By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Manchester Columnist
23rd June was the EU referendum day in the UK and a largely negative campaign from both sides finally ended, coinciding with a mood lifting and contrasting revisit from Love as they began their UK tour at Ruby Lounge in Manchester, marking 50 years since the issue of the self-titled first LP and ten years since the passing of front man Arthur Lee.
Local three piece Proto Idiot opened the night with a tight set of short, energetic, spikey and tuneful punk that suggests they live in a parallel universe of Buzzcockian pop utopia.
Nine Black Alps followed with a selection from the five albums of their melodic Manchester grunge rock with no sign that it was their first gig of the year.
And then there was Love; the longest lasting most stable incarnation of the band, they played with Arthur Lee from 1993 onwards, they exist in their own right as Baby Lemonade, when enhanced by the presence of original lead guitarist Johnny Echols they are transformed into Love Revisited.
The set lifted off vertically into “A House Is Not A Motel”. Instantly there was dancing, bouncing, singing along and a mass outbreak of smiling (really, an awful lot of smiling) long before the shout of “Well alright now!”
Five piece, four vocals with two lead guitars gives a rich and full sound, the absence of the strings and brass section so prominent in Forever Changes was partly filled by the three guitar plus bass front line, partly by the harmonies in the quad-vocal delivery and partly by the audience.
Exuberance and a snapped D string caused a change to the planned set list, and a thinned down Old Man made an appearance as a four piece while Mike Randle slipped off to restring the offending guitar, with Johnny Echols also removing his and contributing maracas. A changed dynamic from the surprisingly intense energy of the rest of the set. Having previously only heard the songs in their album recording state, the live electric versions were incredibly powerful.
The Red Telephone was given a zeitgeist twist as roughly equal parts of the audience sang along to “and if you want to count me, count me…” ending the line with either “out” or “in” gaining an instant response on ‘Nice!’ from rhythm guitar and vocalist Rusty Squeezebox. It also turned out to be an imprecise but – with hindsight – accurate opinion poll method. The final spoken “We’re all normal and we want out freedom” provoked an appreciative cheer.
The set was picked from a rotating list of around 30 songs selected from the first three albums plus b-sides and a handful of later pieces, it will not be the same at each gig. An hour and a half raced by, as the curfew approached, there was no encore as such, instead a simple statement that “we’ll save time by not going off and coming back, so when we do go, it’s for real.”
As bass player Dave Chapple put it “That was fun.”
I was there early enough to get hold of one of the just released live CD’s recorded in 2005 in Germany and released now as a special for the current tour on Bad Paintings Records, they quickly sold out but there will be more at the other gigs: go, see them and revel in the joy that Love offers.