REVIEW| Paul-Ronney Angel and Tomi Rae Brown at Best Western Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea: "Spine-tingling stuff"

For the past 64 weeks, without fail, Paul-Ronney Angel has livestreamed to his fans every Saturday night.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:45 pm
Paul-Ronney Angel and Tomi Rae Brown at Best Western Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea on June 5, 2021. Picture by Chris Broom

But this week he had to move it to a Friday as he had an actual, real-life gig on Saturday here in Portsmouth.

As frontman of the nine-headed ‘bourbon-soaked gypsy blues bop’n’stroll’ beast that is the Urban Voodoo Machine he’s normally one of many demanding your attention on stage.

But tonight, it’s just him on vocals an guitar and Tomi Rae Brown joining him as a singer.

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Introduced by Brown as ‘the second hardest working man in showbusiness’ (A nod to her late-husband James Brown), Angel takes the first couple of numbers solo, easing us in gently with his debut solo single, One Ghost Town, and by the end of the song chandelier over his head is already taking abuse.

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With a rasp reminiscent of Tom Waits, and a similar penchant for odes to hard-living, Angel is a charismatic performer and Brown is more than his match when she joins him.

The set is a mix of UVM numbers, Angel’s recently-minted solo material and a fine smattering of covers.

Their version of Seven Spanish Angels, popularised in a duet by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson, and recorded by these two as ‘a Christmas single’ is spine-tingling stuff, while their take on The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated is a fun romp.

James Brown apparently came across Tomi Rae when she was performing as a Janis Joplin tribute in Las Vegas, and when she delivers renditions of Mercedes Benz and Me and Bobby McGee you can hear why.

But she’s no mere imitator as is clear when she acts as Angel’s foil, or when she puts her stamp on Aretha Franklin’s Do Right Woman, Do Man

The two display an easy chemistry from an obvious mutual appreciation.

And there are nods aplenty to the past year, such as new songs 2020 (You Been a Pain in The A$$) and Oh Pandemic.

Playing in a hotel function suite with a stage that look on the verge of collapsing throughout is a bit odd, but needs must in these socially distanced times.

While Angel’s solo career was born of a performer’s need to do something during lockdown while unable to play with his regular band, hopefully these two will continue to work together, and next time they’ll be in the kind of venue more fitting to their grimy, punk-inflected blues.

Indeed Angel is back this way next January with the full band at The Wedgewood Rooms, and if you’ve never had the pleasure, it will be the perfect chance to get acquainted.

There’s also a long-gestating album from Brown on the horizon which promises to be worth lending an ear to.

This was very good indeed – but in more appropriate surroundings and with a less restrained audience you know it could be even better.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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