London W1 Social Bar

Hearing [B]'Streets Of Kenny'[/B] quiver to [B]John Head[/B]'s diabolic strumming and his elder brother's unadorned declamatory croon, it's a wonder the full-band version sounds as good as it does.

So closely embroiled with misfortune have they been during their chequered existence that every time Shack come out to play now feels like a special event. Especially when it is a special event. Back in the original Summer Of Love they would have called this a happening, and they would have been spot on: the two Head brothers, acoustic guitars for goalposts, downstairs at the Heavenly label’s new watering hole, notices warning people not to talk during the performance… nice one, as Mick Head would assuredly say.

And indeed, does. He also says things like: “This is amazing! We’re sitting here playing our songs – and youse are all listening!” The amazing thing is, he really is amazed. As if any of the lucky few people crammed into this concrete furnace could contemplate doing something other than listen. In a bitter, over-complicated world, this man serves as a swift mainline of perspective, reminding us that the simple power of song is not to be underestimated. On a couple of occasions Mick asks that we use our imagination to compensate for the lack of bass and drums, but his modesty can’t conceal the fact that Shack‘s music actually begs to be heard in this primitive form. Hearing ‘Streets Of Kenny’ quiver to John Head‘s diabolic strumming and his elder brother’s unadorned declamatory croon, it’s a wonder the full-band version sounds as good as it does.

Admonishing the various miscreants who insist on choosing the opening bars of ‘Queen Matilda’ to start blethering about the iffy state of the euro, Mick and John proceed to play ‘Mood Of The Morning’ and ‘Undecided’ and ‘London Town’, a raft of songs from ‘Waterpistol’, one of the greatest albums most people have never heard. They’re all pretty enough to make one’s innards wobble. They play ‘Pull Together’, a great us-against-the-world moment that benefits from the intimate setting. Then they play Love‘s ‘She Comes In Colours’, and you just know Shack and the original Summer Of Love would have gotten on famously. The Heads belong in more innocent times, when their purity and heart could somehow glide by without fear of corruption or the need to explain their existence. As it is, Shack seem vaguely out of place by virtue of doing the most simple stuff so very well.

“Let’s do it again, eh?” suggests Mick by way of farewell. Well, by all means. But more than a couple of hundred music industry flunkies deserve to see this band at any given time. People will lie about this gig for years to come, claiming to have been there. They’ll file the bootleg next to Tim Buckley‘s ‘Dream Letter’ and Nirvana‘s ‘Unplugged In New York’. Which is fine. Just remember that Shack are alive and living now. To miss out would be too sad.

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