Nine Below Zero are back. They have been touring the UK for most of 2014 supporting The Stranglers and performing at a number of festivals all over Europe. They are now playing simply as themselves, and boy are they having fun.
For those of you who missed out on the hype (or those, who like me, happened to be in nappies at the time, not leather trousers) Nine below Zero are a classic British RnB band who made it big in the early 80s, and created a very loyal cult following from gigging in pubs and clubs across the UK.
They split up after a few years, but luckily for us reunited in the 90s and have steadily kept on gigging ever since. This is their biggest tour in a long, long time, and you can tell they’re relishing it.
So on the 19th November, off I went to see them at the O2 in Islington, and, although excited, didn’t quite know what to expect after so many years. The floor was full but not overcrowded, leaving us some good dancing space. ‘Don’t Point Your Finger at the Guitar Man’, an upbeat favourite from their second album opened the show, and within seconds the crowd was happily bobbing and dancing away. They followed with more classics, such as ‘True Love is A Crime’, ‘Three Times Enough’ and even ‘Johnnie Weekend’, a lesser-known tune that tells the story of a friend who disappears every weekend to go partying, but is always safe at home by Monday.
The frontman, Dennis Greaves, was pulling some great moves, namely a lot of energised air-fisting, and brought a huge amount of enthusiasm and smiles to the room. Mark Feltham, the harmonica player, is the Blues part of the band. He is quite literally like something straight out of the Blues Brothers, shades and all, and his playing was really quite incredible. He did a rendition of ‘Stormy Monday’, most famously played by T-Bone Walker back in the day, and his deep voice and lingering notes on the harmonica really pulled at the heartstrings.
The most touching thing about the concert however may have been the audience. It felt a little like walking into a private party: everyone there was in their 50s, there were a lot of bomber jackets and jeans around and nearly all the men had shaved heads with a lady on their arm. As far as I could tell, Mark Feltham recognised pretty much everyone. I even came across a pair of particularly big boned Italian men who were swearing at each other loudly at the bar, and who, for a moment, I thought might get into a serious fight. But, on closer inspection, it turned out they both just wanted to be the one offering the drink. The larger one backed down and cheerfully decided he’d pay for the next two.
They ended the evening with ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’, and to the crowd’s pleasure even bounced back for an encore.
A lot of the songs were a bit too punky for me, as I was hoping for a bit more Blues, but that’s just personal preference! If you’re any form of fan, I would definitely recommend going to see them, they are still alive and kickin’ years later, and between the guitar and the harmonica there are some pretty exciting music solos packed in there. It felt like what a reunion tour should really be about: an ode to the loyal fans and just some good old fashioned fun.