El Presidente / The Upper Room - Manchester Roadhouse - 8.6.05

Bizarrely enough El Presidente have been whoring themselves out to Top Of The Pops Saturday and the loutish crowds of Oasis and Kasabian. It's almost as if the label have a "play for anyone and we'll see what sticks" policy, but with the venue less than half full you can't help but feel the pop dream has gone wrong somewhere along the way.

This, their fifth show in Manchester in 2 months, is the first time Designer Magazine has seen the band deliver a full blown headline set and the words "Oh what a feeling, Oh what a night" spring to mind. Splicing the glam rock of T-Rex, the harmonies of The Beach Boys, the funk of Prince and a jukebox of classic soul records, El Presidente deliver a perfect pop review. "Hanging Around" is Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" covered by Beck with guitar riffs wring out of the guitar by axe man Johnny McGlynn.

Everything about El Presidente is about a competitive streak which powers the band to greater heights. Dante spins and grooves like Jackie Wilson, McGlynn believes he's Hendrix with effortless grace and the rest of the band seem to have fallen from space perfectly formed for pop.

"Can't See You" is a re-write of "The Things That You Do To Me" with interpolations of "Oh What A Night". "Without You", a falsetto driven stomper, looks set to rise up the chart and cement their place after "Rocket" and "100 MPH", but it's "Turn This Thing Around" which will really take over the airwaves and be their smash hit.

With the right choice of support slot, maybe Texas or Brian Wilson, El Presidente will breakthrough to the mainstream they truly deserve.

Alex McCann
Backstage Photo: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com

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El Presidente / The Upper Room - The Mill Preston - 10.6.05

The Upper Room have supported Easyworld and The Electric Soft Parade previously. This four piece from Brighton are at a surprisingly quiet, almost deserted venue. Where is everyone? The headliners have supported Oasis and Kasabian, it's a Friday night, yet it's a poor turn out. Not to worry, it's our gain and everyone else's loss. The people who have bothered to turn up will not be at all disappointed.

Clive Owen lookalike, Morrissey soundalike Alex Miller like the rest of his band mates sure love the fey, sensitive indie influences and wear them like a medal of approval. The Marresque guitar of James Pattinson reminds you even more of the Smiths, but without the charisma or excitement that band generated. The songs are full of drama, kitchen sink realism and emotional gravitas, quite an achievement when you consider The Upper Room look so young, you're wondering if they've even started shaving yet.

Although they've yet to release a single there's enough quality material performed to merit a first rate EP or mini-album. "All Over This Town" is the best song Gene never wrote while ballad "Once For Me" is Keane with guitars. On "Combination" young Alex straps a guitar to his dainty fram to prove he can play just as well as he can sing. It's an original sounding tune which pays tribute to his record collection, but doesn't hinder the pathos and beauty of the lyrics and music.

(Pic: The Upper Room)

Did you know that El Presidente's lead singer Dante used to be in Gun? (remember their Cameo cover "Word Up" which made them one hit wonders after a lengthy career) Even more intriguing is M People's Mike Pickering is their A&R man. It's the sort of tale you couldn't make up.

Wearing a pimp suit so loud even Huggy Bear would dismiss it as perhaps being too outrageous, our Scottish frontman is also sporting a groovy hate and a goatee beard. He looks the part of a rock star, all glamour and glitz, not unlike his exotic oriental drummer (all poise and grace) and foxy chick of a keyboard player who purrs like a 60s french sex kitten. So we're all agree that El Presidente look tastier than a gourmet meal, but can they cook up a sound so delicious you're begging for a second helping. You betcha they can!!!

New single "Without You" is funkier than Prince jamming James Brown jamming assisted by Bootsy Collins on bass. Dante's vocal is cooler and much more relaxed than so called purveyor of style Huey from The Fun Lovin Criminals. With his John McGlynn, a groover and a mover on guitar. "Turn This Thing Around" is a modern soul classic, a flirtatious duet with the keyboard player. "Rocket" is glam rock as it's, well most glamorous, with an absolutely blinding arrangement. When you finally catch your breath you're blown away yet again with T-Rexstacy in the form of "100 MPH" which ends a faultless set.

You could be pedantic and quibble about the lack of audience participation, but the sheer magnitude of their music is enough to elect these Presidents for as long as they desire. They sure get my vote

Words: Nicholas Paul Godkin
Live Photos: Drew Harrison (drewharrison3@hotmail.com)


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