Cloaked in its trademark Hadean black, Camden’s The Underworld was a welcome air-conditioned sanctuary from the hellish heat that has been sweeping England of late. A venue that warrants audience and band to mesh into one swarming nucleus of musical riot thanks to its absence of stage-spectator separation apparatus, The Underworld was the ideal nesting ground for space-funk heroes Crobot’s first descent upon London since a line-up shake-up following their last visit in 2016.
First up however was Wolf Jaw, an outfit of three sharp-dressed gentlemen previously known as The Bad Flowers, who worked through a stampede of sticky sweet riffs and vigorous rhythm with tracks such as “I Lose My Mind” and the recently released “Hear Me”. Bassist Dale Tonks forecast the upcoming Crobot funk with his own relentless groove, his bass guitar seemingly a leech feeding off of his soul for its own as he writhed and jerked behind the instrument throughout the set. Drummer Karl Selickis, an uncanny reflection of the deity Kalika as his ardent warrior-style playing gave the illusion of several limbs, bolstered the high voltage riffs emanating from vocalist and guitarist Tom Leighton, the latter’s vocals a pendulum swinging between haunting, velveteen melodies and growling cautions.
Leighton’s playful stage presence was particularly endearing, his jesting responses to audience jives such as “get your tits out” and heckles for Oasis’ “Wonderwall” further buoyed the artist-audience communion enabled by the intimacy of The Underworld. Finishing with the high attitude riffs of “City Lights”, during which Leighton busted a string, Wolf Jaw evinced a highly confident show that appears to have come on in leaps and bounds since their re-branding from wilted fleurs to beastly jowls.
Slinking on rather ceremoniously to a highly jarring, out-of-tune version of “Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30” (famed by the renowned film 2001: A Space Odyssey), Crobot stood to attention before exploding into “Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer”. Frontman Brandon Yeagley was a veritable spaceman himself, donning a cyber-coloured, bejewelled waistcoat and metallic leggings, suitably mirroring the space adventure of his own lyricism.
A band that would fail miserably at musical statues given their unstoppable animation once they are consumed by their own groove, Crobot put the small stage of The Underworld through the mill. Yeagley swung his microphone around so vivaciously you could almost hear its damsel-in-distress squeals, and his Disney villain eyebrows punctuated the caricature nature of his lyricism in the likes of the colossal “Le Mano De Lucifer” and “Plague Of The Mammoth”. Meanwhile, guitarist Chris Bishop frequently flung his guitar around his body in a 360 motion, like a planet orbiting its blazing sun. Whilst latest recruits drummer Dan Ryan and bassist Eddie Collins attacked the stage just as valiantly, it was easy to catch small flashes of bemusement as they tried to keep up with the tornado conjured by their bandmates.
This live show, which was live streamed to Facebook (click here to watch), was also a playground for airing new tracks from Crobot’s upcoming album Motherbrain (due for release 23rd August). From their first 2019 release “Keep Me Down” to the unreleased “Drown”, “Burn” and “Alpha Dawg”, Crobot demonstrated that several years away from the studio did nothing to invade their aptitude in summoning throat-grabbing groove. “Drown” was preceded by a snippet of Toto’s “Africa”, which only served to further amplify the volcanic magnitude of Crobot’s riffs. Sadly, Yeagley’s vocals were easily lost in the mesh of sound, at least for those leaving with deaf ears from down the front, but his visual spectacle more than satiated.
Crobot teased a finish to the set with latest powerhouse single “Low Life”, a track of simmering crescendo that builds to a wholly engulfing groove, before returning to the stage for the hot, fat funk of “Nowhere To Hide” – “you can’t leave without hearing “Nowhere To Hide”!” Yeagley shrieked with audacious relish. Here, Yeagley athletically leapfrogged onto Bishop’s shoulders, dicing with the low ceilings of The Underworld with theatrical humour before finishing the set with a Schwarzenegger-style “we’ll be back!”. This was a comforting declaration to observe upon saying goodbye to a band we’d seemingly only just welcomed back with open arms 5 minutes earlier – we’ll hold him to that promise.
Catch Crobot on tour in Europe and USA:
30th – De Helling – Utrecht, Netherlands
31st – Schlachtof – München, Germany
1st – Wacken Open Air – Wacken, Germany
2nd – The Tube Club – Dusseldorf, Germany
4th – Café The Jack – Eindhoven, Netherlands
9th – Alcatraz Festival – Kortrijk, Belgium
10th – Into The Grave Festival – Leeuwarden, Netherlands
21st – Saint Vitus Bar – New York, NY
23rd – Debonair Music Hall – Teaneck NJ
24th – Shookstock – Andreas, PA
25th – The Bowery – Asbury Park, NJ
28th – Ace Of Cups – Columbus, OH
30th – Q&Z Expo Center – Ringle, WI
1st – Taste Of Madison – Madison, WI