The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday November 2
Two nights on from Alice Cooper’s Halloween Night Of Fear, another face-painted veteran of so-called “shock rock” brought his act to town. Now seventy years old, yet still best known for his 1968 chart-topper Fire, Arthur Brown’s performance style provided the blueprint that the likes of Cooper, Kiss and Marilyn Manson later adapted, while his unearthly falsetto screech set a pattern that innumerable heavy metal vocalists have since followed.
Backed by a feisty band who looked young enough to be his grandchildren, Brown made his entrance in a face mask, lifting it to reveal an impressive make-up job beneath. Presenting himself as the living embodiment of a truly free spirit, his energies and vocal prowess undimmed by the passing of the years, he launched into a typically theatrical, hugely entertaining set, which ran the gamut from progressive rock to cabaret and blues, with a touch of tango along the way.
The set list included several selections from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the 1968 debut album which made its name. Tracks such as Spontaneous Apple Creation, with its climactic line “…and five million people ate one strawberry!”, could have sounded dated in their whimsicality, but the youthful vigour of the band breathed new life into them. Other highlights included splendid covers of I Put A Spell On You and The Green Manalishi, and a rendition of Brown’s 1967 debut single Devil’s Grip: the first single ever played on the John Peel Show, as we were proudly reminded.
The players were joined at the side of the stage by Victor Peraino from Detroit, who had played keyboards with Brown’s early 1970s prog rock band Kingdom Come. Reunited with Brown for the first time in 39 years, Peraino added his parts via an iPad, which he brandished as proudly as any axeman would wield his guitar.
The main set climaxed with the celebrated opening sequence from the Crazy World album. At the point where Fire Poem segues into Fire’s call to arms (“I am the god of hellfire!”), Brown paused for a bizarre spoken digression, which somehow managed to include Adam Ant, Lady Gaga and his own mother, prophesying that “you will have to sing this song almost every day for the rest of your life”. There are, of course, far worse fates to endure. Having been granted the keys to the kingdom via this one classic song, it was clear that Brown wore his burden lightly, remaining the master of his own unique and colourful domain.