Black Country boys raise the roof at Birmingham’s O2 Academy
Whilst visiting the geographical heart of England, a friend suggested I hot-footed it to the O2 Academy to watch The Pagans – a local band they had discovered at the recent Musicians Against Homelessness ‘Royal Bedding Day’ event.
Playing at the album launch of Enemo J, a group who describe their own style as ‘SCREAMY SHOUTY RARRAR’, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really expecting it to be my thing, but in this game I’m always happy to be proved wrong, so thought I’d give it a go.
Despite The Pagans having the early opener slot, by the time I rocked up to the venue the queue was already pretty impressive; always a reassuring sight for reviewers and promoters alike. Taking to the stage the band introduced themselves, politely thanked everyone for coming and then proceeded to kick off with their first song of the night, ‘Cocky’. I’ve already said I wasn’t sure what to expect (except a lot of noise) but chuffin ‘eck, I was not mentally prepared for what was about to take place in front of my eyes. From the second the music started, they all visually transformed from unassuming, albeit quirky lads, into this poetic/rapping/prog rock powerhouse that literally blew my socks off in terms of raw talent, confidence and of course, loudness. The front man had a swagger Ian Brown would approve of, the pure energy, attitude and presence of an Ozzy/Dizzee/Biggie mash-up, with witty, clever and often cheeky lyrics that left us in no doubt he was obviously blessed in the trouser department.
One of their next offerings was ‘Trials and Tribulations’ and this was a definite highlight for me. With sermon-esque references to the Holy Ghost, the only way I can describe it is to imagine Reverend Brown from ‘Coming to America’ joining forces with Rage Against the Machine. Now let that thought truly sink in. Needless to say it was so animated and mesmerising that I had to stop myself shouting ‘Amen’ and doing that dramatic fainting thing people do whenever the preacher prays for them. Looking around the congregation I could see by the sea of smiling faces and bouncing bodies, that I was certainly not the only one enjoying the slightly surreal madness of it all.
It would be so easy to keep your eyes solely on the front man throughout the gig but that would be totally unfair to the rest of the boys, seeing as they provide the powerful explosion of noise so necessary to making it the unique group it is. The drummer was the instrumental lynchpin, focussed, unruffled and bangin’ in every sense of the word, whilst the bassist and guitarist skilfully played their parts by providing roaring chords and gnarly 70s fuzz sounds often associated with the likes of Black Sabbath and King Crimson. There were definitely influences of early Red Hot Chilli Peppers dotted throughout the set too.
Closing with the anthemic ‘The Pagans are Alive’, I was left with no doubt these lads were something a bit special. Not only were they constantly entertaining to watch, but they managed to do what so many bands are unable to and blur the lines between genres. In fact, there are not many other acts I can think of that would be equally well received at the House Party at Kendal Calling as they would at Download.
The Pagans are well and truly alive – watch out Noddy, I think there might be some new Black Country legends in town bab.