The word “legendary” is bandied about far too easily these days, but no one here at cackblabbath.online would dispute the use of that epithet to describe the one and only Arthur Brown. An instant crowd favourite at this year’s HRH Prog festival at Magna in Rotherham, there was a substantial clamour for him to be added to the bill for HRH VII.
Well our wishes were granted, and the bigwigs in HRH towers signed up The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown to help get the whole HRH party started with a peak time slot on the Thursday night opening party. It was part of what can only be called an eclectic lineup, I’m not sure there are many other festivals where Arthur & Co would find themselves sandwiched between legendary guitarist Bernie Torme and Scottish metal road warriors Attica Rage.
The imminent arrival of Mr. Brown is heralded by the installation of the two 8ft tall tribal-esque statues that flank the stage and set the scene for the oddities to come. People who have seen Arthur perform before (at the aforementioned HRH Prog in our case) know what to expect, and it was interesting chatting to folk in the crowd before the gig… a conversation that inevitably went along the lines of “I only know one song”….
Really ?? Just you wait and see.
In his long and illustrious career Arthur Brown has pretty much been there, done it and, in all probability, bought the t-shirt. You know you’re in for more than just a concert, this is a proper show, masks, greasepaint and even flamenco dancing during the frankly awesome Kites. Top it off with Arthur’s humorious, engaging little inter-song chats and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable start to the HRH party.
Along with his own material Arthur slips in a couple of classic cover versions, the first of which is the Screaming Jay Hawkins standard I Put A Spell On You.
Of course, there is one song that could never be left out of the setlist, and it’s preceded by perhaps the best intro of the whole weekend. We were treated to a peek into the uncanny foresight of Mrs. Brown as Arthur recounted some advice he received from his mother. Apparently as a lad she told him that one day he’s be on a stage in Pwlheli looking at a lot of strange people… so how should he deal with that ??
Well how else ? “Draw yourself up to your full height and say, in a loud, clear voice….. I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE !!!!”
Cue a room full of mostly drunk revellers going just a little bit mental. Fire may be the tune for which Arthur is best known, but by heck what a tune it is. Joined on stage again by the dancer (this time in a mesmerising gold dress) who swirled and flowed like, well, flame. It was spectacular, so much so that the expectant photographers in the photo pit almost excused Arthur for the fact that he didn’t actually set himself on fire.
This is the stuff that festival memories are made of, and the best was still to come. You know when you hear a cover version that someone takes and just owns? Well for me that’s what Arthur Brown has done to Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi. Taking it and twisting it into something weird, haunting, mad and brilliant.
Special mention to the hardest working person of the weekend, Arthur’s dancer who joined the band on stage at several points throughout the set, she must have turned rapid costume changes into an artform
For many the question before The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown played was “how would they manage to hold onto a hard rock crowd ?” but by the time they finished the question was different..
How on earth was anyone going to top that.