Tonight the Barfly in Camden was to be host to something a little bit different to the normal live music event. Initial investigations placed it somewhere between a Red Bull Records Christmas ‘do’ and a Heaven’s Basement’s last gig of the year party. Therefore the crowd was a mix of invited ‘industry types’ and hardcore Heaven’s Basement fans lucky enough to have got hold of a ticket. It is not unusual for the stage at the beginning of the night to have an extra drum kit and backline of amps and cabs set up in front of the headliner’s gear but on this occasion, and as Heaven’s Basement were the only band to be playing tonight, there was a dark sheet covering an object of some sort on a sheeted table. An intriguing mystery indeed.
All was revealed upon the entrance of the Ringmaster from the musical freak show that is ‘The Circus of Horrors’. This was a stripped down version of the bigger stage act that made the finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2011. This evening’s show featured just two others alongside the Ringmaster, a mohicaned sword swallower and an assistant. Guess where she was? Removal of the sheet revealed a glass jar no bigger in size than a suitcase (but jar shaped). Squished inside, looking totally pickled (like something found on the shelf of a 19th Century mad scientist’s laboratory), was the assistant. Incredibly she was able to ooze herself out of the jar with surprising grace and kept her dignity completely intact the whole time. Now with the assistant fully expanded she was able to help the mohicaned one to swallow coat hangers (for which he holds a world record), pick his nose… via his mouth, use his eye socket as a bottle opener, and make the skin on his chest unnaturally stretch out by manipulating his ‘floating ribs’. He walked through the audience encouraging people to feel the bones under the skin as he moved them around. There were many moments of eye watering shock throughout the show but it caused much amusement and everyone was enthralled. They do a full touring stage show so catch them if you can. You’ll be shocked, amazed and thoroughly entertained.
Carrying on the theme for a ‘different’ kind of gig, the Barfly crowd were treated to some mind reading magic and illusion from Marcus Lewis. He was a confident ‘made-for-TV’ performer with a clean cut style and did well to get this buzzing audience under control as quickly as he did. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks to get their attention but once a volunteer had been chosen (by throwing a paper plane into the crowd) they started to take notice. The set included some mind reading tricks which built nicely to a finale routine involving four upside-down paper cups and a metal spike. One of the cups hid the spike and after reading the volunteer’s mind he slammed his hand down crushing a cup underneath, and so on until the one cup containing the spike remained. An impressive stunt well executed.
The two supporting acts had done a good job in creating a feel to the evening that helped make it seem more special than your regular gig. There were a couple of changes to the venue too that also added to this feeling. The addition of a few mock furnaces blasting away around the venue helped create atmosphere and the fact that the ever present Barfly neon had been covered up by the Heaven’s Basement backdrop meant that this was most definitely Heaven’s Basement’s evening.
It was their last gig of a very busy year which has seen them spend much of it overseas, so when they took to the stage they were greeted much like returning heroes. Kicking off with ‘Unbreakable’, and then into a pumping ‘Can’t Let Go’, this was Heaven’s Basement brimming over with the kind of confident swagger that only comes by having the full backing of a well resourced label behind them. They comprehensively showed that Heaven’s Basement have finally become the band everyone thought they could be. Bass player Rob Ellershaw put the feeling into words telling the audience ‘…it’s taken us a long time to get here… 2013 is gonna be our year!’
The new songs ‘Fire, Fire’, ‘Lights Out In London’ and ‘I Am Electric’ sounded great alongside the older ones. Singer Aaron Buchanan made way for guitarist Sid Glover (a young Jimmy Page?) to take charge of a raucous ‘Paranoia’ but he was soon back to drill home a soaring ‘Nothing Left To Lose’, another new song that gives a solid nod towards the arena venues his voice has surely been made for. ‘Jump Back’ then kicked the party into an even higher gear and ‘Reign On My Parade’ and ‘Executioners Day’ finished off a fine set in style.
On this reckoning, their album, ‘Filthy Empire’, is going to be an essential buy. It comes out on Red Bull Records at the beginning of February. As someone said, 2013 is gonna be their year.
All photos and words by Greig Clifford. More pictures in the gallery.