The album launch night of Jonny Cola & the A-Grades' second full-length release, 'Spitfire', sees the upstairs room at the Lexington fairly subdued during the support slot by Temple Of Gold, David Ryder Prangley's (Rachel Stamp) new outfit. Hopefully this is only due to the fact that it is a mid-week gig, as with their golden jackets and Stonesy swagger, the band sound feisty with songs that sound promising. I, for one, look forward to seeing more of this band.
The lights dim and the spoken word outro from Jonny Cola and the A-Grades' 'Wronghead' starts blasting out of the speakers. It is suitably dramatic and sets the tone for the evening. The band appear on stage and launch into the blistering, punky 'Rain Stopped Play'. From the second the band hit the stage, guitarist Mauro Venegas is a sheer ball of energy with enough pouting to put any New York Doll member circa 1973 to shame. 'In the Woods' follows, a stomper of a glam rock number. Jez Leather on the second guitar keeps swishing his long locks around whilst the bassist, Simon Drowner, stays in the background doing the job. A few seconds break follows to give the frontman enough time to welcome the crowd and then it's on to the latest single, 'Tropical Beach'.
The band sound as tight as - insert your favoured lewd phrase here - and the backing vocals are spot on. 'Blow Up', another riotous and fast paced glam number has the packed room watching on intensely and judging from the smiles on people's faces they are enjoying what they are hearing. Cola moves on to the keyboard and the first notes of 'Straight To Video' ring out. The mini rock opera, with its ebbs and flows, works very well indeed live as it does on record, and the interplay between Venegas and Leather is awesome to watch. 'Shooting Up' moves things up a gear with a punkier sound and has some of the crowd singing along, as does 'Going Over'.
The band look good on stage and it is clear there is real chemistry going on here, and the theatrical stage antics from Cola are a breath of fresh air. There is pouting, hip thrusting and hip swaying, silver pants... all in all great showmanship and this man can surely perform. 'Halo' is clearly well known and loved by the crowd judging from their reaction to the first few notes. The pomp and majesty of 'Out Of the Woods' the singer takes to the keyboard again and there is some very nice twin-guitar work with a 70s tinge. The energetic 'The Party's Over' signifies the end of the actual set, but the crowd are not ready to let the band go just yet.
After much noise and whistling, the band return with the catchy, up-tempo 'Marlborough Road' which really makes the night seem like a party down the front of the stage. The very last song of the night, 'Ripples', ends the evening on a good note, being a more melancholic and slower number that builds up to a manic crescendo. It is the finale of a very good set from a band who have the whole package; musically and visually. I cannot think of another band like Jonny Cola & the A-Grades around at the moment and their uniqueness should only work in their favour. A cracking live band with some dates outside of London in the calendar coming up, go catch them while you can. How would one sum them up? Glamrockpunkpop with a touch of postmodern vaudeville. Maybe. And the glamtastic pouting? Never stopped.
Review by Anne Johanna
Photos by Svenja Block