Desperate Journalist - Lafayette, London, 19th February 2022
This would have been my third gig in three nights, except Storm Eunice had other ideas. It’s also the third time I have seen Desperate Journalist, since my friend Vincent introduced me to them. He had seen them supporting Marion, a show I was meant to be at, but this was when my father was dying, so I missed quite a lot of gigs. Apparently, I didn't miss anything not seeing Marion, as they were awful, But Vincent raved about Desperate Journalist and we agreed we would see them next time they played. We soon realised the connection with Joanne Joanne, who I had similarly be evangelising to anyone who would listen.
Both bands are fronted by the wonderful Jo Bevan, and Joanne Joanne's guitarist Charley Stone tours with them on rhythm guitar (along with many other bands!). And their third album, my entry point, In Search Of The Miraculous was fabulous, especially Satellite, my favourite track.
In 2021, they released their fourth album, Maximum Sorrow!, coming out as the pandemic was starting to ease up - Vinnie and I saw them at a launch gig at Rough Trade East last year (see review here). Only eight songs, but a great set and after lockdown, eight songs were gratefully received.
Tonight we get to see Desperate Journalist proper. It's also at a venue I have never been to before - Lafayette, a 600-capacity venue in Kings Cross. There is a gang of us here - me, Vincent, Amanda, Simon, Jessica, Marion and John, And the venue is packed - great to see the band doing so well.
They come on stage to Theme For Great Cities by Simple Minds, one of my all time favourite songs, so they clearly have impeccable taste. They kick off proceedings with Was It Worth It? from the most recent album - "Are you still my sweetheart or is the dream of London dead?". The London dream is very much alive, given the crowd reaction - it has a Bunnymen feel to the guitars and sounds huge - a great start.
Jo looks every inch the rockstar tonight, dressed to the nines and swaggering on stage like she was born to be there, the tassels on her dress and her mic lead swirling around as she sings. She dedicates fourth song Hollow to "those of a gothic persuasion", the song live having a Joy Division drum beat feel I had not noticed on the record. It sounds fantastic and drummer Caz Helbert is stunning throughout the show - she is the Stephen Morris to their New Order, holding it all together and giving the show real power and groove.
Bassist Simon Drowner looks like Nicky Wire crossed with Billie Joe Armstrong - it's a great look and his playing is understated and tight throughout. His goth disco bass line on Everything You Wanted has dancing in the audience, while Rob Hardy plays a guitar line that's Pink Floyd's Run Like Hell, channeled through The Chameleons. Rob whirls and jerks around through the show, playing a blinder - there are a couple of moments when you see Jo glance at him and give a beaming smile as he plays a solo. Charley Stone adds colour and fleshes out the guitar sound live - she is a fabulous guitarist, playing with numerous other bands (I last saw her with Sleeper last year). And I can't wait to see her play with Joanne Joanne when they play a one-off gig later this year.
Although they wear their influences on the sleeve (literally - their name comes from a track from a 1979 John Peel session with The Cure, “Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation"), they are more than the sum of these parts. This is the most confident, assertive and subtle that I have seen them. They look right up on the stage, shining like stars. Jo's voice is stunning throughout, especially on Fault, which still crackles with rage and fury and sounds even better than when we saw them back in July.
They close with Armageddon. It kicks off with drums inspired by Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, but it's heavier, more dramatic. Jo leaves the stage at the song's break, and then the band rock out, Simon spinning on stage as he plays - they sound fabulous.
We chat as we wait for the inevitable encore and Amanda makes the observation that if the band have one problem, it's their audience. It's an older crowd rather than young fans - I know what she means (I am now in my 50s). To make the transition to bigger venues, they need that younger following as well as us. But then again, do they? Fans like me buy records and go to gigs - I think we are a pretty good deal as it goes! And I know I will pick up Vincent's mantle for the next show - he's arranged for seven of us to come tonight, and I will be dragging a few more next time.
Our contemplations quickly end as they return to the stage for three songs - Control from their debut and Be Kind from second album Grow Up are great. But closer Satellite is my favourite and it's blinding live. Jo's voice roars and soars, while the band belt out this stunning anthem - "Oh listen, you eclipse them" she sings on the chorus and tonight they eclipsed those influences and some. The song finishes and Caz lets out a joyous, uncontrollable laugh as the crowd cheers. I wish I was a better photographer to have caught it - it summed up a wonderful evening, seeing the band at their best. Don't let the goth tag put you off, this is a wonderful, tight live band that out on a storming show.
We hang around to finish our beers, say hello to Mel from Joanne Joanne, the brilliant carpenter who built my record shelves. I interrupt Charley talking to someone to say how excited I am to hear Joanne Joanne are playing again - sorry Charley, it was beer and enthusiasm! We then head off for the (in)famous one more....
I indulgently get a cab home, so I can ring Mrs JO'B 10,500 miles away and tell her about the show. I wake to a text from her asking how my head is, so will need to watch calling her drunkenly after gigs over the next few weeks! And in the morning, I am up first thing, feeling surprisingly perky, Maximum Joy fortunately, rather than maximum sorrow.
Thanks to Vincent for the great pictures.