Well, almost. They’ve just walked off stage after a mammoth two-hour set at the Luminaire in Kilburn, and the vacuum they’ve left behind them is huge – and very audible. A minute ago, the venue was ablaze in fiery red light, eardrum-whupping rock ‘n’ roll spraying off the stage and running down the walls.
See that mess on the floor? It may look like spilt beer, but it’s actually genuine Yayhoos sweat. Taste it, it’s real. According to legend, it has life-enhancing properties. I think, for once, legend is right.
Okay, let’s get the introductions out of the way – or, as the excellent 20-track sampler CD of solo work that preceded the band’s first album would have it, ‘The Yayhoos Are Coming… But Who The Fuck Are The Yayhoos?’. In alphabetical order, as it seems the only proper way to do this…
First up is Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel – guitarist, vocalist, writer, producer. As well as fronting his own band, The Roscoe Trio, Ambel has worked with some of rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest and best names over the years, including Steve Earle and Ryan Adams (he co-wrote the brilliant Monday Night, and played everything on it except for Ryan’s guitar parts). When it comes to credentials, Roscoe carries his in two wallets so as not to spill any.
Next up is Terry Anderson – guitarist, vocalist, drummer, writer. And not just any old writer either. When you’ve penned a song as legendary as Battleship Chains, you could perhaps be forgiven for giving up the whole band thing and spending the rest of your life busking it. You’d probably make a decent living off it, too. But, it would seem, that’s not the Terry Anderson way. And for that we should be thankful.
The Yayhoos’ most recognisable face is Dan Baird. Since leaving the Georgia Satellites in the early ’90s, he’s released five solo albums (including two live ones) and done a little producing and touring with other bands. The last seven years have seen him picking up his solo career again, as he’s toured in the UK and Europe, reminding us all just how this live rock ‘n’ roll thing should be done.
While Dan is the band’s star attraction, he doesn’t like being referred to as their frontman, and it’s not hard to understand why. After all, this is a band that likes to share. Lead vocals, instruments, the odd bit of ribbing – everything is unselfconsciously tossed back and forth between them, the friendship and camaraderie evident in pretty much everything they do.
Dan: “We don’t have a setlist; Terry and I just work it out between us.”
Keith: “That’s right, it’s all about Dan and Terry.”
The Yayhoos are a band with bags of personality – so many bags, in fact, that I’d be surprised if they weren’t hit with a mammoth bill for surplus luggage when they touched down in the UK.
But I’m getting sidetracked here. There’s still one player left to introduce. His name is Keith Christopher. He plays bass. And he sings. And he wears a cowboy hat, under which is a thick mane of light-brown hair. And he leans backwards, and forwards, just so.
In a nutshell, he’s one of the coolest darned bass players you ever did see. But he also plays guitar (while Roscoe plays drums, Terry grabs a guitar and Dan takes over on the bass) – and I don’t mean that he strums a few chords. When he straps on a Telecaster for a couple of Keef-esque tunes, including Over The Top, the weary/woozy ballad that closes the band’s latest album Put The Hammer Down, he suddenly turns into a bona fide six-string god.
How cool? Freezing.
The last (and first) time I saw The Yayhoos live, at the Borderline in 2002, I recall the set drawing on some of Dan and Roscoe’s back catalogues. This time round, with two albums in the can, the set is Yayhoos all the way – give or take the opening cover of NRBQ’s It Comes To Me Naturally, a Roscoe-led Always On My Mind and a crowd-pleasing Battleship Chains. (I’d include the three other covers if they hadn’t made them their own by recording them.)
When the time arrives for the band to strike up “the Swedish National Anthem” – or ABBA’s Dancing Queen, for anyone a bit slow on the uptake – the glitterball spinning above the stage isn’t willing to give more than its contractual obligations. Despite Terry and Keith doing their best to start it whizzing round, it continues to turn in a languid fashion.
No one likes a grumpy glitterball, but The Yahoos are darned if they’re going to let it poop the party. The smiles on the faces of Dan, Terry and, especially, Roscoe – who spends much of the gig looking like he can’t quite believe how much fun he’s having – are infectious to the point of needing antibiotics. Only Keith appears to have had his injections – or perhaps I just don’t notice his expression as much, as it’s either hiding underneath a hat or behind his lustrous locks.
The set seems to fly by, with two hours feeling like one – which is a blessing in as much as I start to need the toilet about 20 minutes in, but can’t bear to tear myself away from the stage front. Even if it wasn’t the final song of the night, I’d have still passed up the chance to take a leak during their B52s cover, despite it being a great opportunity to crack a gag about ‘piddling while Roam burns’. Perhaps I’ll save it for the review.
It’s not just a night to forget to empty your bladder, though – it’s a night to forget pretty much everything except your name. Check your worries in at the door, and try to sneak past them on the way out. When the band leave the stage, it feels like they’ve taken a stunning amount of energy with them. I almost want to chase it.
It’s said that nature abhors a vacuum, but I can’t see what it could possibly put in The Yayhoos’ place.