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Live Review: Viva Brother with 1, 2, 3 at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 26th July 2011

By on Monday, 1st August 2011 at 2:00 pm

Despite their recent unceremonious name change Viva Brother, those four lads from Slough will always be Brother in my mind. Doubtful that anyone else at Black Cat Backstage Tuesday night is as philosophical about this as I am: while it is not surprising that the band’s first show in Washington ever did not sell out (they’re just not well known enough here on this side of the pond), I don’t think anyone who bought a ticket was losing sleep over their name change. Stepping into the room, there was no question which band was playing. A huge tie-dye sign hung on the wall proclaiming “VIVA BROTHER”, with “ACID LOVE” (in reference to the band’s Web site, probably) taped hastily in orange neon Gaffa tape on the front of their black-faced drum kit.

The opening band was 1, 2, 3 from Pittsburgh. I don’t know why their soundcheck took so long, but their set was plagued with problems, the worst being their bass breaking in the middle of the set and the band deciding to cut their performance short. Oddly, from what I’ve read online, they’ve been pegged as a ‘70s psychedelic group, but it’s their more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll tunes that sounded better to me, because you could hear how tight as a band they were instrumentally. ‘Confetti’ has a simplistic, Beach Boys throwback sound going for it, and another song where they were just jamming like no-one’s business sounded great. The main riff in ‘Going Away Party’ sounds familiar (in a good way), I can’t think of the song that it makes me think of though. Shame their bass went when it did.

I was quite keen on seeing Viva Brother live, after our man on the street at the Great Escape, John, couldn’t get into Horatio’s in Brighton to see them because the place was rammed. (When I told guitarist Sam Jackson this, he deeply apologised. Now, how sweet is that?) One of the benefits of seeing a popular UK band in America is that if you act swiftly, you can catch them in smaller places just like Black Cat Backstage and are afforded the intimate experience that’s not likely to happen again in Britain.

This band is very good live. Much has been made of the trite lyrics: so what? Sometimes you need something with immediacy, which is what you get with Viva Brother live – Lee Newell’s raucous vocals, killer guitar riffs and lines, and pounding drum and bass. It’s all in your face. And it all sounds brilliant. Granted, the audience didn’t know most of the songs except for the singles and ‘Time Machine’, which they recently performed on late night programme Jimmy Kimmel Live (see ‘Darling Buds of May’ below). But considering that most people in America haven’t a clue who these four blokes from Slough are, the response they generated in a town (and in indeed, in a whole country) where they’re not at all well known, was pretty amazing. Nothing can really beat the finishing trifecta of ‘Darling Buds of May’, ‘New Year’s Day’ and ‘Time Machine’.


There are a lot of people who don’t like this band, for various reasons. I understand this, because I was pretty sceptical myself when NME started plugging them like mad. I heard a couple tracks here and there and decided they had promise. Now, after seeing them live, I am a believer. And I like this band. So before you judge, go see them live. You may need to eat your words.

More photos and set list behind the cut.
Continue reading Live Review: Viva Brother with 1, 2, 3 at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 26th July 2011


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