By John Armstrong, Journalist and Andras Paul, Photographer, Rock At Night Manchester and London Correspondents
The Chords UK ‘Take On Life’ album launch at 100 Club London 2nd Sep 2016
The 100 Club has a tiny frontage at 100 Oxford Street, it is across the road so is technically not in Soho, but is a mere few hundred yards from the former site of The Marquee Club and the very epicentre of 60’s London cool; Carnaby Street. The Marquee is now expensive flats and Carnaby Street is corporate chains not independent shops, but the 100 Club lives on. The entrance leads down a passage and two flights of stairs into the historic narrow confines of the extremely intimate 350 capacity venue. Quite dimly lit with a wide stage across the long back wall with a bar to each side, the layout puts the audience immediately in front of the performance. Hundreds of framed photographs from previous gigs dating back to its opening in 1942 gaze down from the red painted walls. The 100 Club itself is still a celebration of live music. Which is why The Chords UK chose it for the launch of their new album ‘Take On Life’. Exactly one year on from starting the successfully crowd-funded project, a packed crowd excitedly telling each other how much they were looking forward to the gig genuinely bounced with anticipation.
East London based ‘The Boss’ formed in 1984 and now back – also with a new album (No School Blazers) – took the stage first and they instantly threw new energy into the classic Fender Stratocaster twinned with Les Paul guitar format, with thunderously volatile bass runs and triple vocals, Danny McAllister singing out of the side of his mouth in a sneer that would make Billy Idol envious. Timing their eleven song set to perfection, provoking vigorous dancing and accompanying drink spillage from the vocal and appreciative crowd. A DJ interlude between bands allowed the bits of the floor that could be seen (not much of it) to be mopped – and then it was time for The Chords UK.
A rebellious guitar cable caused a minor delay but it was straight into the crashing opening chords of the 1980 single ‘Something’s Missing’ to the delight of the gyrating throng as they sang along ecstatically. The first of the songs from the new album followed. ‘Favourite State Of Mind’ wears its Small Faces influence with pride and it stomps along irrepressibly. ‘Heart Of The Matter’ kicked in immediately after, also new and also getting a sing along response the “Go to hell you keyboard warriors” line delivered with real venom. Then the singles ‘Now Its Gone’ and ‘One More Minute’ blending seamlessly with the new material.
Chris Pope had said earlier that he wasn’t trying to recreate 1980 but with ‘Take On Life’ wanted to make an album that would be as though The Chords had made it now, with an older outlook, The line up around Pope in The Chords UK of Sandy Michie on additional guitar – frequently playing with slide – Mic Stoner on bass and Kenny Cooper on drums combines to do just that. Building on the energy, vigour, power and express delivery of the 1980 album while imbuing it with a musical maturity,
A shout went up from the audience for one of the new songs ‘Northern Line’, Kenny yelled back “It’s closed” and the album title track preceded it and then a pounding extended version of ‘So Far Away’. Throughout the set, stationed at both ends of the stage poised in a crouch – like ball-boys at a tennis match – road crew pounced on anything out of place, be it a half-full beer glass placed on stage, a band member’s dropped towel or a guitar cable wrapped round a mic-stand, all were swiftly dealt with.
New track ‘Dreams of Yesterday’ intentionally slowed the pace slightly before the trio of singles ‘In My Street’, ‘Get Me To Saturday Night’ and the hugely rousing anthemic ‘The British Way Of Life’. There was more to come. ‘Home Sweet Home’, a direct link over the 36 years as it was intended for the never-to-be second Polydor album, with ‘Tumbling Down’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ ending the set. An immensely satisfying mix of the old and the new.