373 COMMERCIAL ROAD:
In the George (not the shrine in Soho), two Cokes (no ice), the
barmaid gives me a glance to check I know where I am.
A table in front of the stage, bag hooked over the knee
(a trick from back in the days of black-outs), a ball of tissue
in each each, grinning. The Friday night crowd are oiled & loose
(not messy), young & cool. An incongruous clutch of teachers laugh
around a text book in the corner, an old HEAD totters at the edge
of the stage, trying to mouth imaginary wisdoms as he hangs onto
the PA to remain upright. He holds a warm & precarious beer,
pin-hole eyes, freak flag tied back in a long white pony tail.
Nervous Conditions take the stage, the pub, the crowd, East London,
with a relentless, spontaneous, unapologetic wall of sound.
“Concentrate, but be completely free”, they do it naturally.
A thick set geezer breaks away from the laughing teachers, lunges
for the singer (misses), looks stupid (the singer returns a
benevolent smile & carries on). The geezer lashes out again
(pint glass held close to his shirted heart), the singer side-steps,
in his eyes the look of a loving parent watching out for a fevered
child. The band snaps into a low thundering groove without stopping
as the singer prowls the stage, a sheaf of lyric sheets screwed up
in a fist baton, cowboy shirt cool, throws out glancing grins to
the others they all return, a unit, tight & loyal, evolution on the
move. The audience crowd the stage, excited, feeling it, feeding of
the unrelenting electricity coming off the band. CAN, THE FALL,
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, no, this is the 21st Century.