11

It's not easy being weird!

This is the first time that I've been to The Fez in Reading, and I am impressed with the layout, and its laidback attitude, which includes sofas, and tables and chairs along one side. However, when The Crimea come onto the stage we see the drawback of this mellowness as the crowd remain quite unresponsive, and although clearly fans, they appear not too want to show their enthusiasm. Maybe this is because the crowd is a little older, or perhaps people remain more chilled in these parts!

Jumping straight into the bouncy and catchy tune from their new album, 'Secrets Of The Witching Hour', 'Loop A Loop' pretty much sums up The Crimea straight away with its intricate and tight music, scatty lyrics and singing from the majestically kooky, lead singer Davey Macmanus. When he sings out, 'She's all loop a loop', it's almost ironic as the Irish lead singer stumbles very close to the edge of insanity himself. But that's what we love about him!

'Good Vibrations' from their debut album, 'Tragedy Rocks', is always a good song and popular live, but the first thing that I notice is that the microphones of the other band members are not up loud enough which is a real shame. One of the band's strengths are the harmonies that are provided by both bassist Joe Udwin, and keyboardist Andrew Stafford. We have another new song, 'Man' before the brilliant, 'Baby Boom' which receives a big cheer, and has the great lines, "You can call me Fred Flintstone // Tarzan, king of the jungle // I guess I'm just a little prehistoric, pumpkin // Your place this afternoon // I guess you just weren't interested // In getting drunk, and trying to start a baby boom..." It's a song that has been around as a single for a couple of years before the debut album was officially released.

The Crimea are a band that don't move around the stage very much, and Davey Macmanus isn't one to get involved with speaking to the crowd at great lengths. Sometimes he comes across as a little embarrassed at being in the limelight, and does his best to hide behind the microphone stand. He is, however, totally charismatic in a pained artist kind of a way. At times he jumps around like a loon, swinging his acoustic guitar around like he's fending of beards of prey, whilst other times he stumbles around like a drunk, or holds out his shaking arms whilst between lyrics speaking to some invisible entity that is hovering above him; but each time he hits the notes and sings perfectly in his distinctive voice that jumps between controlled screams and gentle and almost soothing slow notes. They stroll through two more new ones, the catchy, 'Bombay Sapphire Coma' and the brilliant, 'Several Thousand Years Of Talking Nonsense', before they play another of their former singles, 'White Russian Galaxy' a song that they performed on Top Of The Pops.

Again the harmonies are missed slightly in, 'Gazillions Of Miniature Violins' although both Joe and Andrew are doing their best to sing as loud as possible. 'Light Brigade' is next which is two-and-a-half minutes of stomping fun, with the catchy line of, "We take no prisoners", that somehow just get lodged into your brain! Davey then stands almost lonely in the centre after counting down with guitarist Andy Norton, for, 'Requiem Aeturnam'. It's a slow tune of guitar and vocals that is dreamy and trippy all at once before the crowd almost explode at the band's signature tune, 'Lottery Winners On Acid'. Suddenly everyone is singing along and I feel compelled to join in with the lyrics as we all sing, "If she gets a black eye // I want a black eye // If she gets a splinter // I want a splinter too // If she gets arrested // I want arrested // If she goes trippin' // I go falling over!"

The band then down the instruments and walk off stage, and I'm wondering that with this crowd whether they will bother coming back out again! However with some enthusiastic clapping and a couple of whistles, The Crimea are obviously feeling generous and come back out to give us two more songs. The first one is a cover of that French song that is played on all of the adverts, I can't think for the life of me what it is called, or who it is by (and will therefore annoy me until the day I die!), and the last song has Davey speaking the longest sentence of the night with, "It's not easy being weird," which I thought was a confession, but turned out to be the extended title of the song, 'Weird' that has this as the lyrics. Davey uses this fuel his strange jerky movements as he thrusts around like he's having a fit, and this obviously rubs off on guitarist Andy Norton, as he too is jumping around, and even ends up in the crowd spinning around in a dizzy confused manner whilst fiddling around the fret with professional dexterity!

...And then the song ends, we get a salute from Davey and off the band go. Before they've even left the stage some 70's disco starts up which only bemuses, and then amuses Mr Macmanus somewhat! The gig wasn't as good as the one I saw them last March in Oxford, but they still play very well together, and this was a very tight performance. The new songs were well received, and half of the crowd admitted to downloading the new album for free from the band's website (go there now and get your copy: www.thecrimea.net), whilst we await the official release of the second album. The Crimea edge just that little bit closer to success with each gig, and they are truly something like you've never seen before!