Mechanical Cabaret/Karel Fialka/Inertia/Global Citizen/Dead Heaven

Electrowerkz, London - 5 February 2011

"A thoughtful and touching gesture"

This evening was a special charity event from Flag Promotions in memory of Peter Gilbert – a long time friend and business partner of Flag’s Frank Drake. Oddly, Flag had another event happening on the other side of town on the same evening where current dharlings Nachtmahr were drawing a big crowd. Meanwhile, back here behind the Angel tube station, Flag had assembled a varied line up of friends old and new producing a welcoming mix. One of the headline acts was Greenhaus but in their ‘Mark 1’ techno days incarnation when Drake was a member. I’d have dearly loved to have seen that line up again, but once more, living outside old London town meant I had to bail before they appeared. Same goes for Spizz (aka SpizzEnergy). Nevertheless, what I was able to stick around for looked promising enough. However, the evening panned out very differently to how I expected. I was most looking forward to seeing Karel Fialka, Mechanical Cabaret and Global Citizen; and whilst Fialka lived up to expectations, both MC and GC failed to deliver. 

It was new name Dead Heaven that began the evening, and with no idea of what to expect. With their classic three-piece drums, guitar and bass line up, they acquitted themselves and came across well. Their rocky, chugging, guitars and punk/new wave characteristics would have made them ideal support to Gang of Four who I’d seen a couple of days before. Of their own material, the more Goth-tinged Safety Zone was, for me, the best of the set. An excellent cover of Gary Numan’s We Are So Fragile was ballsy and impressive.

In my mind, I’d linked Global Citizen’s sound vaguely with that of Attrition. Not completely you understand, and certainly not as accomplished. Still, as a huge admirer of Attrition that was praise enough. Only tonight things were not as I expected. Not once during their time on stage did I think of Attrition; moreover, despite the best theatrical endeavours of front man Rich, I simply couldn’t connect. The way-to-loud volume (it still being relatively early in the evening the venue was still pretty empty) was immediately off-putting and the sound was stodgy too making almost impossible to discern individual instruments. The last song performed was new single Early Morning Star (saucy video available on You Tube) but, to be honest, by then it had all blurred into one disappointing noise.

Scene stalwarts Inertia followed. I barely recognised the newly lithe version of Alexys B who looks even more cute than before. Front man Reza Udhin was also defying time - looking the same as ever. Quiff still firmly in place, and stage energy both present and correct. In fact, both looked in rude health and given that they've not long released their ninth studio album Deworlded having been at it for the past 19 years, they must be doing something right. Though they’re clearly not making a great deal of money out of it (evidence of this can be found in the appeal on their website for donations from fans to fund flights for a US tour with Attrition!). In spite of such mundane challenges they at least seem to still be enjoying their evening jobs. They’ve moved on a bit since I last saw them and the newer stuff I was really liking. The present sound is more diverse than that of old and the slow numbers included a good new track the title of which eludes me. Better still was Anticulture – a terrific example of the current sound and showcases a niche that really needs further exploitation by them and exploration by me.

Representing the ‘nothing to prove’ generation, 80s cult hero Karel Fialka (photo: right) began his all-too-short 30 minutes by performing This City a song he has never played live before. The rest of the set continued in a similar minimalist vein – his keyboard and a live drummer the only live instrumentation. That’s not to say however that there was much reliance on backing tracks. Fire Dancing was just that keyboard, those drums, and Fialka’s incomparable voice emerging from beneath the trademark beret pitched low onto his face. The whole thing coming across like some John Foxxian rhumba. In his typically nonchalant, no need-to-impress way he casually introduced 'Dean' for the next number who showcased his digital dexterity on the keyboard whilst Fialka concentrated on the vocals alone for a change. The mooching bassline backing suited the track title Rough and Ready. The more I see him the more I like and admire Fialka. A genuine artist who’s so laid back he’s almost horizontal. What’s more, he’s a lovely bloke – he sat down next to me before his set and we casually chatted away – never having met before.

These half-hour sets were flying past. Mechanical Cabaret’s main man Roi Robertson briefly joined Inertia on stage earlier for the last song of their set – their recent cover of Johnny Remember Me – upon which Robertson guests vocals. It was pretty obvious from that contribution that our Roi had consumed a few more beers than usual and was a bit the worse the wear for it. Just how pissed he was only became clear when his own set started. As has happened for as long as mankind has been creative, an artist’s art suffered immeasurably due to excessive indulgence. We all have our off days, but the problem when you’re on stage is you run a fine line between rock star forgiveness and disrespect for your audience and fans. Then, in that perfect shit-storm way, their technology began to falter leading to fractious exchanges between Roi and his synth guru Steve Bellamy. They were collapsing on stage before our very eyes. It was an unpleasant sight to behold and I reluctantly turned my back and left before the set ended. Roi may have just gotten away with it to night, but repeat such performances could be fatal in such a competitive market.

Nevertheless, it was, as they say, all in a good cause and for cha-ri-dee. It was also a very thoughtful and touching gesture by Flag's Frank Drake on pulling together such a tribute to his much-missed friend Peter Gilbert. 7/10 

Rob Dyer