Gabby Young and Other Animals At The Tamesis Dock

Just whose boat are you on?

That’s the question Gabby Young tosses out to an exuberant crowd on board a barge in the middle of the Thames.

And whilst the legal ownership of this vessel come nautical venue probably lies with some savvy businessman, it’s no doubt who owns the joint tonight.

Before heading across the Atlantic for a mini US tour, Gabby Young And Other Animals played a secret gig at the Tamesis Dock.

Just to make sure us London folk didn’t feel like we missed the boat.

And, as you’ve no doubt picked up from the aquatic bent of this review, a converted Dutch barge moored somewhere between the bridges of Vauxhall and Westminster provided the backdrop for this show.

In spite all appearances to the contrary – my unkempt appearance, predilection for rum and unmistakable hallmarks of vitamin c deficiency – this was my first live music experience on open water.

And I may have been missing out.

Once you get the hang of standing at a jaunty angle and your sea legs kick in, there’s a peculiar otherness that comes from using a boat as a stage.

Quite apart from the flow motion of the Thames, with the hypnotic rhythm of the waves rocking to and fro outside, I found myself overly amused by the novelty of clocking iconic landmarks dotted around the landscape.

Of course, with Big Ben to the left of me and those jokers from Whitehall to the right, I was more than happy to be stuck in the middle with Gabby and her animal kin.

Her talented ensemble of musicians, dressed in their Victorian Sunday best with aquatic tattoos adorning their rosy cheeks, took to their marks first.

Before Gabby joined them in typically flamboyant apparel, topped off with a decorative starfish as some sort of seafaring tiara.

With the stage for the night consisting of little more than an oversized walkway flanked by a handful of booths below deck, and a balcony overlooking it all, the intimate feel of being amongst friends tonight is impossible to escape.

Fans can literally reach out and touch the band, a temptation I managed to resist all night.

After a few teething problems with a malfunctioning microphone, then megaphone, the group quickly got into the swing of things and make sure tonight feels like a party as much as anything else.

The livewire brass trio dominate their space on stage, constantly duelling amongst themselves and their animal friends, whilst Gabby takes turns at sparring with her entire collective; ensuring the theatre of this group isn’t simply confined to the clothes they wear.

The live set is largely drawn from their debut album, We’re All In This Together, which has been re-packaged and is to be re-released this month.

But there are also a couple of new tracks on show tonight.

Most notable amongst these is Horatio, which listeners are afforded an all too brief tease of on the album.

Schizophrenic in nature, it starts out as a mariachi influenced Spanish lament before switching musical direction and back again; stealing the show in the process.

As great as their music may be – and Gabby Young and Other Animals are a technically accomplished outfit – the lasting impression I have was of how much fun the gig was.

It’s nigh on impossible not to marvel all the way through the show; be it from the animals sheer joy de vivre of playing together, the faultless vocal performance from Gabby Young or the ensembles myriad antics on stage.

By the end of the night, my face actually hurt from all the smiling I’d done; it’s just so refreshing to witness a band put so much positive energy into what they create.

Rather than the plethora of depressing, uninspired dirge that proliferates our airwaves.

As you may have already twigged, I’ve no doubt whose boat I’m on.

And I’d strongly recommend you get on board too.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2010