I have seen The Computers before, many times before, the last time was on a boat party in Exmouth, used to officially launch their latest album 'Love Triangles, Hate Squares' and this show at the Phoenix in Exeter looked like it was going to be one to top all others.
We arrived late, this was due to Exeter hosting a late night shopping event on the 19th December and us having to park about two miles out from the city centre (thanks Exeter Council) anyway, we arrived late, fashionably late, late enough to miss the opening act 'Molly The Odd' whom I understood played a set consisting of blues tinged rock.
After trying to convince the man on the door that we were there to review the night and take some photos, Pippa (The Computers Manager) came to our rescue and allowed us through the gates. The audience was a real mixed bag, I recall their followers from years ago being clad in drainpipe jeans, trucker caps and tattoos a plenty, fast forward a year or two and replace the skinny jeans and caps with sharp suits and brylcreemed quiffs and you're on the right tracks, the tattoos remain.
I caught up with Al before the show and asked him if he was "full of Christmas spirit" to which he replied, "I soon will be…". I also bumped into Aiden in the bar who said that he was really looking forward to the show and having a good drink in The Cavern Club afterwards.
The second support band 'The Heavy Hearted' took to the stage to offer their wares, this Exeter act consisted of two ladies and two gents who leapt into every track with much enthusiasm, I particularly noted the energy levels that the drummer was displaying, kids eh…..
Throughout their set, I heard nods towards Dinosaur Jr and The Breeders, lots of big riffs supported by an alternative rhythm section. I spent a few moments looking for a bass player until I realised that the keyboard player must have been noodling away to produce the low end. I caught up with the guitarist after their set and he told me that they have been together in their current lineup for just under a year, the band were formed originally as a two piece and have supported acts as far away as Brighton, they have new work in the pipeline that they have recorded locally in hope of releasing a new single in early 2014.
The Computers intro music started and the stage was filled with festive lights spelling out 'T H E C O M P U T E R S' at the back of the stage, all they needed was a few sprigs of mistletoe and holly to finish the Christmas look. They took to the stage to rapturous applause and burst into their first track. It didn't take long for the festive mosh to start and before long, crowd dwellers were hoisted up in the air and paraded around whilst the security at the front of the stage tried to coerce them their way….this was clearly not going to happen as too much fun was being had by all.
Al was playing his role as front man to great effect, strutting, leaning, teasing, goading the crowd into a frenzy and what a frenzy it was. It didn't take long for him to join the crowd, first by standing on the barrier and performing some impressive tight rope walking, then falling backwards into the crowd (complete with mic stand) prior to being carried to the mid section and being delivered back onto the stage in one piece. 'C.R.U.E.L' bought a sense of calm to the energetic dancers midway through the show, this was short lived as 'Disco Sucks' fired them up once again for more pushing and shoving.
They retired from the stage and returned shortly afterwards to treat the crowd to 'Single Beds' (one of my favourites on the new album), initially opening the track with a few bars from Percy Sledge's classic 'When a Man Loves a Woman', this really showcased Al's vocals and went down a storm.
The classic five piece band were joined by a horn section whom I am sure Pippa told me were from a band called 'The Heavy'? Maybe I dreamt that bit as I have googled said band and they weren't featured on the lineup, maybe session musicians? Either way, they sounded tighter than a gnats chuff and really added depth to The Computers sound.
The band closed their set by playing a fabulous cover of 'Jailhouse Rock', this was followed by more tight rope walking and crowd surfing, then, just like magic, it was all over.
The Computers burst onto the scene years ago dressed in white, are now clad head to toe in burgundy, what colour next? I couldn't help but notice that the bass player's trousers were ripped at the knees, I wonder if he added a new pair to his Christmas list prior to firing it off to the North Pole?
I've said it before and I'll say it again, The Computers are one hell of a kick ass rock n' roll band who HAVE to be seen live to understand what the fuss is about. The crowd engagement, the way Al rouses the fans into a frenzy, then takes them down to a near silence is captivating. They're a bunch of uber-cool dudes who perform their roles very well in the band, I am really looking forward to more appearances throughout 2014 and who knows, maybe some new material? Who knows….
What's that? You want a picture of the guitars that The Computers use with more focus on Al's Rickenbacker?....oh go on then!
Words - Steve Muscutt
Photos - Julian Baird