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The Underworld, Camden, London, England

May 23rd, 2014

Angelo Moore
Pic: Neil Arnold

How does one describe a Fishbone concert to anyone who has never seen such a spectacle? How does one even fit a seven-piece band onto such a small stage? Well, the answers lie in simply attending such an affair.

Californian rockers Fishbone are a sight to behold indeed – they saunter on stage beneath the red hot lights armed with trumpets, saxophones, bottles of beer and the more customary instruments such as keyboard, guitar, bass and drum kit, but this is no ordinary band. Combining funk, soul, ska, metal, and just about every musical style in-between, Fishbone bounce, strut, cavort, twist, buckle, leap, stage-dive, swivel, run, and in some cases (guitarist Rocky George) stand stock-still.

But as gigs go, there’s nothing quite like Fishbone – dripping sweat, they parade their gloriously happy tunes as if it was the last party before the end of the world. To a packed crowd – which appears to be as up for it as the band – they perform what appears to be hundreds of songs, all driven by John Norwood Fisher’s funky bass slaps and Angelo Moore’s bursts of sax. But Moore isn’t just the brass bandit; his vocals soar above the crowd and take on many forms – whether choppy raps, summery croons or venomous spits – all spouted through an interesting array of facial expressions.

To Moore’s side stands former Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George – with huge afro blotting out the light his gargantuan form looms over the crowd as he tickles the guitar strings effortlessly without moving a muscle. He’s joined by the semi-naked, sweat-soaked and diminutive Jay Armant, who – adorned in a Santana tattoo – makes up for in sound with his vocals and trombone what he lacks in size. To the left of Angelo Moore we have Walter A. Kibby II; adorned in shades and armed with small trumpet he’s as imposing as it gets in that jumpsuit, and backed by drummer John Steward and keyboardist Paul Hampton, Fishbone is a force to behold.

Rocky George
Pic: Neil Arnold

The songs come thick and fast as spasmodic ditties cradled in the arms of funk, ska and soul, all of which whip the crowd up into such frenzy that I wonder if anyone is going to get out alive! Of all these it’s ‘The Suffering’, ‘Everyday Sunshine’, the manic ‘Ma And Pa’ coupled with ‘Freddie’s Dead’, the simmering ‘Alcoholic’ and the zipping ‘Sunless Saturday’ which stay long in the ears. But there’s just so much zaniness going on as Moore plucks members of the audience out from the masses and stands them in the limelight to the numerous crowd-surfing attempts by Angelo and Armant, plus the striking presence of Moore’s giant-customised saxophones which he uses to blast the crowd with.

‘Crazy Glue’ skips into the room on a reggae tip, and Moore smirks, “I’m just crazy glue, just like crazy you” to a sea of bumping, nodding, jerking and bustling Camden maniacs, before ‘Whipper Snapper’ comes rushing in like a supped up cartoon country ditty. Our eyes are everywhere as the seven-piece combo break into the “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” frenzy of ‘Lyin’ Ass Bitch’ and the maniacal ‘Kung Fu Grip’.

No-one cares about the outside world as we drown ourselves amid such enigmatic strains, and with that the clock strikes 10:00pm and Fishbone are gone – leaving a trail of funk-injected perspiration in their wake.

Neil Arnold