Friday, October 20, 2006

The Automatic

This was a gig approached with a certain sense of trepidation. There is always a risk in seeing a band three times in as many months, in that they might bore the pants off of you. But kids grow up fast nowadays and boy have the Automatic grown up. Instead of strolling on to the stage, playing and wandering off again, they actually set out to entertain and to engage with their audience. Pennie has found his feet as master of ceremonies, bantering with his bandmates, dedictating songs and basically doing more than running about like a lunatic.

Needless to say, the crowd respond to this new found confidence. One verse in to second number 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled' we have the first crowd surfer; by the end of third song 'Raoul' they are being thrown at the security guards. And how confident must a band be to toss their biggest hit casually into the middle of the set? 'Monster' - tonight dedicated to the closure-threatened Astoria - now comes complete with animated backdrop and an audience singalong during the middle eight. In fact, the only low point of the evening is new number 'Time Equals Money', which frankly sounds messy and unfinished.

Pennie himself is different, too. Everyone goes to see The Automatic for the music and for the chance to see the maddest keyboard player since Rick Wakeman, but the old man of the band has reigned himself in. Yes, he still bounces around the stage like his ritalin just wore off, but no longer does he hurl himself at the crowd, no longer does he throttle himself with the mic lead and no longer does he spend the whole gig yelping like Thom Yorke being put through a mangle [please, God, please...]. In fact, the most astonishing thing about tonight is finding out that this guy can actually sing.

As the band reluctantly drag themselves away, curfewed off at the end of 'Recover', the only question is just how much better they will be after another month.


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