Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
In advance of their current UK tour with Stiff Little Fingers, fans of The Professionals were treated to an intimate warm up show at The Water Rats near London’s Kings Cross Station with support coming from Rich Ragany and Kit Swing (of Rich Ragany and the Digressions)
It’s a small but perfectly formed venue, with the opportunity to see one of the best live bands on the circuit up close and personal, it was a night not to be missed.
Rich Ragany / Kit Swing
You’ve got to hand it to Rich Ragany. When faced with an audience who are clearly there for a show from The Professionals, having the stones to turn up with fellow vocalist Kit Swing to do an acoustic opening set is massively impressive.
It could have easily gone so wrong for Rags and Kit. A crowd expecting a night of high energy punk tinged classics from Tom, Paul, Toshi and Chris, start their evening with 2 singers and an acoustic guitar. You’d be forgiven if you were initially assuming that you were going to essentially be getting 2/3 of Peter, Paul and Mary.
Thankfully, Rags is a man who will fight to the end for an audience. A man who will look adversity in the face, give it the finger and continue to bang out heartfelt, energised songs that, given the time to understand the content and the meaning behind the lyrics, will turn the hardest of naysayers to Ragany’s cause by the end of the set. Statisticians could have a field day with the effort to crowd response ratios that occurred with Rags and Kit’s set because it went from apathy in the first number, with a real “When are The Professionals on?” vibe from the crowd to genuine moments of interaction between artist and audience that saw the cheers, the involvement and the enjoyment from all grow exponentially. By the end of the set, with an announcement of a Role Models reunion tour, it’s fair to say Rags had won.
The Role Models shows (3 dates in August) are in memory of the late Roger Segal whose senseless killing in the US recently affected many of us. The dates, and ticket links, are below:
LONDON – 19th August
The Black Heart
Support: The City Kids | The Empty Page | Billy Liar
HUDDERSFIELD – 20th August
Support: Mr Shiraz | The Empty Page | Billy Liar
Support: PowderKeg | Billy Liar | The Empty Page
Our headliners never give it less than their all and for this tour it’s great to see the band playing with Chris Catalyst once again. The second guitarist slot has seen a revolving door of people playing with Chris McCormack, Rich Jones and of course Catalyst all playing at some point. The network of musicians that these artists are linked to really does come into its own at times like this as regardless of who is playing in that spot, the sound of the band remains the same throughout and the quality of the show is never in doubt. There was even moments of banter between Tom and Rags (with Rags stood at the bar at the back of the venue during the headliners set). That rapport and friendship should never be ignored in this difficult industry and it’s always great to see artists getting on so well.
With Toshi J.C. on bass full time as well now, The Professionals really feel like they have the perfect line-up that will see them attract bigger and bigger audiences over the next few years.
The set opened with ‘Easily Lead’ with it’s signature toms driven into from Paul Cook. As much as Paul admitted in a recent interview that he hated recording it, didn’t want to and only agreed to do so in a single take under the influence of a significant amount of alcohol, it’s fair to say that there simply couldn’t be a better way to start both the new album ‘SNAFU’ and any of the band’s live shows. If that’s what it takes to get Paul to really pull one out of the hat that’s set to become a firm fan favourite over the years then I will happily buy the next round, and the next and the next.
With ‘Spike Me Baby’ which talks about Paul’s unfortunate encounter with some ‘special chocolate’ his daughter left in their fridge at home and the after effects of essentially getting battered on the edibles, we’re starting to sense a pattern with Mr Cook and the things that can inspire new music from him at the present time. Fair play to be honest as strictly he was supposed to be doing that sort of thing 40-odd years ago and yet here we are today with Paul at 66 years old looking as fit and healthy as ever!
The band that started it all for Paul, The Sex Pistols, got a look in with a raucous cover of ‘Silly Thing’ which fits a Professionals set perfectly and gave the audience an opportunity for the first big sing-along of the evening and Cook also got the opportunity to add his vocals to the mix as well.
The rest of the set, comprising some solid tunes that could have only been written by working class lads with attitude growing up really hit home. Played in London in a small venue like The Water Rats, the show felt like the sort of hot sweaty affair you wish you’d been able to attend as a teenager in the 70s and 80s when gigs were all about bands that put in hard graft with the desire to succeed and make something of themselves. The energy and passion from the 4 members of stage made it an ageless thing because it’s clear from the expressions on everyone’s faces that the drive and passion to make this band as good as it can be is still very much front and centre.
Following a few medley moments where they threw in the odd element of covers towards the end, the show finished with a blistering cover of (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone. It’s a song that can easily define which decade you grew up in as the original from Paul Revere and the Raiders came out in 1966, shortly followed by The Monkees’ version. In the 70s of course, it was covered by The Sex Pistols which makes its inclusion here wholly appropriate but as you go forward, 90s kids will also remember versions from The Farm and of course P.J and Duncan (TVs Ant & Dec). It’s a simple, hugely catchy, timeless song and whichever version ticks the box for you, it was a perfect way to end the night.
Just Another Dream
Going Going Gone
Spike Me Baby
Silly Thing (Sex Pistols cover)
Kick Down the Doors
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (Paul Revere and the Raiders cover)
The band are still on tour with Stiff Little Fingers – Dates and Ticket Links Below: