The Schizophonics’ Soul Revue With The Magnificent And Veronica Bianqui At The Echo, Friday April 6th 2018
I had already experienced the madness of a Schizophonics’ live show a few times, but on Friday night, they had decided to try something a bit different, they went for the full soul review, old school style, although the craziness was still real, as frontman Pat Beers has a unique and incredible stage energy, something totally out-of-the-ordinary, which tends to exorcize all the demons of rock ‘n’ roll in one amazing frantic number.
The entire evening sounded retro, but that obviously shouldn’t be taken as a negative thing, and it all started with the sweet garage pop songs of Veronica Bianqui and her glittering chic black dress. She composes bright pop, with many layers and emotive vocals shining above the shimmering guitars. Plus, her songs are catchy, and I am not saying this because I have seen her a few times, it’s very easy to like Veronica at the first sight and listen, she puts on a joyous and uplifting show, with buoyant arrangements, a horn section and soaring voices, as she always has back up singers to add another layers to her cute vocals. She did her very upbeat song ‘Victim’, whose hooky and sunny chorus actually reveals a liberating move from darkness, and after the stripped-down jazzy ‘Sunday Cups’ with horns, she once again embraced her ’60s girl-group core with ‘If Love’s a Gun, I’m Better Off Dead’ and its very catchy doo-wop-y grooves filled with vintage R&B horns, ending with cuteness overload during her romantic song about Paris. Charming is a word that necessarily comes to mind to describe Veronica, whose music always puts a large smile on everyone’s face.
The Magnificent were following, and at a time where supergroups are the rage, they are what I would call a supergroup, with many people on stage and even 2 Go-Go dancers: Moana Santana and Diane Christensen of Lucha va Voom. The band was composed of veterans of the LA rock scene, such as Mighty Manfred of the Woggles and Nathan Long of MI6 on lead vocals, while Kent Holmes of the Brutalists was on lead guitar, SL “Duck” Duff of the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs on bass guitar, Erik Szabo of Park Bench Prophets on organ and piano, Todd Westover of the BellRays on drums, Joe Jennings of JJ & the Real Jerks/ Legendary Swagger on tenor saxophone and Geoff Yeaton of the Legendary Swagger/Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs on baritone and alto saxophone,… and with that many people on stage, you could already imagine the bombastic level of the music. The band has been rearranging rhythm and blues classics, with deep cut choice selections from the likes of Solomon Burke, Rex Garvin and Big Mama Thornton, and they played them with plenty of hand clapping, foot tapping, arms and legs in the air as if they were attending James Brown’s church in the Blues Brothers. It was a full soulful hour, a powerhouse of soul goodies you could dance to, while Mighty Manfred and Nathan Long were a crazy duo of frontmen, able to wake up the most reluctant crowd, although there was nobody asleep by then. They non-stop danced through their set, converting everyone to the gospel of R&B. Honestly, it could have been easy for them to play the hits and the well-known numbers, but they were not looking for that, instead they did Fisk Jubilee Singers’ ‘Wade in the Water’, Motown Chris Clark’s ‘Love’s Gone Bad’, The Knight Bros.’ Love (Can’t you Hear Me)’, Roger and the Gypsies’ ‘Pass the Hatchet’… and a few more, this kind of obscure gems that nobody play anymore. Nothing in their show sounded dusty nevertheless, they transformed the place, always moving, bringing a steamy chaos on stage, and dancing into a frenzy that even made them hold the mic stands high in the air. I suppose the Magnificent (without an s) is an homage to the magnificent soul of this music? They brought a stormy load of it, with a restless stomp and plenty of passion and joy in the execution.
Pat Beers, the Schizophonics frontman, is everything at once, James Brown and the Stooges, a wild rock ‘n’ roll soul constantly moving, leaping in the air, turning like a whirligig, doing the splits and miraculously bouncing back on his two feet in a fraction of second. Usually, he manages to play guitar at the same time, but this time he was the soul frontman, and doing an incredible number while singing, but never losing his breath. Beers did his astonishing acrobatics rock ‘n’ roll, although the music was different this time, it was a soul review, with Motown covers in the same vein than the Magnificent’s material, such as Bit A Sweet’s ‘Is It on Is It Off’, The Specials’ Do the Dog’, Moody and the Deltas’ ‘Everybody Come Clap’…
All the people in this unique group were frontman/woman of their own band in San Diego (where the Schizophonics are from), and they were forming a powerhouse of talent on stage, playing a stomper-kind-of show, with an energy going to the roof at each 360º loop or splits that Beers was making. I simply can’t comprehend such energy and, at this level of ferocious frenzy, the show could have turned into a sensational acrobatic number, if it were not for the spectacular horn section, Lety Beers’ impeccable drumming, the back-up singers and musicians that were composing this 11 piece Revue, and all the soul that Beers was bringing to the game. This was especially true during Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’, and James Brown’s ‘There Was A Time’… However, where Brown was only applying coolness to a funky moonwalk, when Brown was inventing each dance move known in this country, Beers was throwing himself on the dance floor, legs and arms first, sweating his way through the song with a bottomless energy: this guy does not have dance steps, he only flies, jumps, and leaps like a rubber band, finally landing on the shoulders of one of the saxophonists, drenched in sweat but still unstoppable … but nothing, no words, no photos can do justice to the level of insane energy unleashed during a Schizophonics show, and even though this was an unusual one for them, they just have to be witnessed in action to convert you into a believer.
Is It on Is It Off
Do the Dog
Everybody Come Clap
Boo Boo Song
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
There Was A Time
Please Please Please