Los Pacaminos | Portsmouth Guildhall Review as first gig is staged since lockdown eased
The sound of galloping horses comes over the PA before halting and there’s a shout of ‘Hey gringo!’
That's the cue for the seven-strong Los Pacaminos to amble on, already playing a nifty slice of instrumental Tex-Mex before launching into first song proper, a raucous cover of Junior Brown’s Highway Patrol.
It’s the first musical show at the Guildhall since alt-bluegrass band The Dead South graced the stage in February 2020 - stand-up star Jimmy Carr played there in December shortly before we were put in tier four and all live shows came to an end after a brief respite.
Social distancing means the audience is well spaced out, and mask-wearing is enforced if you leave your seat, but there’s about 200 fans dotted around the auditorium.
All of the band are conspicuously on-message, wearing their own T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Pacs-vaxed!’ featuring a cartoon of the group getting their shots - of tequila.
While the band may feature Paul Young this southern-fried sound is a long way from the blue-eyed soul that made his name in the ‘80s. And it’s not ‘The Paul Young show’ either - guitarists Jamie Moses and Drew Barfield share lead vocal duties while Melvin Duffy provides essential colour on the pedal steel.
Drinking songs feature heavily - The Champs’ Tequila! gets an outing in both halves of the show - with a shot brought out for each band member. And the Moses-led ode to liver abuse, Battered and Bruised is a high point.
There’s the odd fluffed lyric and some minor technical problems, but nothing that detracts from the sheer thrill of actually seeing live music indoors again.
The band are clearly having fun, performing in front of an audience for the first time in nine months, and so are the fans - by the end of their climactic cover of Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba, they’re on their feet and joining in.As Moses puts it early on: ‘It’s good to be back in the saddle again.’
Gigs have already taken place at The Gaiety Bar on South Parade Pier, and The Wedgewood Rooms is due to re-enter the fray towards the end of June too.
In 2019, the live music sector contributed £1.3bn to the UK economy and employed 34,000 people. The pandemic has laid waste to that and the road to recovery is going to be long and not always straight-forward.
Towards the end, Young thanks us ‘for coming out in less than ideal circumstances’.
He’s right, it’s not the live experience as we knew it pre-pandemic, but it feels like a big step on the road back to ‘normal’.