– THE RUBY LOUNGE, MANCHESTER –
It’s a suspiciously warm evening on the eve of the so-called ‘Independence Day’. The storm, in every single sense, is dangerously approaching.
After a proper warm up courtesy of Proto Idiot and Nine Black Alps, Baby Lemonade comes full of love, with a very special guest star: Love’s original guitarist Johnny Echols. Big applause, please. This UK Summer Tour pays tribute to one-of-a-kind lead singer Arthur Lee, on the 10th anniversary of his sad passing.
The Syd Barrett song inspired Baby Lemonade are Rusty Squeezebox (guitar, vocals), Mike Randle (guitar), David Chapple (bass) and David ‘Daddy-O’ Green (drums). Don’t get it wrong though, they’re not a Love tribute band, as Echols clears up in a recent interview with Coventry Telegraph: “They don’t try to pretend they’re Love – they let everybody know that they are fans of the music who want to replicate it and do it justice.”
The crowd are mostly oldies and middle-aged fans. I wonder where the youths are. Are they at Glastonbury? Doing what?
Anyway, this flawless, easy-going band chooses ‘House Is Not A Motel’ for a glorious opening, although it’s a bit dull due to the poor quality of the sound. There will be a couple of songs before everything is properly adjusted. Thank God. Next songs ‘Can’t Explain’ and ‘You I’ll Be Following’ set a fine example of what true pop is really made of. Mind-bending melodies, wonderfully performed. Fresh, no rush, no unnecessary additives.
While performing the smoothy ‘Orange Skies’, Echols grins at the singer and nods. It certainly must be a bittersweet feeling, evoking Arthur Lee so honest and faithfully. Surely on purpose, he remains the whole show playing on the dark, no flashing lights for no ego. True rock legend.
‘Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale’ –the title is before the Twitter era, you see, gains a huge “Wow!” from the audience. Well deserved, no question. Fun fact: on one of the band’s setlists (I assume it’s guitarist Mike Randles’) this song has penned the telegraphic instructions “Drive-Delay-Boost”.
Sublime ‘Alone Again Or’, a classic ode to love… and loneliness begins. However, I think there’s no need for that artificial reverb on the mic as Rusty Squeezebox’s voice is simply wonderful by itself. An electrical discharge arrives with the hard-edged ‘Bummer In The Summer’, a rush of fuzz for ‘Live And Let Live’ and ‘The Daily Planet’, all of them hymns of the World-Heritage-Masterpiece that is Forever Changes. I do hope that Echols will soon achieve his goal of releasing the second part of this album, under the name Gethsemane.
Killer bass for ‘My Little Red Book’, hypnotic suggestion on ‘Your Mind And We Belong Together’, with its somewhat childish majesty and gorgeous final chaos. There’s a permanent nervous look on Echols’ face, as if he was a silent Peter Pan who is pretty conscious of his innocence.
By the time they play ‘The Red Telephone’, everybody at The Ruby Lounge certainly believes in magic and we all end singing to “Freedom!”. Singer tells us that we are running out of time, but there’s still room for B-Sides like ‘Laughing Stock’, the melancholic yet always reassuring ‘Robert Montgomery’ and the bluesy ‘Signed D.C’, with an admirably fit Echols both on guitar and vocals.
They say goodbye with a torrent of out-of-control power that are the insanely performed ‘Revelation’ and the weird gem ‘7 and 7 Is’.
Squeezebox asks a favour: “Spread the word because the music sucks right now!”. Wow, someone is getting overexcited… Although I must admit: I was born in the wrong decade. Bad timing!
Linked to the flower power movement, Love’s music seems so far from any kind of diluted or deadbeat pop. It’s so meaningful, so full of healing energy. Smooth guitars on pure poetry. It’s a thorny beautiful rose. They create music that certainly meant SOMETHING, in a time when music really mattered.
And now… I honestly can’t think of a better time to spread LOVE.