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Rocking in the suburbs: Dr Feelgood Live

DAVE SMITH
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012
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MAN POSSESSED: Lee Brilleaux of Dr Feelgood.

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Dr Feelgood's live gig in Papakura in 1985 would have been the third or fourth time the Feelgoods played in New Zealand. They were on the back of some lame albums - On The Job was a very lackluster live one and Fast Women & Slow Horses, which didn't seem like a Feelgood album at all sadly, with the band sounding old and tired with unmemorable songs 20-odd years in to their career.

However, the latest album I had imported was by the new, reinvigorated band (all but Lee Brilleaux were gone from Fast Women version of the band). It was gritty R&B and it sounded more like them again. I saw in Rip It Up they were touring again and playing a few of dates across Auckland.

I was tempted not to go having already seen their stunning New Zealand debut that almost destroyed the Auckland Town Hall and a slightly less torrid Gluepot gig. But when my friend suggested we see them in Papakura I was intrigued. What sort of audience would they pull in the suburbs?

We arrived fashionably early to the club and parked under a street light so hopefully the car wouldn't get flogged. As we came in the door there was a merchandise stand. I couldn't remember seeing one of those before at a gig. Now-a-days it's pretty much standard for a touring band to flog T-shirts but this was all copies of their latest release Mad Man Blues which was not getting a local release. I bought it and took it out to the car as I didn't fancy my chances of holding on to it all night.

We were standing at a tall table, beers in hand, when in walked a couple of older geezers in suits. One leaned over and asked, "Scuse me mate, know where the Karzi is?".

As I pointed out the way I realised who I was talking to - it was sole survivor Lee Brilleaux and some tall guy who later turned out to be drummer Kevin Morris.

I couldn't believe it. I shook Lee's hand. I wished him a good gig and let him head off for that rendezvous. Had I been thinking I should have dashed out to the car and got that album for him to sign! Opportunity missed.

Later after the usual disco schmaltz from the DJ had finished the Feelgoods were on stage, a term I use loosely from memory the stage was a little over six inches taller than the floor and barely contained the band.

I was certainly not prepared for the ferocity of the gig - they played like men half their age (in all fairness it's likely the new guys were probably half the age of the last version of the band).

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Gordon Russell wielded one of the best British blues guitars I have ever heard, incorporating nods to the past with cheeky little (original Feelgood guitar player) Wilko Johnson-type riffs yet making them sound fresh like they were all his own.

I was both amused and amazed at the audacity and the skill Gordon displayed. Phil Mitchell's bass and Kevin Morris's drumming provided a bedrock foundation driving the band onwards all night long.

Lee had lost none of his trademark intensity, spitting, growling and snarling the vocals like a man possessed. His mouth harp work was stunning that night as well. Never had a harmonica been so forcibly blown.

We were right up front jumping around to those irresistible rhythms as they blasted through their set. We were covered in sweat (both Lee's and our own) and Lee's occasionally-spilt gin and tonics. He was basically eye-to-eye with us all night due to the low stage.

After a hot and sweaty set we tumbled in to the cold night air. The plan to see what sort of audience they would have got was completely blown from our minds by a blistering set from the hardest working band in music: Dr Feelgood.


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