You might not know Yellowcake – this is, after all, only their third gig – but you may know their lead singer. Whit Crane is a busy man generally, but even more so tonight given that he appears with all three bands. Yellowcake is his newest, and it seems that their hearts belong right here. “This riff was made in Birmingham,” yells Crane and there is more than a hint of Sabbath about them, but everyone here is too talented and too savvy to have the whole thing sound like a tribute and instead, there is a dollop of Soundgarden about “Broken Flowers”. Yellowcake – who are releasing their stuff on cassette – are, on this evidence anyway, tough to pin down and “As You Know” is muscular, but like their others it is all about enjoying the moment
Phil Campbell probably was “Born To Raise Hell” but the thing is, he knows how to do it and he does it real well. Obvious plays on Motorhead lyrics aside (there are two of the legends songs in the set of Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons tonight – with “…Hell” seeing Whit Crane share the vocals) you certainly can’t accuse Campbell of playing on his former band. In fact there are very few overt similarities in sound. Opening with “Big Mouth” – a track from their EP and not the new album – their set is 40 minutes of denim clad rock n roll, exemplified by the superb “Take Aim”. The only non-Campbell in the band, singer Neil Starr, has developed a real larger than life presence, one which has allowed Campbell, always the happy sideman, to be just that here too. “Dark Days” has a southern swing about it, “Get On Your Knees” has a sleazy side, “Ringleader” is mighty and the closing “High Rule” worms its way in and won’t leave. Just before this, there’s the other Motorhead track and, no we won’t forget the joker. No one here – onstage or off – will ever forget Lemmy either, and somewhere – like he is in all great rock n roll – he’s making his spirit felt, but they are very much their own band and they are very much on the up.
25 years since America’s Least Wanted, Ugly Kid Joe’s debut full length record means only one thing, boys and girls, it means if you bought it on the day it came out like I did then you’re getting old. Such an anniversary would usually mean another thing: one of those godawful boring gigs where they play the whole thing all the way through. To their eternal credit it doesn’t here. Such structure wouldn’t suit anyway. The setlist might be the same as the other nights but there is a wilful air of spontaneity about them. So it is that Crane can stop to praise a bloke wearing a Yellowcake shirt, have a mid set chat with a fella that wants to tell him that UKJ are the best band ever and another with a lady that has a coffee mug in her hand.
In amongst all this a gig breaks out too – and in common with all Ugly Kid Joe gigs, it’s an energetic sweaty, and downright fun 90 minutes. Having seen them plenty of times since they reformed, you are always struck with just how much they put into the show. This is not a going through the motions escapade. This is the band and the audience together as one for a while. From “Neighbour” onwards it’s energy is relentless.
There’s the classic’s if you will, “Milkman’s Son” still rules, “So Damn Cool” likewise, “Goddamn Devil” has lasted the time too – and the cover of “Cats In The Cradle” nails it. However its more than that, UKJ could sing anything they liked and they’d have this lot eating out of their hands, because there is just something eminently likeable about them. Original guitarist Klaus sings “Mr. Recordman” which segues into “Rock You Like A Hurricane” just because, and even better, there’s no ego stroking encore. Instead they stay on, play “VIP”, the funky as hell “Funky Fresh Country Club” and their mega hit, and you know what? If you belted out “Everything About You” at your teachers in ’91 (see also the girl who wouldn’t dance with you at the school disco – it worked for both) then you still can now, and Birmingham did. Long and loud.
Ugly Kid Joe never tried to change the world in the 1990s, and god knows they aren’t trying to now either. All they were ever about was putting smiles on faces. They still can after all this time.