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This was one of those gigs that was really too good to miss. The chance to see Darrel Higham and Slim Jim Phantom in a small venue. For the uninitiated out there, this is the guitarist from Imelda May's Band and the drummer from The Stray Cats respectively. Together they have formed the fantastic Rockabilly band The Kat Men. This was one of a number of dates in the UK to promote their excellent new album, "The Kat Men Cometh". They had certainly attracted a healthy crowd of rockabilly cats and chicks for a mid week gig.

Support for the tour comes from The Caezars, who appear to be a top young band. They have a look which is very 50's with their cardigans and slicked back hair. In fact with their co-ordinated dress sense they actually seem a bit like a Rockabilly Hives! Credit to the front man who came across as confident but not cocky. He managed to generate some early banter with what was quite a tough crowd. This was a shame, as they have some really good tunes including tracks like "Welcome To The Main Stream " and "Nightmare". The songs were perhaps veering too much to an indie sound rather than rockabilly for the crowd but on "Rockabilly Robber??" they threw the right rock n roll sounds to get the crowd going. Certainly a band to file under "ones to watch".

There was no doubt, however, that the crowd was there to see the main act Kat Men. They immediately kicked things off with a quick barrage of great rock n roll songs including "Over Under Sideways Down" and "Dark Haired Woman". This is straight forward rockabilly with very limited talking or messing around. Darrel kept the in between song chat to a minimum and really let the music do the talking. Special mention to the unsung hero of the band is Al Gare, on predominantly double bass who keeps the necessary groove that is essential to a Rockabilly band. He also sported a somewhat "interesting?!?" Hawaiian shirt which, according to Darrel had fetched a very high price on ebay??!

On "You Can Go Now", you get to really notice the individual style of Slim Jim. Firstly he stands up which is unusual but also really highlights his role as a key member of the band. He just oozes cool, even if he did forget the set at one point! Not to be outshone, Darrel Higham has a great "at ease" style which really belies his considerable skill. "Every time I See You It Makes Me Smile" is a great fun time song but it is also delivered perfectly, highlighting the quality of Darrel's voice and guitar.

The sound achieved by on tracks like "With Or Against Me" or "All In Good Time" is amazing for a three piece. It shows their musical ability that this can be achieved without the need of any studio effects. Even the absence of backing vocals, which feature quite heavily on the recorded versions, does not detract from how good the songs are. Slim Jim even sings the Stray Cats "Rock This Town" which is a real treat for the many fans of that classic band that are in the audience.  They also cover Elvis' "Big Hunk Of Love" and whilst Darrel warns the crowd that they might want to leave as he is going to "murder" an Elvis song, the truth is he nails it. The King would of been proud.

Speaking of The King, The encore includes "We Need Elvis back", one of the best songs on the new album. Whilst we may all agree that it would be great to see Elvis resurrected, in the absence of this miracle, The Kat Men will certainly do! The band were due to play The Jool's Holland Show later in the same week, and it can only be hoped that this exposure will help them attract even wider success so they are encouraged to release more albums and play more gigs like this.

Review/photos by Paul Hastings

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