Considering that it’s one of London’s smallest venues, the Water Rats in King’s Cross rarely seems to get crowded in an uncomfortable way. Even with a bona fide member of The Wildhearts unveiling his new band, there was plenty of room at last night’s gig to swing (admittedly miniature) cats, which is doubly welcome when there’s socialising to be done. Old friends + cider = a good night out before the band’s even played a note.
CJ and chums took to the stage at around 10.10pm, and I rued the moment I set foot outside my front door minus my earplugs. I’d forgotten just how loud the volume in the Water Rats can be, but I settled into it and, to my surprise, I didn’t go to bed last night to the sound of high-pitched whistling. I’m sure that a doctor will pop up any moment and tell me that this means my hearing is now completely shot (I think that last word might be a typo), but right now I’m not complaining.
CJ, by his own admission, is more of a popster these days than a hard rocker, and the songs he’s playing hark back to his Honeycrack days. Though they don’t have the grand, widescreen sheen that is Willie Dowling’s stock in trade, tracks such as Could’ve Been Beautiful should appeal to anyone who enjoys the likes of Anyway or Go Away – the latter performed as an encore, alongside The Jellys’ Song For You (having swiped the setlist, I noticed that So Into You, presumably the Wildhearts song, was planned too).
Not all the songs hit the mark – I find Girl’s On Fire to be the weakest of the MySpace tracks, which made its inclusion as last night’s set opener a little baffling – and, as a friend remarked afterwards, the evening was light on surprise. But CJ’s stage presence and chatty, happy-go-lucky personality pushed the set forward and it was a fun 45 minutes. I was especially tickled by his description of the previous night’s Blackpool show, where the audience was sparse but apparently “a nice man”.