Sunday, 23 October 2016

Nine Below Zero Back at The Arc

Nine Below Zero
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees

It has been three and a half years since Nine Below Zero last played at The Arc. Last night they returned in triumphant style, determined to show old dogs are more than capable of learning new tricks.

The personnel had doubled from four to eight since the last time they played Stockton-on-Tees, with Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham being the only two survivors from the previous line up.

Mickey Burkey is now permanently back on drums, following the 'Classic Line Up' shows of 2014 and Ben Willis has replaced Brian Bethell on the bass. The new line up is completed by the addition of Charlie Austen on backing (and sometimes lead) vocals, Andrew Noble on keyboards, Chris Rand on saxophone and Paul Jordan's on trumpet. This is the line up featured on the brand new album, 13 Shades of Blue, which will be reviewed here later in the week.

The introduction of a horn section, keyboard and female vocals allows the band to explore new directions as well as adding new dimensions to prime its form their extensive back catalogue.

The evening blasted off with Don't Lay Your Funky Trip on Me, the first of a number of songs to be played from the new album. Indeed, it is the album's opener too and it showcases, perhaps more than any other song, the capabilities of the new line up. The lyrics are sparse, allowing the music to speak more or less for itself.

The new songs rubbed shoulders with Nine Below Zero classics such as Don't Point Your Finger at the Guitar Man, You, Never Too Late, Woolly Bully and 11+11. They even slipped into a version of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, before Dennis halted proceedings to inform the audience, 'We don't do that one.'

Dennis was on top form, as usual, as he added humorous interludes between the songs. At one point he drew attention to three pieces of carpet he claimed they had bought from a well-known store earlier in the day. 'We were in and out in 17 minutes. Why do children have to take their parents to these shops?'


Pride was expressed at various junctures. First, with the stand against online streaming and Nine Below Zero's refusal to play along, based on the paltry returns of 0.02p offered per stream or download. Dennis gave the rallying cry to keep the music product as a physical entity. He went on to say they hope to release a vinyl version of 13 Shades of Blue and that the early indications are promising.

There was also pride in the fact that 'We've brought back the drum solo!' and Mickey Burkey certainly showed how it is done.

Mickey Burkey - drum solo!

It is remarkable that after so many years in the business Nine Below Zero have found to a way to evolve their style and expand their repertoire to embrace the worlds of funk and jazz into their established haven of British rhythm and blues. It will be interesting to see if this new style is here to stay. Meanwhile, keep an eye in their tour dates and catch them if you can.

We conclude with a few more captured moments from the pulsating gig.

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