Venue: Camden, Electric Ballroom
Date: 4 November 2023
"The first thing that strikes me about tonight’s performance is the intense level of energy being generated onstage. These may be men in their fifties, but you would never think it by looking at them."
I have travelled to the Electric Ballroom in Camden to celebrate thirty years of Terrorvision. A band as quintessentially English as Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm, Blackadder, and The Young Ones. Wearing their heritage like a badge of honour, these Yorkshiremen have created a brand that reaches far around the world. Musically they have all the classic components that a good Rock & Roll band should have. A loud and brash guitar player, a thunderous rhythm section, and a charismatic frontman. A clever use of fashion and cinematography has helped them create a strong visual image which has always kept them one step ahead of their contemporaries. But for me it’s very unique songwriting approach that separates them from all other bands. They have an incredible talent for blending different genres together and creating something original in the process. Whether it’s Pop, Punk, Funk, Metal, Rockabilly, Soul, Jazz, or Country & Western, absolutely nothing is off limits. But their music never sounds like anyone else and it always sounds like them.
So, onto the show. It only takes one look at the audience to see this is a band that appeals to different generations. Older and younger fans stand side by side in equal measure. As the group takes to the stage they are welcomed with an enormous outpouring of love. The opening salvo and instant crowd pleaser is a ferocious version of ‘Discotheque Wreck’, a song taken from their 1994 breakthrough album ‘How To Make Friends And Influence People’.
The first thing that strikes me about tonight’s performance is the intense level of energy being generated onstage. These may be men in their fifties, but you would never think it by looking at them. Bassist Leigh Marklew is built like a triathlon athlete and looks considerably fitter than he did thirty years ago. Guitarist Mark Yates, armed with his ubiquitous Gibson Les Paul, tears out the opening riff with all the enthusiasm of a teenager playing his first gig. But it’s vocalist Tony Wright who is the most effervescent. He hits the stage like a fully charged Duracell bunny, resplendent in a pink tailor-made suit that makes it hard for you to take your eyes off him. Chris Bussey is a powerhouse drummer who not only replicates Ian “Shutty” Shuttleworth’s original parts, he also brings them up to date with dynamic precision. The line-up is completed by Milton Evans on keyboards who brings a different dimension to the band I first encountered way back when.
The blistering opener is followed by ‘New Policy One’ from the band’s 1993 debut album ‘Formaldehyde’ and is closely followed by the rifftastic ‘Stop The Bus’. For some of us it feels like we have been magically transported back to the nineties to relive our youth. For many others in attendance this is their youth. A true testament to the timeless durability of the band’s music. It’s at this point in the set that the brass section made up of Nick Hughes & Liz Mitchell are welcomed onto the stage. Throughout the evening they either perform together or individually on cherry picked songs. The first brass featured number is ‘American TV’, a supercharged blend of Funk, Metal and Rap. This is closely followed by ‘Tequila’, the first song taken from their fourth album, the brilliantly titled ‘Shaving Peaches’. I was quite surprised when they chose to play their biggest hit so early on in the set. A song of this stature is normally reserved for the encores. But I had no need to worry, they knew exactly what they were doing. The 1999 smash merely served to raise the euphoria level to a new high.
A band doesn’t have a thirty-year career if they are not capable of moments of genius, and for me ‘Alice What’s The Matter?’, is one of those glorious moments. I love this song. Always have and always will. I even got to play it with them once on a very drunken night in Glasgow many years ago. It opens with a hypnotic guitar riff which is interlaced with an intriguing lyric. You find yourself being deceptively lured in before being physically assaulted by the sheer power of the first verse. The arrangement twists and turns before building to a climatic finish. I have been listening to this song for almost thirty years and still have no idea what it’s about, but I find myself singing along to every word. This could have easily been the final song of the night but there was still much more to come.
After such a blood pumping opening five songs there was a natural need to calm things down a little. ‘Some People Say’ for me is one of the band’s greatest song writing moments. The dramatic chord progression that gives Wright the platform to bear his heart and soul and deliver a truly impassioned vocal performance. The darker side of the band’s writing in showcased in ‘Jason’, a song that starts with a sinister undertone before erupting into full on guitar carnage. In Yates they have a player who doesn’t feel the need to sound or emulate anyone else. He simply encompasses music as a whole and puts his own personality into everything he plays. He also brings a huge amount of style and charisma to the stage. Whether it be the clothes he wears or his choice of guitar, it all fits with his movie star persona. Nothing epitomised this more than ‘Fists Of Fury’ which is taken from the band’s fifth album ‘Good To Go’. The Rock & Roll cowboy opening riff sets up a Country & Western, four on the floor mash up which gets everybody dancing again.
I will be honest, most of time I have absolutely no idea what Terrorvison are singing about. I don’t know who writes the lyrics, but they are certainly not following any tried and tested song writing manual. Which is probably the main reason why I like them so much. To my ears it sounds like an abstract, but poetic, stream of consciousness that could have a hundred different meanings to a hundred different people. I would say the following song ‘Three Wishes’ certainly falls into that category. Next up is ‘Celebrity Hit List’ the first from the band’s third album ‘Regular Street Survivors’, an obvious crowd pleaser that has everyone singing along. The very funky ‘Problem Solved’ contains more riffs in one song than some bands have on an entire album. This is one of the heavier songs of the evening and yet again displays the vastness of the band’s musical influences. The sophistication of ‘Easy’ is evidence of just how far their songwriting has developed over the years. I couldn’t decide if it sounded like the Beatles playing a Nirvana song or Nirvana playing a Beatles song, either way it was classic Terrorvision.
As they launch into a frenetic version of ‘If I Was You’ you can sense the band are about to go up a couple of gears. Marklew’s engagement with the audience never lets up for a second. His facial expressions alone should give him star billing. From start to finish he lives and breathes every beat of every bar. A man completely committed to his art. The melancholic chords of ‘Bad Actress’ ring out setting the mood for some Rock & Roll drama.
It would be wrong to single out any individual member of Terrorvision because they very much work as a unit, but in Tony Wright they have an extraordinarily unique front man. He doesn’t sing like anybody else, he certainly doesn’t move like anyone else, and when he speaks to the audience his words have an undiluted purity. All in all he comes across as someone with great integrity.
Opening with a guitar riff you’d expect to hear in a seventies crime drama, ‘Don’t Shoot My Dog’ is like listening to a Quentin Tarantino movie being squeezed into four-minute song. A composition that has Metal and Jazz sitting comfortably side by side. Not a particularly easy thing to do I hasten to add. Crowd favourite ‘Pretend Best Friend’ is a clear indicator to the audience that the build up to the big finish has just begun. The response to ‘My House’ is immediate and a mini mosh pit is formed at the front of the stage. Next comes the absolute classic ‘Middleman’. The audience is now singing at the top of their voices and for a brief nanosecond I wondered how they were going to follow such a monumental highlight. But the question was quickly answered as the opening chords of ‘Oblivion’ triggered mass hysteria. If I had to pick just two words to describe the atmosphere I would choose pure joy. Even the security guards were smiling. Next up is the sexually ambiguous ‘Josephine’. After four perfectly served aces the audience have been beaten into submission. If that wasn’t enough, they close the main set with the absolutely brilliant ‘D’Ya Wanna Go Faster’. Until tonight I wasn’t familiar with this song but very quickly it became one of my favourites. The band leave the stage to rapturous applause and everyone is beyond happy.
It wasn’t long until our heroes triumphantly return and lap up the well-deserved adulation. From this moment on they can do no wrong and I think the audience would have gone berserk no matter what they played. But the band are far from done. First encore is a barnstorming version of ‘This Drinking Will Kill Me’, a fantastic piece of songwriting by anyone’s standards and should be regarded as a timeless classic. The finale is the anthemic ‘Perseverance’ with the unlikely lyric of ‘Whales & Dolphins’ being sung by everyone at full voice. The brass section are back onstage. The audience is a sea of smiling faces, everyone singing and dancing, having the time of their lives. No one wanted the party to end.
I think it’s safe to say that in their thirty years Terrorvision have made a lot of friends and influenced millions of people.
Review & Photos: Myke Gray