The basement of Jimmy’s, Liverpool is usually the place where you go to watch exciting new bands on their way up. It’s intimate space is a rather incongruous setting in which to see a true, music icon. I’m here to watch Wendy James and her band perform pieces from her latest album – Queen High Straight – and hit songs from her extensive back catalogue. It is a testament to her belief in her new material that she is embarking on a 28 date UK tour to bring it to the masses.
Support for the evening is SKIA. There has been an intriguing history of Scouse/Scandie collaborations, Tord Overland Knudsen’s contribution in The Wombats, Jan Molby’s startling hybrid accent, and now Liverpool based, Norwegian singer-songwriter SKIA. I’m not sure that a room full of ageing pop-punk fans was SKIA’s target demographic, but they certainly appreciated her style of poly-rhythmic, highly danceable, Euro-pop. Joining SKIA on stage were keyboard player Sylvan, and adding to the Scandinavian feel of the band, energetic, bass playing Bjork look-a-like – Nina. The majority of the set was new songs all written during lockdown – Won’t Someone Dance With Me, Bedroom Floor, and Cool Girl. A set of very cool, catchy, well delivered pop songs was brought to a conclusion with One Step At A Time, a tune with a throbbing disco beat and a funky, bouncing bass line.
Wendy James walked onto stage wearing a black, tasseled, cocktail dress. The five-piece band entered, all shoulder length hair and 70’s styled lounge suits – they looked like The Blossoms cooler, older cousins. Everyone looked the part. Not surprisingly, and more importantly they also sounded the part. James’ vocals are slightly grittier than in her younger days, the screams are not so piercing, but they are as passionate as ever. Pip Stakem on lead guitar played some immaculate solos, and I’m lead to believe that the drummer was once a Bad Seed.
The ‘Vampers’ in the crowd would have to wait a little while for something they knew as The Wendy James Band started their set with some of her solo material: the garagey You’re So Great; the grungy Speedball; and the glammy You’re a Good Man Sister , with it’s The Jean Genie riffs and Paklife vocals. James tells the assembled audience that the last time she was in Liverpool she had been presented with a ‘Scouse Passport’ and she hoped that it was still valid because, ‘I want Your Love’. Cue uproar.
The great advantage to playing a smaller venue is that it’s so much easier to communicate with the crowd. And the Jimmy’s crowd were willing to take communion. Before her cover of Crawl Out Your Window James explained about the troubled history of the third Transvision Vamp album from which it came – Little Magnets Versus The Bubble of Babble. We also learn about the genesis of other tunes. You’re A Dirt Bomb Lester is a relentless epic of a tune about encountering the legendry, misogynistic, music critic from Rolling Stone and the Village Voice – Lester Bangs.
The middle part of the set was dedicated to songs from Wendy James’s critically well received latest album Queen High Straight. James has waited a long time to launch theses tunes on to the public and did so with gusto. James and her band started with Impression Of Normalcy, worked through the soulful Little Melvin, Chicken Street with it’s jabbing organ riff, and concluded with the pounding, sultry Perilous Beauty – ‘It’s all in the hips, the lips, the eyes, and the thighs’. Indeed.
A perfect performance of pulsating pop punk plus culminated with an encore featuring Bad Valentine and a raucous rendition of Baby I Don’t Care. Miss James, your Visa has been renewed. Come back soon.