Digging You Up

Any one bloke who's responsible for the teasingly sumptuous likes of 'Not Alone' and 'Stay' cannot be dismissed lightly...

We’ve been here before. Quite literally in fact, a couple of years back when The Seahorses finally raised their public head in the Wulfrun’s exotic surroundings. A hall-load of punters expected some kind of Resurrection. John Squire gave them pub rock.

It is at this point that you are reminded of the old adage ‘Lightning never strikes… KABAMMM!!!’ as Bernard Butler launches himself headlong into another solo of such string-twittering flamboyance it’s a doggone wonder that the Gretsch doesn’t explode in his perfect paws. For The Stone Roses, see Suede. For Squire, see Butler. For the original packed comeback, witness this less-than-full Sunday night.

In fact, for someone who was once Brett’s lieutenant, who had hits with McAlmont, and who has benefitted from a shamelessly lavish promotional campaign throughout ’98, Bernard really should be ensnaring significantly more Butlerphiles around the touring circuit.

That, however, is the logical argument, and as any fool knows, logic and the music industry are not on the best of terms at the moment. To wit, rumour has it that the ‘People Move On’ album hasn’t done quite as well as everyone expected. And on the evidence of Bernard’s ‘Full Electric’ live soiree, this is not entirely surprising.

It’s not all bad. Any one bloke who’s responsible for the teasingly sumptuous likes of ‘Not Alone’ and ‘Stay’ cannot be dismissed lightly, and Bernard has developed an enviously canny way with the dramatic chord and the soaring chorus. It’s just that you wonder whether he’s built up enough muscle for this kind of heavyweight venture.

Labelmates and tour support Arnold have mastered the rough-edged panache that comes from being a tight-knit unit while Bernard remains a man alone. Odder still, he frequently fails to convince as a frontman – indeed, there are times when, like Richard McNamara and Noel Gallagher’s live vocal spots for Embrace and Oasis respectively, you’re half-expecting the ‘proper’ singer to saunter back onstage at the end of the song.

History already suggests that Butler should have been allowed more time to develop a stronger foundation; that a tad more marketing subtlety and a few less mammoth street posters of his floppy fringe would eventually reap more satisfying results – both artistically and commercially. Alas, in the land of the get-rich-bastard-quick ethos, nice old Bernie is becoming nothing more than an amiable sideshow.

“Guitarists should never grow old,” sighs a passing punter, disappointedly. Fair point, the kid.