard, Hyatt brings to mind Tim Buckley with his bewitching, tremulous vocals and majestic songs of many colours, numbers like ‘Celluloid Dream’ and ‘Long Time Coming’ leave a lingering scent far removed from the ones traditionally associated with the bars and inns of merry England. Beguiling stuff, a triumphant retort to the naysayers who thought the concept of the ‘acoustic singer-songwriter’ had been well and truly sold down the river.

The Great Leap Forward are on next. Fronted by Alan Brown, lead vocalist of noisy 80s Mancunian art rockers Big Flame (favourites of tragic Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards), GLF are a far funkier, more tuneful affair than Brown’s previous band. Flying the commie-punk-pop flag of post seventies Gang of Four high, tracks such as ‘Tax The Richer’ bounce off the walls with all the vigour of Zebedee on Prozac, a danceable solution to the alarming social inequalities of modern life manned by two men and a drum machine. More Motown than Mao, and all the better for it.

Society, it seems, has gone back to the eighties. The Three Johns, a band formed in this decade, have always had their eyes set firmly on the future. So it’s with great delight that we learn they have been working on new material, and have incorporated three new songs into their set! ‘Hippy Girl’ is a frenetic, feverish ode to the hippest hippy girl, “the hippest girl in town” no less. Not sure if it’s based on a real or fictional character, but it’s a damn fine tune alright. ‘Face on Mars’ is an attack on Trump and his ‘America First’ supporters, a big sounding political punk-pop stomper sure to soundtrack many a summer rally, while ‘Fragile Skin’ is a more understated Art Pop oddity designed to get you thinking. More of this please!

Back to the eighties. The rest of the set is made up of old favourites, set pleasers such as ‘AWOL’ and ‘Death Of The European’ all present and correct. Although written from an eighties perspective, these two anthems could easily apply to today’s political world, the former’s themes of class inequality in Tory Britain and the latter’s criticism of Reagan’s nuclear policies and the problems they could cause down the line resonate mightily in this May/Trump led corner of the world. Similarly, ‘The Day Industry Decided To Stop’ could prove to be an anthem of sorts for Brexit Britain in a worst case scenario. Hope I’m wrong

“I was in Cardiff once, and came back with no pubic hair or feet.” Amongst the riffs, punk and politics the legendary Johns humour shines bright. This particular line comes from Newport lad (and Johns guitarist) Jon Langford. “For thirty years now I’ve been talking in a fake Irish accent. I’m not even fuckin’ Irish.” Bassman Philip ‘John’ Brennan (a Belfast boy) lets rip with a similarly surreal, effortlessly cutting line. A grand finale of ‘English White Boy Engineer’ (the funniest song to ever deal with South African apartheid) and ‘Windolene’ (“Then I thought what the hell, they’re probably going to blow up my building anyway”) and then it’s goodnight Vienna. The Three Johns seem to become more relevant with each passing year, forever fast fish not loose fish out of time. Here’s to the next album!

For more info on The Three Johns please head to their official site

They can also be found on Facebook
Read 3535 times Last modified on Wednesday, 08 February 2017 18:07
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