REVIEW: The Nightingales at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

The Nightingales at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Saturday, September 22, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor
The Nightingales at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Saturday, September 22, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

Rarely does the Wedge witness a line-up as curious as this.

Openers Grief Daddy are, as they tell us, the winners of ‘the best band ever’ (they won the venue’s 2017 Unsigned Showcase). What started as a side project for local noiseniks Battery Hens has acquired a life of its own. 
The trio operate as a satire on the modern world, consumerism and capitalism – through the medium of an old Yamaha keyboard, a synth drum and a series of splenetic rants and herky-jerky dance moves from frontman, ‘Fax Machine’. 
‘#BuyGriefDaddy’ indeed. You won’t be disappointed.
Next up is stand-up comic Stewart Lee. Lee fills theatres across the land on his own tours, but as the promoters were at pains to point out this was not a Stewart Lee show, he was doing his 1980s comedy club routine. 
But of course being Lee, it wasn’t as straight-forward as that – Lee deconstructs the routine as he goes via the filter of life in 2018. So we get to hear about his run in with doorstepping Christian evangelists asking: ‘If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?’, pre-internet dating, the ‘jazz/folk’ conundrum and the ‘sex pigeon’. It’s hilarious stuff, but almost as soon as you feel it’s getting going, he’s gone.
Cult post-punk act The Nightingales are the headliners, but sadly the crowd noticeably thins as their hour-long set progresses - many had clearly come for the novelty of Lee’s skewed return to his roots.
And the four-piece don’t make it easy. Frontman Robert Lloyd prowls the stage barking his confrontational lyrics while Fliss Kitson is an impressive presence, holding it all together at the back on drums and back-up vocals. But the audience are never acknowledged and songs run from one to another, often without pause. For newcomers to the band, it’s difficult to find a way in.
However, it’s easy to see why they were a John Peel favourite back in their ’80s heyday – the pummelling riffs and driving rhythms build a hypnotic effect as they pile past.

Stand-up comic Stewart Lee doing his '80s club routine in support of The Nightingales at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Saturday, September 22, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

Stand-up comic Stewart Lee doing his '80s club routine in support of The Nightingales at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Saturday, September 22, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

Those who stay to the end can truly say they've witnessed a show the likes of which are unlikely to be repeated.