When: 2nd September 2010
Reviewed by: Jonathan Campbell
Just whose boat are you on?
That's the question Gabby Young tosses out to an exuberant crowd on board a barge in the middle of the Thames.
And whilst the legal ownership of this vessel-come-nautical-venue most probably lies with some business savvy Londoner, there's no doubt who owns the joint tonight.
Before heading across the Atlantic for a mini US tour, Gabby Young and Other Animals played a secret gig at the Tamesis Dock to make sure us London folk didn't feel like we missed the boat.
And, as you’ve no doubt picked up from the aquatic bent of this review, the backdrop for this show was a converted Dutch barge moored somewhere between the bridges of Vauxhall and Westminster.
In spite of all appearances to the contrary - my unkempt appearance, predilection for rum and unmistakable hallmarks of vitamin c deficiency - this was my first live music experience on open water and I’m starting to feel like I’ve been missing out.
Once you get the hang of standing at a jaunty angle and your sea legs kick in, there's a peculiar otherness that comes from using a boat as a stage. Quite apart from the flow motion of the Thames, with the hypnotic rhythm of the waves rocking to and fro outside, I found myself overly amused by the novelty of clocking iconic landmarks dotted throughout the landscape.
Of course, with Big Ben to the left of me and those jokers from Whitehall to the right, I was more than happy to be stuck in the middle with Gabby and her animal kin.
Her talented ensemble of musicians, dressed up in their Victorian Sunday best with aquatic tattoos adorning their rosy cheeks, took to their marks first before Gabby joined them in typically flamboyant apparel topped off with a decorative starfish as some sort of seafaring tiara.
With the stage for the night consisting of little more than an oversized walkway flanked by a handful of booths below deck, with a balcony overlooking it all, the intimate feel of being amongst friends tonight is impossible to escape as fans could literally reach out and touch the band.
After a few teething problems with a malfunctioning microphone and then megaphone, the group quickly got into the swing of things to make sure tonight feels like a party as much as anything else.
The livewire brass trio make sure they dominate their own space on stage, constantly duelling amongst themselves and their animal friends, whilst Gabby takes turns to spar with her collective that ensures the theatre of this group isn’t confined to the clothes they wear.
The live set is largely drawn from their debut album, We’re All In This Together, which has been re-packaged and is to be re-released this month, but there are also a couple of new tracks on show tonight.
Most notable amongst these is 'Horatio', which listeners are afforded an all too brief tease of on the album. Schizophrenic in nature, it starts out as a mariachi-influenced Spanish lament before turning tail and switching in a completely different musical direction and back again stealing the show in the process.
But as great as their music may be, and Gabby Young and Other Animals are a technically accomplished outfit, the overriding impression I have from their performance is how much fun the experience was.
It’s nigh on impossible not to marvel all the way through the show; be it from the animals’ sheer joie de vivre of playing together, the faultless vocal performance from Gabby Young or the ensemble’s myriad antics on stage.
By the end of the night, my face actually hurt from all the smiling I’d done and it’s just damn refreshing to witness a band put so much positive energy into what they create, as opposed to the plethora of depressing, uninspired dirge that seems to proliferate our airwaves.
So, as you may have already guessed, I’ve no doubt whose boat I’m on. And I’d strongly recommend you get on board too.
Find out more about Gabby Young and Other Animals here.