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Review: 'Gene Loves Jezebel and Department S'
'Live at Islington Academy'   

-  Genre: 'Eighties' -  Release Date: '19.1.19.'

Our Rating:
This was my first gig for 2019 and was the first time I've seen Gene Loves Jezebel in just under 30 years, which considering I can only think of two other bands I might have seen more in the 1980's than them is quite surprising.

But then the last time I saw them at a very empty Camden Underworld in 1989 it felt as if all of the bands London fans had abandoned them for being too commercial or something. In the passing years they did indeed make it in the USA and at the same time had the sort of epic line-up problems that mean there are two versions of the band currently around each featuring a different one of the Aston twins as front man and only original member of the group.

Over the years I have tried to see them a couple of times at gigs that got cancelled due to poor ticket sales including one at the Astoria where I was due to be on-stage dancer with the support act until it got pulled a week before the gig when they still hadn't sold a 100 tickets sadly.

So this Line-up which is fronted by Jay Aston as the only member who was in the band the first time I saw them at The Lyceum in 1984 opening for John Cale and making him seem boring. But by the second time I saw them in 1984 Pete Rizzo had joined them on Bass and James Stevenson joined them about a year later in 85 making the core of the group tonight. As equally long term drummer Chris Bell wasn't on this tour although the event page said he was. I'm pretty sure Jay said it was someone else on the drums.

But before GLJ there were two other bands with line-up issues of various types first on were The Society who I only caught the last song of are a 6 piece who feature former members of Danse Society who are no longer allowed to have Danse in the name, the song I heard that I guess was called Come Inside was a cool Goth floor filler that had some good swirling guitars and some insistently repeated lyrics I wish I'd arrived even earlier than we did getting in at around 7.15.

It was then soon time to see Department S whose first singer Vaughn Toulouse sadly died a few years ago to be replaced by Eddie Roxy and this line-up has been playing great gigs for a while as this is the third time I've seen them in the last few years and they are well worth seeing. They came on after 3 different 60's film and TV theme tunes had played and launched into Kings Of The World with some spiky guitar from Phil Thompson as Eddie deadpans the wry lyrics.

With barely a pause they went into On My Own Again that is as good a song about another relationship ending as they come, a great howl of sadness that it's all gone wrong. They then list what I Want in a good spiky fashion with Pete Jones Bass rumbling at as Alan Galaxy really flies on the drums.

Then it was time for the band to rampage through Born To Lose that I always sort of mis-hear as a tribute to Vaughn To Lose on the chorus it's great fun and has lots of us singing along to this Heartbreakers classic. They then had us Turning Left Right at the sort of pace that will give us all a neck ache as Eddie throws a few shapes while singing.

They then got more political on what may be God Squad Saviour but was certainly the song that asks if you can Find Me A Cause Worth Dying For and exactly what would that be its angry and fighting against the injustice of war and warmongers which has to be a good thing.

Wonderful Day lightens the mood and is a brash punk anthem before they ask the eternal question Is Vic There? Which is of course the band's biggest hit and still sounds magnificent even if these days it is punkier than it once was as most of us sing along to it.

Surprisingly it wasn't the end of the set and they then did I Believe that kept up the pace nicely before closing the set with a great version of When All Is Said And All Is Done that just really confirmed how much fun they are live, it had a false ending or two as Eddie exited first and Phil and Pete thanked us before a long instrumental break with the chorus being repeated a good end to a great fun set.

Then after the break the DJ stopped playing about 5 minutes before Gene Loves Jezebel came on which made for a bit of a flat entrance for the band's first London gig in 10 years, but from the moment they opened with Twenty Killer Hurts it was clear they sounded exactly how I wanted them too and that Jay was not only still a Thin thing playing thin thing music but that his voice still sounded just as great as ever. Although the one thing I was having trouble with was the fact that Jay was wearing a plain white t-shirt which was a bit under-dressed.

Cry 4 U was the first new song of the set from the band's latest album Dance Underwater that was the result of a successful pledge campaign in 2017, thankfully it sounded just like the old material and fitted in really well as Jay threw all sorts of shapes in-between playing some acoustic guitar.

Then after Jay made a few Veganuary comments and told us the dietary choices of the band they did a great version of Cow that had lots of us dancing and singing along to it although unlike the old days it wasn't a big pit but more people dancing where they were stood watching from.

Then we had some thoughts about the Welsh weather on Sweet Sweet Rain that comes off one of the bands big American albums Heavenly Bodies and had some great swirling guitar from James Stevenson.

Jay then invited us all to Slimelight for the after-party before dedicating How Do You Say Goodbye (To Someone You Love) from the new album to Fabio who I believe was involved in running Slimelight, either way it was a slower and obviously sad and poignant song.

They kept things a little downbeat for a great version of one of the bands old single Heartache that still sounds great and had loads of us singing and dancing along to it. That was followed by another new song Flying that was the weakest song in the set it just didn't really cut through enough and it wasn't slow and tortured enough like Stephen one of the live classics they didn't play.

Jay told us that Josephina was about a woman in New York who as the lyrics suggest left him after a nights passion while he still slept in bed in New York and it sounded really good to finally hear it played live.

We then went back to a song written in Pete Rizzo's flat in Chapel Market about 100 yards from the Academy for a great version of Bruises one of my favourites for sure, that led us into Gorgeous which was one of the first singles that showed the bands more overtly pop side and of course it went down a storm as we all sang and danced to it.

Well of course after telling her how gorgeous she is after a while Suspicion sets it and damn it sounded spot on with some great moves from Jay and more of James Stevenson's ever cool and spot on guitar work.

Jay told us that Break The Chain was about drug addiction and I'm sure the lyrics are personal about what was going with the band in the USA in the early 90's, either way I really love the song and it was good get to hear it live finally.

They closed the set with Desire that was another great sing along full of yearning and it just sounded great. They had obviously done more than enough to deserve an encore.

They came back with just enough time for 2 more songs and went with another couple of old singles with Always A Flame sounding just great as we all sang along and then they finished with a storming version of Motion Of Love that let us all have one last dance before the 10.30 curfew in Late night London.

I'm so glad I finally got to see them again and that unlike a few previous attempts this tour didn't get cancelled and that a good few people showed up to see Gene Loves Jezebel back sounding how they should, here's hoping it isn't another 30 years before I see them again.
  author: simonovitch

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