The Urban Voodoo Machine Celebrate 20 Years In Glorious Style

This show by the The Urban Voodoo Machine was jointly celebrating the bands leader Paul-Ronney Angel’s birthday and 20 years of The Urban Voodoo Machine’s unique brew of Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop & Stroll that has encompassed a wonderful revolving door line-up of musicians with this show at The Signature Brewery on Blackhorse Road in Walthamstow.

I’ve been seeing the band live regularly for most of the last 19 years since first encountering them playing at a party at original trumpet player Dr Lloyd Gomez De Ville’s house and in all those years I’ve never seen anything other than great shows. And this show that Paul-Ronney Angel was describing ahead of the gig as being the band’s very own “piss-up in a brewery” was no exception.

As they often do, they started the evening by performing as a marching band outside the venue playing Goodbye To Another Year as they wandered through the crowd gathered outside. This went into the gospel blues of I’ll Fly Away that had everyone singing along to the chorus as the band marched into the venue to mark the opening of the night.

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11
Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Once the brewery was packed and we had all had a beer or two, the band’s Theme Song came on before they slowly walked through the crowd, in their usual Zombie style, before launching into the theme proper and opening the show in their usual dramatic fashion.

The main set opened with Empty Plastic Cup as the eight-piece line-up really kicked things off with Joni Belaruski from The Great Malarkey playing the cymbals, crashing into The Late J-Roni Moe and Gary Voodoo’s twin drum and percussive backbone that was as elaborately decorated as ever. Living In Fear sums up our post millennial malaise perfectly, as the Reverend Gavin Smiths double bass drove the song along while Paul-Ronney threw in a kick or two while playing guitar and singing.

Johnny Foreigner was introduced by Paul-Ronney as being about what it was like to always be treated as a foreigner while living in London and to find he is also treated as a foreigner since moving to Oslo, so he always feels like a “Johnny Foreigner”. The song was the first time Slim Cyder switched from accordion to piano, helping the biting sarcasm to hit home.

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11
Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Joe Mongo Whitney joined in on washboard for Trainwreck Blues, giving it a great shuffling beat as Paul-Ronney and Tony Diavolo traded guitar licks, as they hurtled down the tracks once more. The bitter Irony at the heart of Not With You was amped up to the max as Harrison Cole’s trumpet blasted through and Mlle Chat Noirs violin lines added a dark twist to the song.

For Orphan’s Lament, Michael York joined on border pipes while Joni Belaruski came back on to play cymbals every bit as full on as The Great Malarkeys version of the song, as the bagpipes really made it more of a slow lament.

Emptiness featured Katharine Blake from Miranda Sex Garden duetting with Paul-Ronney Angel. It was full of passion and emotion, while I’m sure many of us were thinking of her late husband Nick Marsh who was the original lead guitarist in the band.

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11
Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

They took a change of direction on Little Jimmy On The Run that featured James Brown II on lead vocals and a super speedy rap in the middle of the song as Slim Cyder’s piano lines flew along to keep up with James’ delivery. Paul-Ronney then encouraged James to introduce the next guest vocalist as he enticed his mum to come up on stage. Tommie Rae Brown added a very bluesy edge as she sang Rather You Shot Me Down with Paul-Ronney that slipped into I Put A Spell On You for a few bars as all sorts of musical hijinks were gong on, the band raving it up.

By this point Paul-Ronney was sipping his Rusty Water from a pair of binoculars, although he wasn’t allowed any Coffin Nails as he hammed it up with Suri Sumatra on a darkly dissolute version of Rusty Water & Coffin Nails while making sure we knew she was with him when the song was written at the Blue-Collar Hotel. It’s always good to see Jim Jones singing with The U.V.M. and as usual, he gave his all on Killer Sound that shook the room.

It was then the turn of Jim the sound man to play additional guitar on Love Song 666, one of the bands enduring hits, that had a good singalong feel to the night’s raucous rendition. The Devil had to be followed by Help Me Jesus that had vocals from Luke Arnold and Tommie Rae Brown as they got the gospel blues sound down perfectly.

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11
Urban Voodoo Machine @ Signature Brew, 2023.11.11

They closed the show with a brilliant hoedown through Goodbye To Another Year that had some brilliant tuba from Joni Belaruski.

Of course they got an encore as the packed crowd showed appreciation for another brilliant show, and for the first song of the encore they came back as a four piece with the band’s regular super special guest Norman Watt-Roy from The Blockheads on bass, playing about 300 yards from where The Royal Standard used to be, the venue I first saw him playing in with Wilko Johnson a few decades ago. They went into Thank God This Bar Is Closed. Of course it wasn’t, but Jary’s drumming kept things nice and tight and loose, as Slim let fly on piano.

Paul-Ronney then encouraged as many band members as wanted to join in on Down In A Hole, so that they closed as a 9 piece having a total rave up on stage, leaving everyone smiling at the end of another monumentally great show.

After a break for everyone to recuperate a little, we were treated to Suri Sumatra’s burlesque dance routine, as the Indonesian princess doing a mask and fan dance, that didn’t have the traditional gamelan dancing barefoot on broken glass thankfully, it was a great coda to a brilliant evening.

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Review of The Urban Voodoo Machine at the The Signature Brewery on 11th November 2023 by Simon Philips. Photography by Pauline Di Silvestro.

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