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John and Martin.  Who are they?

London ULU
20 September 2002

A thoughful John Mitchell.I arrived just before 7 to find gig times are posted on the front door of the University of London Union. The notice lists start and end of each set, marking a 45 minute suppport slot and twice as long for the headline act. With a few people milling around I asked inside about ticket availability to be told tickets would be available on the evening (phew) but not yet. Everybody that had a ticket was pointed to a door round the corner which already had a queue snaking round the corner by the time tickets finally appeared about quarter an hour later.

Tonight promised the first proper real stage performance I'll have seen the Urbane play which will make a change from the back of the normal Reading bars. As their normal set is only an hour they only need to cut two or three tracks to fit into the support slot. I gather they were confirmed as support only about three weeks previously though I only found out a few days beforehand.

Keeping to the posted schedule the lights dimmed just before 19:45 and the band appeared and moved carefully through the darkness of the stage but not initially to play, instead to sort out instruments under cover of the disco tape that I'd been suffering for 20 minutes.

Scooby searches for the microphoneAfter two minutes of ferreting a less than talkative John Mitchell uttered just a brief "Evening" in the direction of the crowd before launching the set with FADING OUT from the 'Neon' album. Support bands tend to suffer from poor sound or lights, sometimes both, as standard and tonight it was the turn of poor lighting. Initially I thought the badly timed and poorly worked orange, red then white beams were just the standard 'piss the support off' attitude. However when they all died after the white flashed brighter then dimmer a few times for a few seconds it seemed more like lighting engineer incompetence. Under cover of darkness Paddy appeared part way through the track to add a touch on keyboards to the sound. As the pounding climax subsided the noise level was retained briefly by a gaggle of hollering ladies who I previously assumed were rabid Bowes/Morley fans. If that was the case I wondered how loud they'd be for the main act? They certainly showed their appreciation after the opening Urbane song though calmed down for later ones.

A rare picture of Paddy whose been hidden in the shadows all nightUnusually the first song didn't merge into the track normally known on the setlist as "POLICE" (I didn't manage to see the setlist tonight to see what was listed) but instead the far quieter introduction to DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME seemed as if the song was actually going to be done properly for a change. However, after the slow start, instead of running through the complete song the guitar changed to something more akin to quieter Nirvana (the 90's version) tunes, GIVE IT AWAY, in which John let rip mid track while drummer Scooby sang the middle verse. In fact I guess that is a good way to describe The Urbane. Although they now have a keyboard onstage their debut album is far more guitar oriented than you may image considering John Mitchell is far better known as the guitarist in prog band Arena. The again Arena feature a good dose of guitars among the keyboards. I'd go for a cross between Nirvana and indie rock though I'm sure there are a few more influences I've not spotted.

After asking if we were OK John thought he sounded "a bit like Joe Cocker." Well, the voice may have been a little raw but at least the arms were busy playing guitar and not trying to fly as Mr. Cockers would have. LOOP was followed by more darkness and it was obvioulsy getting annoying for those on stage as well as off judging by John commenting that he couldn't "see a thing" before explaining a little backgrund to the following track, again off their first album 'Neon', "I wrote it in NY, I was about 19 years old and it's called IMMACULATE.!" A quiet keyboard entwined drum pattern soon had guitar and mellow vocals adding to the mix as tempo and volume slowly increased in this tale of loneliness and falseness of life the Big Apple. The crowd stayed silent, hooked on the melody, until the final guitar note faded .

John checks the cut on his left hand is OK Someone in the audience then asked "Who are you?" "Who am I? I'm John, who are you?" Paddy then reminded John of the band name and he passed the information on to us. "I should have told you we are the Urbane." Information overload over and another drum pattern and bassy rhythm was started by Paddy before he departed the stage for a new track to me, HATE MY RADIO, one I don't think I've heard before.

With the many times repeated chorus John croaked "that's just about finished me off. I feel like I've got a pound of gravel in my throat!" Nice. As Paddy played once more with the settings on his keyboard a quick snatch of sound crept out which John decided was "a nice song, a bit of progressive rock" before crunching a riff from his guitar and introducing another "song off the new album called 'Glitter'", the title track, GLITTER. The keyboards again start the track with a drum pattern and repeating melody before the live instruments picked the pace up. As the track closed perhaps something had gone wrong because John ended the song by strangely commenting, "Or something like that?" He had another dig at the lights mentioning"I like the green one" which about the only gcolour other than red that had been used for most of the set. Wrapping up the set John thanked "Mr Bowes and Mr Morley" plus "Eleanor for sorting this out" before continuing by thanking everybody in the hall "for listening" before leaving us with the usual set closer, TRY. Once again keyboard patterns played below the introductory drum pattern but this time they were entirely live with staccato vocals over the tune which suddenly quietened after the first verse only to suddenly power up again for the chorus, taking half the audience by surprise. Scooby handled the screamed 'try' behind John's lead vocal. Things quietened down later on as an electronic strings section took the volume and tempo right down before a final chorus rocked the set to a conclusion.

Time only for a quick thank you to everybody for listening and a reiteration of the band name before an admission from John that "I'm sober for a change so well done me" over the outro sample loop. They left a couple of minutes before half past having played a powerful 40 minutes set that captured the attention of the crowd which must be a good thing.

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