Review | The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: 'Teetering between chaos and genius'

The Urban Voodoo Machine know how to make an entrance.

Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:20 am

They walk through the crowd from the back of the venue, taking their places on stage before launching into the film noir-ish instrumental Police Paranoia.

At a mere eight members (it's been in double figures before now), they are a visually arresting bunch. All decked out in their signature red and black outfits – there's also a priest on double bass, a devil on guitar, and the drummer – The Late J-Roni Moe – is painted green.

And there centre-stage is the ringmaster, Paul-Ronney Angel in a fringed shirt and trousers and a sombrero, with his Tom Waits-like rasp he cuts a compelling figure.

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The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Wedgewood Rooms, January 23, 2022. Picture by Dubbel Xposure Photography

The music takes in everything from mariachi horns to honky tonk piano, via klezmer, rockabilly, the blues and a hefty dose of punk in sound and attitude.

As with all the best gigs, it teeters just on the right side of the line between chaos and genius, with false starts and songs careering to their conclusion.

This bunch of vagabonds are kept in line by metronomic work from Moe and his fellow percussionist Jary – the pair are the engine which drives the band forward and keeps them (somewhat) in line.

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The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Wedgewood Rooms, January 23, 2022. Picture by Dubbel Xposure Photography

There's a theatrical element to the band's performance and their tales of life on the wrong side of the tracks – we're asked to make a minute's noise for absent friends, but there’s also the rather tender Goodnight My Dear, while We Were All Asleep is the sound of a carnival from hell and Crazy Maria is a horn-driven tragic tale.

The only fly in the ointment is actually off stage: it's an element of the Saturday night crowd who are clearly more interested in chatting than watching the band they paid to see.

A frustrated Angel, clearly annoyed by the incessant talking, threatens to leave the stage at one point.

As their best-selling T-shirt says at the merch stand (and I paraphrase only slightly for a family audience): 'Shut up! I came to hear the band, not you talking to your mates.'

The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Wedgewood Rooms, January 23, 2022. Picture by Dubbel Xposure Photography

The inevitable encores get off to a slow start with the hushed and unutterably bleak January Blues, which features just half the band, with Angel introducing it by saying: ‘We should have given razor blades away with this one…’

It’s devastating but stunning.

But they soon pick up again with the jaunty, ironic ode to domesticity Pipe and Slippers Man, and finish by inviting support band The Racketeers (and promoter Chris Abbott!) on stage for the raucous gospel of Down By The River.

The band have played at Victorious Festival twice, but incredibly this is their first ‘indoor’ gig in Portsmouth in their 19 year history.

The Racketeers, suppporting The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Wedgewood Rooms, January 23, 2022. Picture by Dubbel Xposure Photography

Admittedly, it’s taken two years longer than it should have – this gig has been rescheduled four times thanks to the pandemic.

Here’s hoping their next visit will be somewhat sooner.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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