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Walking Papers - THINK TANK?, Newcastle 15.09.2018

Walking Papers have quite a legacy behind them. Oiginally a studio project, the band revolved around two core members; Jeff Angell of The Missionary Position handling vocals, guitar and keys, and Barrett Martin, drummer from the legeandry group Screaming Trees. Supplementing the line up is Benjamin Anderson of Angell’s band on keys and some bloke called Duff McKagan of an upcoming band called Guns ‘n Roses on bass. Their self titled debut album back in 2012 with a follow up being released earlier this year, gaps between the two attributed to the band member’s schedules. The chance to see the band on a European tour is one to be grasped, even if the big name drummer and bassist are missing from this touring line up.

Think Tank is a small venue in Newcastle, more akin to the feel of a bar than anything else, and that really suits the aesthetic of a band of this nature. The Saturday night crowd that is drawn in tonight battle the usual Saturday night crowds of drunks as well as the travelling circus of “The Ladyboys of Bangcock” camped outside. Delays in soundchecks mean that we’re treated to some Rock and Pop being pumped from their PA while internally I’m starting to curse the lateness. Just as I’m about to start looking for the generator, the doors open and we’re shuffling in.

Local band Thieves Of Liberty have tonight’s opportunity to open and, to be honest, they seem to stick out a little. That's not to put them down, far from it. The band sound cool, grungy and rocky and have the chops. All band play their parts well and with confidence, Lidya’s vocals are particularly strong, but it somehow feels that the band don’t really get chance to warm up themselves until just before the end of their set. I’d like to see them elsewhere to see what they can really offer as tonight they seem too clean to fit in, not enough dirt under their fingernails or grit in their throat just yet. Give them some time, let them grow properly and let’s see what they come up with. I’m looking forward to keeping them on my radar.

PACESHIFTERS hail from the Netherlands and seem a better fit, they are the main tour support after all. Again there's another Grunge flavour to be had, but this time it’s more the original Grunge godfathers like Husker Du and Mudhoney than the post Nirvana glut. They’re powerful and loud, especially for a three piece band, all members also taking vocal duties at various parts of their songs. You even have drummer Jesper Albers managing to batter the living hell out of his drum kit whilst handling the main vocals for a cover of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. Seb Dokman is a blur of fuzzed guitar and curls whilst bassist Paul Dokam prowls the stage, his thunderbird bass punching the rhythm and holding the clatter together. They’re very European sounding, reminding me a lot of deUs from Belgium. I could have happily watched them for longer. I really hope they get chance to headline here soon.

Jazz airs over the PA as the stage is made ready for the headliners, and it really helps the atmosphere. The band have a genuine dive bar feel to them. You half expect to turn around and see Tom Waits sitting at the end of the bar chatting to Nick Cave while Charles Bukowski serves them shots of cheap whisky. An expanded band dressed all in black save the saxophonist’s hat open with ‘Already Dead’, opening track from their debut. It’s strong and melodic, setting the feel. Jeff stands, stick thin, hanging from his mic stand, reminding me of Primal Scream’s frontman Bobby Gillespie. But it’s there that the comparisons end. He’s got a great voice and the decision for him to focus purely on fronting the band this tour plays dividends. He dances like the music posesses him, often kicking his mic stand forward and catching it with his foot, stopping it from hitting the young woman standing in front of him (although it still makes me jump a few times when he does it). He’s definitely someone who’s practiced his craft well and it shows, he’s a genuine focus and draws you in. The rest of the band are no slouches either. Benjamin coaxes some beautiful melodies from his chiming keys, alternating between sweet and empassioned backing vocals, at some points a blur of flailing, jet black hair, while a young Mark Lanegan doppelgänger sits at the Perspex drums nailing the perfect rhythm for the songs.

The set is balanced perfectly bewteeen both of their albums, giving the generally more rockier WP2 a good airing and allowing the songs to get a good lease of life onstage. For me though, it’s some of the older slower paced material that really shine the brightest. ‘The Butcher’ and ‘Two Tickets And A Room’ particularly have me swaying in some hypnotic trance, the music channelling some dark, hidden voodoo inside of me.

It’s a real shame that an early curfew stops the band, allowing Jeff to pick the night’s closer (‘Every Man For Himself’ from him and Benjamin’s other band) with the reasoning of he got to it first. They are still all smiles as they finish as are the audience. The one thing I really odont get about the night though is the people who’ve stayed away because Mr Barrett and Mr McKagan aren’t playing as part of this tour, surely you should be going along because, you like the music and not because who the band are comprised of? I suppose it goes to show the fickle nature of some people. Never mind, at the end of the night it’s their loss not mine.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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