There’s nothing quite like standing in the middle of a big French festival crowd while Welsh duo Henry’s Funeral Shoe light the fuse with an incendiary show that transforms a sense of anticipation into the second coming.
Sandwiched between the booming surf and rockabilly twang of Australia’s La Bastard and the French 60′s R&B and garage rock revivalists Grys Grys, Henry’s Funeral Shoe bring a sense of contemporaneity to the Relache Festival.
La Bastard’s vocalist Anna Lienhop makes a big impact while drummer Julia Watt is a live wire presence behind the kit. Grys Grys look the part – all maracas and 60′s retro cool – and evoke The Pretty Things style R&B, but the night is set up for Henry’s Funeral Shoe and they don’t disappoint.
Half way through the set guitarist Aled Clifford asks: ‘anyone here from Wales? He gets a sizeable response: ‘You’re kidding?’, he fires back. Tonight it seems, everyone wants a piece of Henry’s Funeral Shoe.
Make no mistake, the Clifford bothers – Aled on guitar and vocals and the explosive Brennig on drums – generate the kind of power and passion that connects with the fans and rekindles the essence of rock and roll.
The two-man juggernaut is part of the vanguard of nouveau blues. Their music is brusque, powerful, dynamic and a primal slice of slide-led blues, with a saw tooth cutting edge.
They mine the same punk, blues and garage antecedents of say the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The Dirt Bombs, but also connect with the raw minimalist blues of Hound Dog Taylor. They carry the same indefatigable energy of the Jim Jones Review and tear it up like latter generation Mods with a Who-style manic energy, but with material that is wholly their own.
Aled has a Noel Gallagher style brooding stage presence, while Brennig’s Keith Moon style antics pours every last ounce of energy and spontaneity into a kit that wobbles and teeters on the brink of the drum riser, but never quite falls off. It’s almost a metaphor for the band’s playing style, which combines bristling ferocity with old school blues licks to find a workable equilibrium.
Aled’s death growl vocals are like Tom Waits without a safety net and yet he somehow complements his brother’s powerhouse drumming.
Brennig constantly connects with the crowd from behind his kit. He sends out a barrage of percussive colours, from drum rolls to exuberant cymbal splashes and frequently leaps up to make exclamatory shapes that draws the excited crowd into the song, while Aled phlegmatically tunes up.
The combination of ripping slide, thunderous percussion and punk style energy leads to a couple of mini stage invasions. Aled glances up, smiles and goes about his job with a shade more menace than before.
Remarkably, the crowd seems to understand the irony of his mumbled intro to ‘Janice The Stripper’, which is along the lines of: ‘I don’t see her now as I’m happily married with two kids’.
The band’s style is best exemplified by the stop-start dynamics and fractured guitar of ‘Don’t Lose The Rhythm’ on which Aled pensively paces the stage mid-number, before suddenly slashing through the tension with his buzz guitar.
‘Grown So Angry’ is a bouncing groove, with an edgy tone, pounding rhythm and sore throat phrasing. Aled adds a gizmo to his guitar on the uptempo ‘Empty Church’, while ‘Dog Scratched Ear’ is an exercise in dynamics as the crowd sing along to the line ‘Your a hard believer’.
They step things up again on ‘Gimme Back My Morphine’, a riff-led rocker that could be a rough-edged Rory Gallagher. And they finish almost apprehensively – apparently uncertain as to how long they have left – only to rise again with the bulldozer boogie of ‘Be Your Own Invention’, which is a catalyst for more moshing at the front.
Tonight, Henry’s Funeral Shoe dip into the past to reshape the future in front of an adoring crowd that spans generations. Job done!
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Anne Pioton
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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