Review: Jp, Chrissie and The Fairground Boys Live!

A Complex of Complexes and Perfect Perfections

Thank You For Ruling, New York City!

New York City

September 25th, 2010

Under the lavish bright lights of the Marquee that read ‘Irving Plaza’ small black letters meekly spell out the name of tonight’s act. ‘Jp, Chrissie and The Fairground Boys’ loads of New Yorkers walk by unawares of that exactly is going to happen tonight as they do every night.

‘Jp, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys?’  A women swimming, inebriated, in her own inebriation questions out-loud to herself. ‘Never heard of em”

And that’s the classic New York City anonymity coming in to play. It’s not unbelievable but, somewhat odd to think that Chrissie Hynde who has fronted one of the most enduring rock bands, The Pretenders, for over 30 years could be looked over so easily BUT, that starts the first major appeal of this band.

Fresh of the heels off a small tour playing just acoustic sets and the release of their first studio album ‘Fidelity!’ Jp Jones a Welsh born ‘Gypsy’, Chrissie Hynde and  lead Guitarist Patrick Murdoch are somewhat used to this grind with the songs at this point. Tonight, however, is going to be a new experience as NYC is going to be treated to the first performance with (most) of the band.

It should come to no surprise to anyone that this album is nothing less than amazing. Hynde who has put out consistently good work with the Pretenders and Jones who has been creating, writing and performing music for years have created a music child that can only be described as: ‘as close to perfection as humanely conceivable’.

If the mortal existence that human life exist in is an underling to a different world where the purest forms of every possible things exist, then ‘Fidelity’ is the skyline to the perfect city of music. It has everything one could ask for, great writing, great music, great voices and great production.

Jones/Hynde and the Fairground Boys pull no punches with this album, if its what they wanted to say they say it and do it in a way that you won’t forget. From Rockers to ballads to songs that simply fit into both and neither category, ‘Fidelity!’ is a revelation of the twilight that falls on a doomed relationship.

But enough of the obvious, with the technology today almost anyone could crank out a good sounding album, the real question is: Is it really them on the album, or when we hear them live are we going to hear something else? The test of any good band is how they sound live. Even if a studio album sounds horrific (which couldn’t be further from the truth about ‘Fidelity!’) the band could gel live and create a new life.

Anticipation over how ‘Fidelity!” would sound with an entire band was somewhat eased when the album was released. After hearing acoustic shows the album sounded perfect unplugged and an initial worry set in about how they would translate electrified but, it worked out better than one could have hoped for. Yet still, could they play live?

Marred by a dysfunctional Visa renewal system the Fairground boys were grounded overseas as Jones/Hynde and Murdoch carried the fight alone. Touring most in New York City during the acoustic sets there was something special about bringing the entire band to the City.

At show time NYC Finally got its first look at the entire band (minus 1) Patrick Murdoch on Lead Guitar, Vezio Bacci on Bass and Geoff Holroyde on Drums (Sam Swallow who plays Keys and attended the Housing Works show in NYC was absent for reasons unknown to me at the time of this post) took the stage with Jp Jones and Chrissie Hynde.

“Hello,” Hynde purred in her signature voice. “New York Fuckin’ City”

And then they proceeded to teach us a lesson.

Before I mentioned that people not knowing what was happening that night was part of the appeal of the band and by that I mean, the band is a secret almost. Its something that if you know about YOU KNOW what its all about (hopefully) this isn’t the Pretenders in any sort of fashion, this is a new endeavor that is amazingly genuine and crafty in itself and when other people are worried about their big box office tickets in row Z-21 at Madison Square Garden we’re standing five feet from one of the best acts out there today.

There isn’t any pretense with this band, they know already most of the audience has come to see Hynde and that the album may have been overlooked at this point, so they go into ‘sell mode’ they’re going to prove to us that this is an album YOU want and as a Bonus to those fans who have been digging the album since it was released on August 24th they opened with a song that’s not even on the album.

‘If You Were My Age’ says it all. Its ALL about that exact line. An album borne from the frustrations of the age difference between Jones and Hynde but, also of the mutual respect as artist, ‘Fidelity!’ broadcast the message of not being able to be together but, always being tied together. A Rocker that is already sorely missed from the album ‘If You Were My Age’ blast you into the world of the Fairground Boys and puts you on their roller-coaster/Carousel of mixed emotions and unabashed honesty.

The Band then started with the songs from the Album starting with their single: “If You Let Me”. No surprises here (unless you hadn’t heard the song before) Jones and Hynde musical conversation offers dueling ideas but, a want for the same thing (is your head hurting yet?) “If you don’t want to let me in, you better lock this door” Jones warns before Hynde coos in “Cause I’m not fine by myself are going to help me survive?”. It’s than kind of unique quality to their writing that really puts the listeners in awe of what they’re hearing. They could just as easily say: “I love you…you love me…this is hard. Let me in!”  and it’d be a fine song but, the way they play off one another shows, this isn’t just a collaborative act THESE two are somewhat one musical entity on stage.  They don’t take it too seriously either, the music isn’t meant to depress you into a state of endless rumination. Jones flubs up a lyric in the first line, catches himself and smiles through it giving Hynde a smiling nod as they understand each other. Its a fun scene.

‘Fairground Luck” follows, (a phrase that apparently sparked Jones’ and Hynde’s collaboration) a sensual ballad that crescendos into the chorus: “would you whisk me away, could you kiss these lips everyday? If I was down would you pick me up, throw me a little of that, ohh fairground luck”

The show really picks up from here on:

Jones and Hynde explain for the first time that they album is not meant to be taken literally at all points. “We didn’t really go to Australia” Hynde explains and the band begins ‘Australia’. A pop/ballad with enough heart to make a mass murderer reconsider his profession. It tells the story of when Hynde and Jones met, the two open up their verses respectively with: “Didn’t you come over and say Hi to me? I was propping up the bar on me own. Mostly guys like you say Goodbye to me and they never offer me a ride home”/ “I was too loaded to think you’d talk to me, but you’re obviously used to guys like that, when you said ‘no worries’ it came to me where you’re coming from and where you’re at.”

What struck me the most about this performance was just how amazing the band sounded, dare to say better than the studio version (which is impressive on its own) Geoff Holroyde pulls off a drum beat after the bridge that brings new dimensions to the song. Its suddenly no longer a song but, an experience. Jones and Hynde are letting you into their lives…honestly, openly and unapologetically.

The Jazzy Ballad: ‘Meanwhile’ follows, Vezio Bacci’s bass skills are a highlight. The opening notes between him Geoff and Patrick are so perfect that Jones and Hynde almost don’t have to be there and then of course they begin singing and it only gets better from there. Now I’m going to say this again listen to Bacci’s bass playing on the album and if you see them live listen for it…it’s there and its amazing.

Perfect Lover is next, quoted in EVERY article I’ve read about the band but, I won’t do it.

‘Courage’ follows that, Jones explains they hadn’t normally been doing this song (WHY?!) but, they were going to do it tonight. A psuedo-1970s R&B style song. Jones and Hynde show off how well they can sing. In the middle of the song professing: “They got it wrong when they said that we were done” they repeat over and over each time becoming more and more defiant as the music builds until it explodes and overflows like a tidal wave of emotions. Also for you guitar enthusiast Patrick Murdoch pulls off some of the best harmonics I’ve ever heard.

Jones’ solo song ‘Leave Me If You Must” comes next, he puts his guitar down and Hynde keeps hers, he takes his microphone and begins. Anyone use to Hynde’s writing can hear that even though Jones’ is singing it Hynde wrote it. Aside from the obvious lyrics that somewhat bad-mouth her (something Hynde does often about herself) “I couldn’t blame a man to leave a woman past her prime” there are these moments of unrivaled poetry: “I’m the spy who had his back turned hiding in a phone booth” and the Johnny Cash-esque quality of the song also lends to Hynde’s making but, it’s Jones’ deep semi-sexual growl (as he stands on stage with his shirt unbuttoned 3 buttons, his chest showing and a brush of hair peaks out) that pulls the song back as the music pushes it forward creating the sort of result one can only think to find in complex chemical reactions.

Misty Valleys a song Hynde explains is how she imagines Jones, her voice has never been in finer form. “Rockin’ the boat, we’re going nowhere, Drift and float We’re almost there’ Hynde coos in a falsetto that’s to die for.

Portabello Road – There’s no much I can say…This song rocks beyond belief. EVERY band members adds some kind of new besieging burst. Jones’ screams the condemnation of a place where only ‘stuck up muthafuckers’ would go to. in the Chorus they don’t warn but, demand: “don’t go down, don’t you go down Portabello!” Geoff, Vezio and Patrick then show you why THEY are the band and not some other folks. Holroyde doesn’t ever relent as he blast the drums, Bacci adds a pounding pulse with the slightest inclination of a fault and Murdoch, my word Murdoch crafts a solo that never seems to end but, always seems to get better and better and better.

It was then that I realized that something had happened, that this band wasn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon and also that the people closest to me were dead inside. So starstruck and stuck on Hynde that they forget to appreciate an amazing band. Portabello has fire behind it, the fire you see under a space shuttle or erupting from a volcano. Had the show been ended there I would have been fine. Pretenders or not THIS was among the best performance I’ve seen Hynde a part of and anyone who couldn’t appreciate the Fairground Boys last night, should have their hearts checked.

Your Fairground followed, slowing down the pace to be followed then by one of the most beautiful songs Hynde has ever sung. The title track ‘Fidelity’

A uniquely different song of the album Jones and Hynde explain they consider the album their child and since it was written in Cuba they gave it its name after Castro, as the song says: “Its life, we gotta little girl…Fidelity”

They ended the set with “You’re The One” another song not on the album. It continues the theme of the album. “You’re the one That I should’ve married, you’re the one that I should have carried” A nice rocking song to end the first set with.

They came back out for the encore and performed “Never Drink Again” my favorite song off the album, the Moby Grape song: “Murder in My Heart” and ended the show their Christmas song (Jones: “Its almost…well no it’s no where near christmas) “Christmas Soon”

All in all the show was amazing and anyone who has the chance would be a fool to not go see a band in top form perform top notch music together.

This isn’t it though, Jones and Hynde have good poker faces but, not that good. One could see easily that they’ve got more songs out there waiting to be put out.

Lets just hope we as fans are ready to experience the rawest form of perfection again.

Facebook.com/Raganork8

Twitter.com/KeithBcovington

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10 Responses to “Review: Jp, Chrissie and The Fairground Boys Live!”

  1. Nice post, thanks for share …

  2. Great review Keith, I truly LOVE the new band !

  3. Hey Keith, just a few points of interest.

    JP was never in Big Linda, as far as I know. He was in a band called Grace for several years with Sam Swallow and 3 other totally awesome guys. Patrick actually used to be in Grace, but left before they signed with EMI, I think. Grace broke up when EMI declined a second album, but their first album, Detours, is fantastic. You can get it on Amazon.co.uk (you have to go through the UK site because it’s not available here, but the ordering process is the exact same as it would be for the States). Go here for a listen: http://www.youtube.com/user/thisisgracemusic

    Also, the darling Sam Swallow joined up with Grace touring buddies The Hoosiers after Grace disbanded, so he plays keys for them these days. He’s not here in the States with The Fairground Boys because The Hoosiers are busy promoting their new release “The Illusion of Safety” which debuted in the top 10 over in the UK. It is AMAZING. I recommend it and anything The Hoosiers do wholeheartedly. Here is one of my favorite Sam clips; an acoustic performance of their huge hit “Goodbye Mr. A” with some killer Sam harmonies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6ZpT9YxcWo. Also, here’s a gorgeous cover of We Are Scientists’ “It’s a Hit” sung by Irwin (lead singer of The Hoosiers) and Sam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=furBDvi5HQY&feature=related

    I’m trying to find The Hoosiers Video Podcast where the Grace boys feature for you, but no luck just yet.

  4. Keith, my man– You are such a FABULOUS writer! So well written! Makes me re-live every moment of the show when I read this! Thank you so much for sharing! I hope you can get to another show very soon!
    Sorry about your after-show experience, but there will be a next-time, I promise! 🙂

  5. good review…it was like i was there…oh NOOO, I was there!!! Has a great time and JP was a gas!
    g

  6. Ray Jeske Says:

    Just saw their show last night in Chrissie’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It would have been hard to imagine before the show, that if Chrissie elected not to play any of her Pretenders standards that the show would not be somewhat of a disappointment. But nothing could have been further from the truth. I’m grateful that not one second was devoted to anything but the new material. The chemistry, the musicianship, the spiritual group marriage of this band, was more than deeply moving. Patrick Murdoch is an unbelievable player – his work on Portabello was stunning. A special treat was the guest appearance of Chrissie’s brother Terry – he of the legendary Ohio group “The Numbers Band” on sax, trading totally improv’d licks with Murdoch, whom he met only that moment, during the Moby Grape tune. Keith, we had the same experience in Akron. Hope they keep this tour in small, intimate – like the music – settings. It was magic.

    • Glad you enjoyed it!

      Terry came onstage?! Awesome, wish I had seen it.

      It’s not Pretenders at all, it’s its own amazing refreshingly new thing and I LOVE it

      Thanks for the Read and comment!

  7. Upstate Ellen Says:

    Great review. I was at the Troy, NY show last night, and it was fabulous!

  8. Keith, I agree with Elena – a very well written review that had me reliving the whole concert all over again! Thank you! Really hope this band continues to put out more music and that they will get some well-deserved airplay! I’m in the process of trying to convince the radio station I listen to up here to play their CD!

  9. jay elliott Says:

    did anybody pick up the flash keys after the shows who would be willing to run me off a copy of their show?
    thanks Jay

    erbcarter1@yahoo.com

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