Deke Leonard's Iceberg

The Plough - Walthamstow

Friday 22 July 2005

Deke and CliveDeke Leonard parted ways with the Man band last year, and has since had a few projects on the go - the books still need to be promoted, the proposed film of same, and more recently a BBC Wales adaptation of said books. Plus a few story telling type shows, and of course the release of the new solo album, and a collection of radio sessions. And on top of this, Deke has put a new version of Iceberg together. Did you ever have this chap down as a workaholic?

So the first Iceberg London gig for, well, decades, took place at the Plough in Walthamstow on a Friday night in July 2005, a welcome respite from all the fear and anxiety the nation's capital had recently been subjected to.

This was my first visit to the Plough. Essentially a typical London boozer stocking a good range of Fullers ales, with a small concertroom at the back. I'm used to seeing bands perform in pubs, but this was probably the smallest venue I've seen a band play in; the stage certainly doesn't lend itself to much movement. The upside of this of course, is the real sense of intimacy the venue generates.

The band were a little late arriving (blame the M25) and got things underway with Ride; it was short and punchy compared to some Man band renditions, with Will Youatt playing a slightly diffeent bass line and Clive Roberts adding a silkly slide solo.

Fools like me from BYVE was up next, and indicated that the set list was to take in a wide range of songs, selected from all parts of his career; anyway, this was very convincing, and included a solo from Deke which was very close to the original; on Razorblade though, the soloing went slightly astray, but no matter - as a whole the song was, well, razor sharp is the obvious description.

Cuba was the first song from the latest album, Freedom and Chains to be performed, and had a more raucous feel than the album version - though of course, the Cubettes were absent here. From the same album, Something in my Heart was performed despite the battery in Deke's echo pedal having failed. Something of a Buddy Holly tribute, it was enjoyable, but didn't work as well live as it does on the CD.

A cover was next up, Sonny Boy Williamson's Bring it on Home, and again Clive Roberts was given the opportunity to showcase his admirable slide talents. I thought Tahitian Thunder to be one of the highlights of the evening, wonderfully played by all four, with Bob Richards getting it just right and not overdoing it with the tomtoms as must be very tempting.

Circumstances was very well received (which suggests a solid Man band following in the crowd), though there seemed less of a welcome for Get off the Line which is arguably less well known... still, Deke did deliver a terrific solo. There were a few sound problems next, so maybe Map of India, great song though it certainly is, didn't sound as crisp as it might have; to my ears, the drums were too much to the fore.

In Search of Sarah seemed to be taken at a relaxed pace, but there was plenty of slick guitar interplay between Deke and Clive to enjoy. They couldn't really go wrong with 7171, and the teasing extended intro was simply a bonus. Daughter finished off the main set, an exceptional, rousing performance, superbly driven on by Will's terrific bass playing: another highlight.

After a short hiatus, they were back for a couple of encores - Hard Way to Live had a luxuriant full, rich sound, and Dirty Dirty Feeling (an Elvis song which can be found on Wireless), which was short, sharp and perfectly formed.

An excellent gig. This band haven't played together all that much, and though not quite as tight as a second skin, they were pretty good, with very few mishaps. The rythym section of Bob and Will couldn't be faulted, and Clive cetainly knows his way round a fretboard.

Some might have expected Iceberg to be more or less and alternative Man band, but that's simply not the case. A long list of sharp, concise songs with solos allowed where appropriate, but no extended jamming: if they played something, it's because it was meant to be played. The good thing about this is that should one song not be to your taste, you don't have to wait too long for the next one; a trip to the toilet can mean an entire song is missed. If you prefer to stand and sway with eyes closed, drifting along on a long, extended solo that takes time to develop, you just might be in the wrong place. Songs. That's what this is about.

If Deke Leonard wanted to keep things just as they had been in the Man band, well, there wouldn't have been any point in his leaving, would there?

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