The Water Rats – Headlining; El Born and special guests


The Venue: The Water Rats, Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross

Hosted by Success Express Music– Lorraine Solomons – In Partnership with The Water Rats

Friday 19 July Doors Open 19:30

Headlining: El Born

Performances Also By: Sara Robalo ; Sam Hutton, Johnny Lucas, Paulaa

I’m Exhausted, My feet hurt, I look around me, darting eyes, checking who’s there, trying not to make too much eye contact, I’m concerned for my safety, I’m starving, famished, I’m uncertain when my next meal will come, certainly not today…. I miss home…

Where am I, in a prison camp? In some notorious Ghetto? Thankfully no; this hostile situation is my own creation, my own doing; I’m here because I chose to be here. It’s Brixton Station by the bus stop and it’s half past midnight, everybody seems understandably tense, my feet ache because I’ve been standing for several hours, I’m starving because I haven’t eaten since 1pm; and a small salad at that, and I’m waiting for my bus home….

Why this torture? Why this self inflicted pain? Why? —- I did it for love, no, not THAT type of love…. Love of music. And luckily for me, it wasn’t unrequited love; my sacrifices were completely rewarded.  Tonight, or rather, last night, a musical parade was squeezed into the small basement area of The Water Rats, this is about what happened on stage and why people will go to lengths to get their fix of Success Express organised music.

The opening performance: Sara Robalo; An unapologetically brazen performance. This is what Sara gives.  My personal favourites are Concrete Skies and Thank You for Breaking My Heart. Both songs underpinned by mesmerisingly strange guitar harmonies and unusually sweet sounding cleverly placed bass riffs; an instrumental performance could suffice, but then when you add Sara’s raw, bold voice to the equation, voila, GOLD. I can’t quite place that voice; a sort of an Annie Lennox/Rod Steward mix, but with a different feel and colour to it, warmer perhaps, well at least to my ears anyway.  The song Thank You for Breaking My heart pierced my soul with its bare-faced message, bringing up confusion, guilt and fear in my bones, but the music held my feet firmly in their place, there was no escaping.  This would be the first of several emotionally troubling moments I experienced this evening. Great Music reaches into the soul for good or for bad, or perhaps, ‘for bad or for worse’  🙂

As soon as Sam Hutton Started singing, I simultaneously gasped, jolted and swore, I listened to the first tune then walked out, grabbed Lorraine and started raving, ‘Watch out John Legend, Watch out John Legend’… Mr Hutton has a completely authentic soulful voice, and the audience ate it up, every so often you’d hear involuntary grunts, growls, shouts, roars, Yays and Yeeeaaaaaaaaahs at high volume over the music, but this wasn’t your local pentecostal church, no, this was the church of Sam Hutton and the Church people were responding to his sermon like sanctified cavemen…. his course soul voice and guitar work just bought out that ‘low down dirty’ love of deep soul. My personal favourite was one song he defined as corny, or was it creepy, can’t remember; anyway it was pretty lovvey dovvey, and then towards the end of this song, he only decides to break into various other artists’ songs, Prince, Marvin Gaye, just to turn up the cassanovaness, and put a cute twist to the already corny song; The result? Involuntary chuckles, laughs and cheers from the audience. And if you doubt he could capably pull off Prince or Marvin Gaye, you must have missed the gig, or been in the toilet for a very long time, because you couldn’t possibly have heard what he was doing. Then Sam sails off with his guitar/voice rendition of John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’. I’m partial to John Legend, so you might think I’m biased, but, NO, being partial to John Legend I’m fussy…. This was flawless…

Next up was Johnny Lucas; some of you may have recently read Si Connelly’s blog on Johnny. Si explained that there are apparently ‘weird’ rules that performing musicians are subjected to, he then said that Johnny breaks all these rules.   Well tonight, Johnny didn’t disappoint, he broke them all again. Johnny certainly knows how to get to the crowd, how to liven them up, how to start a party. He had us all laughing, talking about the bass guitar player who couldn’t make it to the gig (there is no actual bass player, it’s Johnny’s job :-D), and then when he misfooted one of his ‘thousand’ foot switches, he growls down the microphone saying ‘come on noise’, as if to encourage the noise to put in an appearance.. Hilarious… then he gets his camera out and takes a picture of the audience… hey isn’t it meant to be the other way around Johnny? We take the pictures, not you… Lol… then after a slight mis-cue he says, ‘well you can tell it’s definitely live music’.  Thank you Johnny for being light hearted, bringing us joy after a hard working week. I would like to talk about Johnny’s music.  This is my third hearing and I’ve come to this conclusion. Mr Lucas’ music is like a college course on the philosophy of happy human living, each and every song encourages you to take yourself off somewhere to create happiness, whether it’s ‘Dreaming’ and inside your mind where there’s nothing you can’t do, or on the ‘Lilo’ where you can take a break and get away from it all; ‘Lilo’ is his recently launched single, available to pre-order on Itunes, or forgetting about tomorrow and remembering the glory days, it all creates happiness.  In other words, try not to focus on life’s pains; it’s all a reminder that we have to ‘make’ our happiness, go out of our way to create it, or find things in life that we appreciate that makes us take full pleasure in life. Every time I hear that song ‘Keeps Me Alive’ My mind wanders to the thought ‘yeah, take full advantage of the life you have now’. Not only are the songs great, but his performances of the music always leaves you happy, in a better place.

Next Up El Born… there is too much to write here. They Start out with Kangaroo, I remember lead singer Si’ Connelly on his knees bent over playing some tender notes on the guitar; it may well have been his ‘Kargaroo Stance’, If you’ve ever been to an El Born gig, you soon discover that Si has many stances, power stance, mid-air stance, it all adds to the stunning effect of the performances. Well, Back to the Song Kangaroo, just when you’re getting into the soft mellowness of a tender softly strummed sweet tender rock ballad, BANG BANG BANG BANG, you get destroyed by a wave of nuclear powered, musical thunder as the tune moves from intro to main body.  You could almost see the audience bend backward in shock, some uninitiated newcomers looked stunned by this, I think it caught us all out. I saw one guy frantically stuffing tissue paper in his ears, poor man.  My face creased hard at the in your face raw unsuppressed emotional expression bursting off the stage. El born have the ability to take you from a delicate whisper to a totally body vibrating overload, your body seems to actually shudder as it happens, the sound was so big, and just when they were tapering off the song and you were stabilising, they burst into a more up-tempo rocking tune with a very catching rhythm ‘And it’s Still a Long Time; if your head isn’t bopping furiously to this rhythm then call your doctor ‘something is very wrong with you’ . It’s so loud that no one can hear me shouting f***, sh**, f*** f***, the only way I could express the emotions I was feeling, Si’ howls and screams his way through this song accompanied by Hils with high pitched vocals, it ends sharply and softly; and at the end of this song it’s insane mayhem from the frenzied crowed, no human can keep still after that. next was 1982, I turned to look at the audience, many in the audience were completely lost in the music, swaying slowly back and forth to the very slow heavy beat behind a double time waltz feel, people just swaying back and forth, and shouting praise every time the band hit us with a ‘stop time’ feel, where for a few beats everyone lays out, no one can hear the beat, but we all know exactly where it is, and we sway with precision as they pick up the beat again… perfect use of silence and space. You were filled with waves of emotion, screamed at you by Si, his guts pouring out, and all the other musicians were double bent and bopping furiously to each beat, it’s like some ritualistic witch doctor voodoo ceremony, acted out to put you in a trance to take you away from whatever it is you face in the world, it works 100%, you are overtaken, your face creases in disbelief, or your mouth becomes an open cave, gaping wide and expressionless. As for the band, not one bead of sweat is withheld, it all comes out, every drop, no energy is spared, it’s all given on the altar; and at the end of the song the crowd goes wild with howling. Next we are treated to his ‘new’ tune; Rivals… this tune is just too painful, the subject matter, it hurts, it really hurts. They are so confident that this tune will do well that Si announces that it ‘will’ be a classic, and who’s gonna argue with that? this tune has a badass chorus with Hils vamping out a penetrating organ riff, then the whole band ‘kills you with sound overload… kills you with emotional overload’ through complete utterly unabashed emotional unleashing, it’s almost scary… maybe it needs a health warning before each performance. During their performance of ‘You Made Me’, I was thinking, leave your kids and your grand parents at home, they’ll get damaged, they’ll be traumatised, this is too dangerous. This is not music for the faint hearted, and just when you think it’s loud enough they turn it up and you want to get on your knees and beg for mercy, because your body can’t take that hammering all night.  Next was Wonder Boy; again, it was like church for the non-religious, I kept hearing sanctifying chants and howls from the crowd, the same goes for the song ‘Now That It’s Over’; they start with a long organ and bass guitar intro, you half expect Reverend Jesse Jackson to walk up on the stage and talk fire and brimstone, but instead it’s Si’ crooning and shredding emotions again… and Drummer Mike Brazier beating the life out of you; it’s so shocking, you stop swaying, you stop moving, you’ve become the proverbial deer in headlights.  Thankfully, for the last song we are spared the sonic booms, with a duo on the tune ‘Got Miles Davis in My Head’, Si’ vocals and Hils on keys… this is about those times you want to give up on your passion, when it gets too much and you’re thinking is it worth it because it feels too hard; Thankfully for us El Born pushed through those hard times… Then just when you’re thinking I can relax into this haunting ballad now, Si ends the song giving you a heart attack by dropping the mic loudly on the floor and walks off stage, as if to say, ‘you have just witnessed El Born, and don’t you forget it’

Following hot on their heels was Paulaa. It is quite clear that Paulaa has her own distinct style, or maybe it’s me trying to label her…. I was in for a shock tonight… when I saw her at the Apres a couple of weeks ago, I ‘labelled’ her R&B, but today she shattered my imaginary pigeon-hole, and dragged us all over the place with surprise turns. With the tune ‘wish you were here’. It seemed to move from light pop ballad to heavy rock, to Funky R&B, to Heavy Rock, To R&B Ballad, and was totally full of energy. And the thing is, there was no thought of ‘oh she was just doing Rock, and now she’s doing R&B..’ it just melted into one seamlessly, totally authentic, perfectly crafted tune, to put a twist on your preconceived ideas about what music should be…. and it worked wonderfully.  Another song that got to me was called ‘Stole the Sun’…. correct me if I’m wrong another R&B type tune, but with a hypnotic sort of African drum rhythm carrying the tune along, putting a twist on the style. I recommend you check out her youtube channel music videos; Great music and videos, you will not be disappointed. (Are recommendations appropriate to a music blog??? anyway you can find the Link at the top of this page). Paulaa’s music is pretty ‘light’ when compared to El Born, I’m talking about the lyrical content of her tunes, but she gives her fair share of pain too…. with the song ‘Why?’ I was feeling pain, no the music wasn’t sub par, it’s just that the lyrics hurt, because they went into my heart and condemned me; thank you Paulaa.

The Irony of all this is that, the mixture of great music, with tough, raw, deep, painful lyrics, leaves me totally confused, I want to run away, but cannot because the music is so good…. in the end I stay and swallow my pride accept what pain I’ve caused and accept what is and what has been….. But after all of it…. you feel alive… and now 4 hours later, several of the tunes are still ringing in my head, after all, it was also balanced out by happy optimistic themes, a good all-round spelling out of life itself….. I feel lucky. I think Si Connelly said something like ‘stop saying sorry I missed the gig, I’ll come to the next one’… we don’t know the future.. Perhaps you might have lost the opportunity’…. if he’s right, then what an opportunity lost it was….

Thank you all who volunteered giving their time in putting on such a great event, you deserve a good rest now for all your hard work, especially you Lorraine  🙂


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