I’m used to seeing Rob Galloway fronting The Yalla Yallas. A band that delivers an incendiary live performance with Galloway spending half the set leaping around delivering his passionate, furious vocals from somewhere in the crowd. Tonight he’s solo, playing an acoustic set, tied to his guitar, standing behind a mike stand playing songs I’ve only ever heard at roof raising rock n roll volume. Of course it’s different from seeing The Yalla Yallas but it’s still brilliant. Acoustic or electric, Galloway’s songs deliver raw emotion, anger and social commentary in spades. With just a guitar the vocals are easier to pick out, there’s no distractions to take your thoughts away “I wanna be somewhere, I wanna be nowhere, I wanna be in the middle of god-damn anywhere”. Superb stuff.
It’s safe to say that on any given gig night Westgarth Social Club is attended mainly by locals. Tonight is different. People have travelled from far and wide to witness a band that, in the late 80’s/early 90’s should have been massive. Reuniting earlier this year for a short run of Scottish shows to celebrate 30 years since the release of debut album, ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie have added more dates and, thanks to local promoter Dave Griffiths (Fast Forward), are here in Middlesbrough. Walking on stage to a heroes welcome original members frontman Martin Metcalf, guitarist John Duncan, Rona Scobie on keyboards, Finn Wilson on bass and Derek Kelly on drums together with Jim Brady on guitar (formally of The Rezillos) and Marie Claire White (of Seil Lien) on backing vocals quickly start up what will turn out to be one of the best gigs of 2019. Ripping through side one of ‘Good Deeds…’ in track order they go from strength to strength with the passing of each number. Soaring guitars, thunderous drums, Metcalf’s unmistakeable vocals – often menacing and foreboding, and the backing of Marie Claire White whose voice leaves us in little doubt that original member Shirley Manson will not be missed. Fan favourite ‘Goodwill City’ has the place bouncing. It’s hot, sweaty and intimate. There’s no barrier, just inches between crowd and band allowing the ever increasing energy to pass from one to the other and back. As things progress Metcalf, a striking, imposing figure in floppy top hat, black tailcoat, black trousers reaches out to those at the front, fist clenched, arms above their heads. Live Goodbye Mr Mackenzie deliver a huge sound, one that should be filling massive venues. Side two of ‘Good Deeds..’ isn’t played straight through. ‘Dust’ comes first, ‘You Generous Thing You’ and the ominous ‘Good Deeds’ itself –“I don’t want to hurt you but I know it’s bad. And sometimes it’s good to be bad”. This song also showcases White’s backing vocals perfectly. Then it’s a departure from the debut album as rattling drums and slicing guitars announce ‘Here Comes Deacon Brodie’. By this point the atmosphere down the front is electric and Metcalf, lost in the moment, joins the throng to belt out his vocals. The hard, angry, punk rock energy of ‘Normal Boy’ from 1993 album ‘Five’ almost blows the place apart before a return to ‘Good Deeds’ and it’s final two songs. ‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’ and ‘The Rattler’ have the whole place singing and dancing. There’s a real sense of joy. Few here tonight have come out to see a band they’d just heard about. These are fans. Not only that, they’re fans who, until earlier this year, never thought they’d get another chance to see this band after they split in 1995. The excitement, enjoyment and sheer appreciation is clear to see on faces at the front. Tonight there’s not a single second of disappointment.
The main set is over too quickly but the Mackenzie’s return to rapturous applause and hammer out the sonic noise of ‘Hard’ before closing a perfect evening with ‘Blacker Than Black’ and the gliding, spiralling guitars behind 1991 single ‘Now We Are Married’.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie were nothing less than superb.
The Yalla Yallas play Brudenell Social Club on 12th November with The Soap Girls and Logoz. They also play 3 Days Of punk in Morecombe, November 15th – 18th.
Rob Galloway has a solo show at The Piece Hall, Halifax on Wednesday 11th December.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie play:
- LONDON Dingwalls | Fri 8 Nov 2019
- CORBY | Sat 9 Nov 2019
- DUNFERMLINE P.J. Molloys | Fri 13 Dec 2019
- CUMBERNAULD Submarine Club | Sat 14 Dec 2019 @ 7:00 pm
- DUNDEE Beat Generator | Sun 15 Dec 2019 @ 7:00 pm
- GLASGOW Barrowland | Fri 20 Dec 2019 SOLD OUT
- EDINBURGH Liquid Rooms (with The Filthy Tongues) | Sun 29 Dec 2019
Words + Pictures: Steve White