A low ceiling.
A dark basement.
A tiny stage.
This is the definition of an intimate venue and, while I happen to think that Salad should be headlining Glastonbury and filling enormo-domes, the truth is that this is the perfect place to see one of the best bands of the nineties never to have enjoyed the success they deserved.
With a glut of classic songs littering their back catalogue and a fabulous new album (Good Love, Bad Love) that is home to the closest thing to twisted pop perfection you will hear this year, tonight promises to deliver something special.
First though it’s support act Scunner who, perhaps ominously, take to the stage with a banjo player…I’m making no rash judgements. The lead singer is wearing a stove pipe hat, a purple jacket with a sort of ruffled jester collar…it’s all a bit novelty. Dangerously so. There are hints of David Devant…if he’d been born in Bearsden.
After three songs I can’t decide if Scunner are a joke or funny. The music is full of melody and charm but the theatrics of the singer are interfering with my ability to enjoy them. I think this is a great shame.
But wait…they’ve just announced that five of their songs are about Walford Bodie…musician, showman, ventriloquist and inspiration to Houdini and Chaplin. This IS a David Devant style piece of performance art.
This is actually…ace. They are very accomplished musicians and they have more charm than a room full of professional charmers. I think I might be falling a little bit in love with Scunner.
It’s the mark of a good band that in the space of one set they can flip you from cynic to supporter…well done, well done.
When they play “Granite Statue” two songs in I feel like a bit of me that has been missing has been found and slotted into place. That angst I’ve been feeling since about 1997 was really just a longing to see Salad live. Thank the Gods…I am complete.
“Being Human” from the new album is a blast…literally. It thunders along and drives into your earholes with such urgency it seems almost indecent.
“Big Monkey Girl” from the “lost” Salad album that finally surfaced last year is a song about…a big monkey girl. I’m saying no more than that.
“Evergreen” is a song from “Good Love Bad Love” that I loved the first time I heard it and now hearing it live for the first time I love it more. According to Marijne it’s not about good love or bad love…it’s about indifferent love.
The first record I bought by Salad was “On a Leash” and hearing it here, for the first time, sends shivers down my spine and shudders through my soul. I’ve rarely been so happy at a gig.
“Sweet Depression Ballroom” is another new song that is so immediately thrilling that it seems like it’s been on a mix-tape you’ve had in your Walkman for years.
“Namedrops” from the second Salad album, “Ice Cream”, is a great reminder of what a gifted songwriter Paul is…a genuine unsung hero of his time. This tour and the new album should rectify that and have people singing his praises.
At this point in proceedings something I’ve never experienced at a gig happens…a man opens up a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and eats them.
Is that a thing?
“Motorbike to Heaven” has me dancing like my five year old daughter after a handful of Haribo. The song is so great…I’m sorry if my dancing ruined it. Better than crisps though.
I’ve written a lot of pieces about Britpop and have often boldly claimed that this song or that song was the best of the era…ignore all of that. It’s “Kent” by Salad.
That’s my final answer.
“Wanna be Free” is a jaw dropping moment in a perfect set…building to a crescendo of disco, soul, funk and guitar riffs that could cut your soul in half. If you had one.
Did they play what?
Was it good?
No. “Drink Me” was so much more than good. It made me…quiver.
They encore with “Nowhere Near” and the heartbreak at the songs heart is given voice from a mesmerising performance from Marijne.
What’s clear seeing Salad tonight as a full band and not undressed, as they were when I saw them at last year’s Star Shaped Festival in Glasgow, is that they really were something completely separate from so many of their contemporaries. You can hear the more aggressive, raw, punk influences loud and clear. It’s exciting…terrifyingly so.
What is also very clear is how fantastic Marijne is…she sings beautifully, growls and howls passionately and yelps like Bjork on ecstasy. Sometimes all in one line. Together with Paul they have crafted some wonderfully alluring, sensual, ferocious and just plain bloody catchy pop songs.
Let’s hope that it’s for good.