Lucero – The Cluny, Newcastle
26th November 2012
The two guitarists from support band The Rivals started the evening by facing their respective speakers and creating a cacophony of feedback, before whizzing through 8 Stranglers influenced, Nuggets era Garage-Punk songs in 25 minutes. Each song was played at 105mph with a gnarly guitar, industrial drumming and throbbing bass competing with the singer’s shouty vocals.
That said, The Rivals were a refreshing change from the usual foppish posturing that most local bands find so endearing these days and I actually enjoyed them; especially the anthemic This Town.
After a quick change of drum kits and looking like extras from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the 6 members of Lucero ambled on stage to an ear splitting roar from the sold out crowd and went on to cram as many songs from their 9 albums as possible into the set before an 11 o’clock curfew.
In many ways Lucero are very nearly the perfect bar band, combining, Rock, Country and even American Punk into every 3 or 4 minute song and the ruggedly handsome singer, Ben Nichols; who sound like his vocal chords have been rubbed down with a Brillo pad, looking like he can’t believe his luck to be up on stage fronting a set of very talented musicians. And they are talented; don’t let the posturing and bad tattoos fool you; these guys can really play and know how to build an industrial strength Alt-Country tune.
It took the very young and highly combustible audience 5 songs (Nights Like These) before the first one was hiked up to crowd surf and that was soon followed by some slightly comical moshing during Women and Work which lasted a further 10 minutes; but the crowd ran out of steam long before the band did!
I’m not aux fait with all of their work but a combination of my notes and Google tell me that Hey Darling (Do You Gamble?) and Hold Me Close were already firm fan favourites with collective fists punching the air as 100 or more shouted along with Nichols, who let his Rock persona slip a couple of times, as he sweetly smiled at the hero worship coming from the front few rows.
When the singer got to the line ‘Smoking cigarettes more than I should’ in Slow Dancing a youth right in front of the stage sparked up a doobie and blew the smoke directly up towards Nichols who eventually got the giggles and stopped mid song; to jokingly admonish the offender who was breaking several health and safety rules; then manfully finished the song.
This was the cue for a couple of others in the crowd to proffer up freshly rolled ‘cigarettes’ but thankfully the band members resisted.
During his introduction to Raising Hell Nichols asked if there were “any strippers in tonight?” A young blonde near the front screamed “Yes” and proceeded to bump and grind all the way through the song; much to the singers’ amusement (and the post-pubescent boys close by her).
Very aware of the impending curfew the band went through the charade of leaving the stage before immediately returning for an ‘encore’ and boy was it a good one!
Rick Steff who had been fantastic all night on the piano and keyboards, strapped on an accordion to accompany Nichols on a very intense version of The War which had the crowd swaying along and one way even held a lit lighter aloft.
Much to the crowd’s disappointment the 90 minute electric set ended with a heart stopping Bikeriders and the lights came on.
Lucero come across as Rock and Roll outlaws; living on the edge, with a Devil May Care attitude, but their songs are all carefully crafted with the pedal-steel and piano interplay as good as any Americana band I’ve seen in years, plus songs like Sixes and Sevens have the potential to be Alt-Country classics; but if that happened would they still be cool in the eyes of the tattooed, bobble-hat wearing youth of Newcastle?