The Zutons - The Mill Preston - 19.8.05

This fine city i'm elate to be born and bred in has indeed been granted city status and the lamb symbol of Proud Preston has never been more relevant. Not only has Britney Spears named her unborn child after this Northern province, but the Mill is becoming an even greater venue at attracting some of the most exciting bands around at the moment. Only a few short weeks ago Idlewild performed a warm up gig in preparation for their tour with REM (witnessed, assessed and enjoyed by this very reviewer here). Continuing this theme The Zutons have picked the exact same venue as a warm up for the weekend jamboree that is The V Festival. Needless to say the Mill is much more intimate than venues like the Manchester Apollo and Brixton Academy which they've become accustomed to, but in a way it's like the Zutons are re-visiting the earlier part of their career. This band deserve all the success they've achieved and to avoid sounding like some cliché ridden journo are genuinely working class heroes for the 21st Century.

The cheering from the crowd is almost as loud as the music as the Zutons open with their outstanding bluesy, sleazy, funk fuelled outbreak of Zuton Fever, a classic cut from their debut album "Who Killed The Zutons?". What a brilliant start to the gig, an instant crowd pleasing, rabble rousing song which makes it nigh on impossible not to dance along to. Frontman Dave McCabe may look like an ordinary bloke but my goodness the minute he starts singing the Liverpudlian lad is an enigma, the soulful, gravely vocal is obviously inspired by the R&B stylings of Cream (Ed: What a great f*cking name for a band), but his conviction and passionate delivery are pure and simply astonishing. Unorthodox and refreshingly unfashionable yet startlingly original. The Zutons are the only contemporary band I know of that have a full time saxophonist. Abbi Harding, a coquettish, petite musician who brings a femininity to the male counterpoints. She's a natural performer who adds jazz flavoured nuances to the soul funk music.

This is the third time i've seen the Zutons and every time this wondrous five piece never fail to charm me. They're tight, vibrant, lively and work amazingly together. "Pressure Point" is fiery, funky with a great vocal from Dave McCabe. Unsung guitar hero Boyan Chowdhury lays down the menacingly sinister riffs on "Dirty Dancehall" while the fans join in with the chorus.

The Zutons slow it down with "Confusion" but possible tracks from the next album are teasingly unveiled. "Hello Conscience" is an unashamedly rock onslaught, melodic, sax heavy but with a chorus you'll not forget in a hurry. After hit single "You Will You Won't" is dedicated to the people of Preston the band leave the stage and it's anyone's guess if The Zutons will return for the encore as it takes a while but thankfully the cheers beckon them back for a non album instrumental which takes Eastern influences, tribal drumming and melodica in a heady mix of Ozric Tentacles style jamming which takes their music to an even higher plane.

Warm up gigs are exciting and unpredictable, but also welcome. If the new songs are anything to go by, album number two is well worth waiting for.

Nicholas Paul Godkin


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