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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band : London Borderline ?? ??? 1994

This review, written by John Young, was originally published in Out of Control Issue 1, page 17:
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band have continued without the legendary man himself - John Young went to see them play at The Bottom Line in London

My earliest memories of Alex Harvey are a little scant in relation to their 70's heyday. I first became a convert in 1981 when I was involved in a club in Liverpool and booked the late great Alex three times prior to his death. So how do you replace a legend? Difficult - yes - Impossible - no!

A hot and sultry night in an Irish pub is not necessarily in my top ten list of things to do but tonight is different - the Sensational Alex Harvey Band are in town and some fun is guaranteed. The line up is still much as before musically. Ted and Hugh McKenna covering the drums and keys respectively - although the Mini Moog is no longer present. Chris Glen on Bass and Zal Clemenson on guitar with new singer Stevie who for some reason is referred to as Jimmy which has somewhat confused his mother who is a guest this evening. The Chaps (young men they are not) take to the stage with Faith Healer - it's demonic bass line reverberating around the hall (it's amazing what you can do with one note.) But Zal's not happy - he can't hear the guitar and neither can we! At last the appropriate fader is set to eleven and Zal bursts forth in all his glory.

In fact as the glee factor sinks in Zal launches a pint of beer from the stage into the punters below - one customer takes great offence and lunges at Zal with a sharp implement causing severe damage to Zal's hand and the gig grinds to a halt. After losing enough blood to keep a hospital operational its back into the set with a brief announcement that if that's what your pints worth I'd have bought you a bottle of scotch.

OK problem. How do you re-establish audience rapport and participation after such scenes of carnage? Solution - play on and win the audience back over. The SAHB's are both heavy and musical at the same time as is shown in "St Anthony" and the new number "Stone Dead".

Entertainment is often sadly missing from some of today manufactured acts - not so here. The on stage rapport, jokes and banter all help to pull the audience into the frame of mind that its not such bad thing to be seen enjoying yourself.

As the set continues with such classics as "Framed" - blues at it's best and "Boston Tea Party" total audience participation becomes the order of the day - we are hooked "Give my compliments to the Chef" with its stilted offbeat riff is almost hypnotic - and Zal's playing (despite injury) leads me to believe he is without doubt one of the most underrated exponents of the wooden plank on the planet. All too soon it's encore time and the massed choirs of the Bottom Line join in with the authentic "Delilah" complete with the now expected and exalted dance routine from Chris and Zal.

After the show Zal was treated for his injuries and the exhausted crowd went home very happy. My thoughts - well this band's a bit like a wine maturing with age, in a world where there is a distinct lack of melody, dynamics , excellent chord structures and tasteful solos - you could do yourself a favour and go see the Sensational Alex Harvey Band!

Find out more about John Young at youngjohn.co.uk

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