Local woman Harry Jordan is the kind of person, you suspect who could cause trouble in an empty room. Certainly she has that demeanour about her. Surveying the stage here, she points out that: “Urban Voodoo have a lot of body parts, there’s an arm, a skull, all sorts…it’s like that under my patio….”Away from the persona there’s a hell of a voice and some mighty fine rockabilly tinged blues tunes. “Wild, Wild West” is as untamed as its title, “Magic Eight Ball” (“I am really bad at making decisions, so I let the ball decide – I woke up in a bath in Moseley, but I got a song out of it….” Is glorious fun, and her cover of “Hound Dog” – most certainly not the Elvis version, but influenced by Big Mama Thornton – is the perfect vehicle for Jordan’s, deep, rich tones. The perfect opener for UMV, in truth, she ends with what you suspect might be more than her mission statement, “Devil In A Push Up Bra” – and Harry Jordan lives up to the title superbly.
Right from the moment they march – quite literally – on to the stage in formation, to the moment the gig ends some 90 chaotic minutes later, there really is nothing to compare The Urban Voodoo Machine too.
If you want a handle on how strange their live experience is, then try this. Towards the end they play “Crazy Maria” and out of the corner of my eye, I spy the guitar tech dancing with a skeleton. And what is more, it isn’t remotely out-of-place.
Musically too, TUVM are a tough thing to explain. Part jazz, part blues, part punk even, but somehow nothing like any other band, it is far better, surely, to witness the total mastery of their craft that songs like “Down In A Hole” have.
“Fallen Brothers” – dedicated as ever to their late bandmates – is like Tom Waits playing in an oompah band, but they follow this up with the classic sounding shuffle of “Train Wreck Blues” as if to emphasise their two extremes.
And in frontman Paul-Ronney Angel they have a singer who suits the band. The emphasis with him is on a true performance. His style is one that finds the passion in the emotion in being in character. This is particularly prevalent in “Not With You” where it feels like a song is going to finally break out, rather than be at the forefront. Equally it adds an extra layer of tension when needed too, as on the brilliant “Baby’s Turning Blue”, and he is never less than compelling.
The show was originally slated for March, when it fell foul of the “Beast From The East” at least the gig now takes place against the backdrop of a new Best Of “15 Shots From…” and most of the set is made up of songs on that compilation. “Always Out” is gin soaked, “Orphan’s Lament” is thoroughly dark, and “While We Were Asleep” is pretty vicious political punk.
“Help Me Jesus” adds a hitherto untapped air of gospel – Angel considers a crowd surf here but thinks better of it (“its an exercise in trust and I don’t trust any of you fuckers….”) and instead settles in to a groove with trumpet Harrison “The Slayer” Cole”, who along with accordion player Slim is integral to everything they do – while the two drummers give everything a real primal edge.
The closing “Goodbye To Another Year” is elongated hugely with band intros, but then there’s a lot of them. More importantly, it serves as a reminder that The Urban Voodoo Machine do everything by a different rulebook and moreover, for the last 15 years, they have been very happy to exist in their own wonderfully strange world.