100 Club – December 13th
“Do you remember the Eighties? Did you have a good time? Of course you didn’t – the Eighties were fucking awful.” Although retrospection hung heavy in the air of the 100 Club on Saturday, it wasn’t strictly rose-tinted. Wreckless Eric, lo-fi antihero, 37 years on the margins of the biz, was asserting that he penned his finest material after his early fame had passed. And judging by the night’s delve into his uncharted back catalogue – recently revived by Fire Records – it’s a claim that carries weight.
Backed by a raw, no-frills four-piece starring his wife, Amy Rigby on guitar, keys and backing vox, the 60-year-old Sussex-boy-gone-stateside wore a decorative cowboy shirt and a necklace of fairy lights that winked behind the hulking columns of this famous old basement. Many of the mostly middle-aged crowd had been coming here since the punk wars, you suspect, and would have been familiar with a chunk of Eric’s kitchen-sink canon, as he tore into the garage-band rhythm-and-blues of ‘The Downside of Being A Fuckup’, ‘Joe Meek’ and ‘Haunted House’; melodies punctuated by passages of swirling monodrone and elevated by the reedy clarity of Eric’s transatlantic-estuary accent, which cut through the unwieldy fuzz like a splinter through skin, rendering audible his tales of suburban schadenfreude.
‘Kilburn Lane’ a punkish picture of old London grim, all piss-stinking pubs and low-rent agro, climaxed in an outburst of distortion, before further depictions of place transported us on layers of wistful beat-folk from “A Rainy Afternoon in Paris” to a “Cold Winter’s Day in Shoreham Bay”. Amy was at it too, bringing her own melancholic nostalgia to the mic for the fine country-rock ode, ‘The Summer of My Wasted Youth’. Eric addressed the consequences of a lifetime’s devotion to songs free of pomp or posture, and thus a lifetime outside the mainstream, in a new track whose chorus ran: “If I’d Known Then What I Know Now… I’d Do It All Again”. A pub-rock knees-up singalong, this self-vindication might be up there with his best.
The past reconsidered, Eric turned to the singles – he wouldn’t have got away without playing the exceptional ‘Whole Wide World’, and this rendition was stirring. He returned for the encore in an ill-fitting santa outfit, delivering festive offering, ‘Christmas on the M62’, and underlining why he never got that Band Aid call with the line “Peace and Goodwill to all Mankind/Except for You, You Fucking Waste of Space” , before the twisty gallic nouveau-wave of ‘Reconnez Cherie’ – so pretty even sans accordion and sax – ended proceedings on a high. Given the Fire Records renaissance, and such love in the venue for this fella, it’s tempting to foresee some belated recognition for Wreckless Eric as a key player in British pop, as an essential acerbic troubadour of our everyday. He’d do his best to sabotage such accolades, of course.