Thomas Gulseven
12:20 7th November 2007

There are plenty of outrageous outfits on show tonight, as you would well expect from a Halloween party headlined by psycho-billy specialists 80s matchbox - and it seems The Dirtys' lead singer has (quite definitely not on purpose) come as Mick Jagger, and I tell you what, it's a bloody good outfit. And impression. With pouting lips and a pretty spot on Jagger pose and hand claps, he shams his way through the rockrivalist's 20 minutes set. Tunes are a pretty standard stab at recreating some 70s garage rock, but not much more exciting than that - with the occasional punchy rhythm section, and Stooges style scratchy guitars there's just about enough to get heads nodding.

A hopskipandjump over to tonight’s second room to have a spy of London punk/blues three-piece Gin Palace tells a much more interesting story. Wonderfully slurred vocals are threateningly blasted at the tiny audience by singer Meaghan Wilkie in between occasional bursts on her megaphone over some explosive guitars from punk rockabilly giant Jon Free. There is an endearing sloppiness to the freefall rock’n’roll of the tunes on offer, with crashing drums, and rhythmically thumping verses that in places sound like they are fraying at the edges, but somehow retains a rock-solid backbone. Wilkie discards the sweet & innocent wig she has donned as her Halloween outfit, and ups the onstage madness as Free wields his mightily distorted blues axe furiously throughout a whirlwind of a blue/rock set that has a lucky few tapping toes emphatically.  

Never the shy and retiring types, you'd expect The Eighties Matchbox to make some kind of effort for Halloween. And that they do, all decked out in bastardised Santa suits, smothered in fake blood and gallons of eyeliner, it well and truly is the nightmare before Christmas. Tonight's gig is certainly one of two halves; Brighton's finest fly into a 20 minute set lifted largely from newer material from recent EP releases, and the even newer 'A Man For All Seasons'. The new stuff all seems to be following the "if it aint broke, then why fix it" mentality, all sticking to echoy, eerie tom-heavy beat and Guy’s soaring vocals throughout. Becoming quite a live mainstay of late, ‘Love Turns To Hate’ combines a chanted, thumping verse with an emotively wailed chorus for a real set highlight. Mr. McKnight is on typically top form, throwing himself into the crowd at any given opportunity, staring viciously into the distance like a rock-god possessed. It’s not long before the Santa suits become too much and the band strip off and revert to a more ‘traditional’ TEMBD get up of, well, just black  (save guitarist Rich, who sports a dainty women’s negligee and red thong tonight; sassy).

The lads squeeze in a quick throwback to 2004’s The Royal Society with the banging ‘Mister Mental’, but it isn’t until the second half of tonight show that they really give the fans what they are after and let rip with a barrage of hits from debut ‘Horse Of The Dog’. ‘Psychosis Safari’, and ‘Celebrate’ are still as much a pleasure live now as they have been for the last 6 years, but one of the busiest tour schedules, and repeated performances of recycled tunes looks to be taking its toll on Guy, who looks less than riveted to be churning out these numbers; there is none of the onstage tomfoolerly that we get with the newer, more exciting numbers, as he pisses about with an umbrella rather than actually sing these old numbers. The lads wrap up with an encore of the raucously storming ‘Presidential Wave’ and classic ‘Fishfingers’, which are as familiar as ever, but based on the new material it’s the promise of a blinder of an upcoming album that really titillates this evening.