Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats + Vōdūn @ Mama Roux’s, Birmingham – Thursday 8 December 2016


Voodoo and LSD, a winning combination…

Beheld in all its glory by Jason Guest

Born from a love of New Orleans and Deep South America and featuring a hire-able Voodoo Lounge with resident witch doctor, Mama Roux’s could be no better setting for Vōdūn’s opening slot. The spirit of Loa coursing through its veins, their exceptional debut album Possession (reviewed here) and their numerous gigs and appearances at such festivals as Bloodstock, HRH and ArcTanGent this past year has summoned many to the backstreets of the Home of Metal to witness them live.

vodun-2016But attempting to surreptitiously make their way through the crowd in black hoodies fools nobody. If it’s not the face paint or the colourful leg claddings, it’s the bare feet that give it away. And so, garbed in orange, green, white and feathered garb and bodily-and-facially-decorated in orange, green, black and white voodoo makeup, Vōdūn do a few warm up stretches, check the equipment is all in noise-making order, press the button for the intro to begin and then let the spirits take over…

For a three-piece, their sound is huge. Guitarist Marassa loads his guitar with multiple effects so that whatever he plays, it’s got as much weight as it does depth. Heavy as metal, soulful as the blues, Marassa’s multiplicity means he can shift from the down and the dirty to the melodic and the moving with a fluidity that gives each song its own unique character. Ogoun’s dynamic drumming is intense and focussed and, like Marassa, moves through the funky and the heavy and the tribal and hypnotic in a blur of syncopated intricacies with a hard-hitting force that no matter how hard she hits the kit, it just will not die. And then we have the incredible voice of Oya, weaving beautifully moving melodies into the music, she casts her spell over the crowd and enthrals us all.

The set is powerful, the songs too, and the crowd laps it up. And for those at the front, for the last song of the set, their reward is to be given a tambourine, a cowbell or a hand drum that they can rhythmically pound upon and be part of the band, the song and the whole experience. Yup, like the opening to the album says, possession by Vōdūn is an honour of the highest order paid by the spirits. Yes it is. If you missed ‘em, make sure you don’t next time.

A quartet of hair, beards and 70s counterculture fashion fills the darkened stage next. Yes, it’s Uncle Acid and his accompanying Deadbeats. The band that were an obvious choice to support Black Sabbath in late 2013 have returned once more to the second city to bless us with a set list now including tracks from their one-year-and-a-bit-old album, The Night Creeper (the tracks ‘Downtown’ and ‘Pusher Man’ featuring none other than Vōdūn’s Oya on backing vocals). And so, our evening continues with much in the way of Beatles-meets-Sabbath-meets-flower-power-meets-LSD-laced-psychedelic rock to inspire much slow-but-steady-and-heavy head banging.

uncle-acid-2016If there’s one weapon Uncle ‘sid and his layabout nephews have in their ‘orrible armoury, it’s riffs. This band could chug along all night on one of ‘em and still get every bonce bobbing from front to back and side to side of this apt arena. Along with their close harmony vocals, doom-weighted grooves, and tetrahydrocannabinol-tinged atmospherics, Uncle Acid and co. could so easily become little more than a simulacrum of their inspirations. But no, album after album has seen them evolve into the hammering horrors that they are. And on stage, the band dig deep into the darkness and bring unto us an evening’s mix of the macabre, the melodic and the mighty.

Though they’ve got the songs, the riffs, the melodies and the harmonies, what’s missing from their show – or maybe downplayed is the best way to put it – is the visual aspect. Where Vōdūn have got a colourful image and a dynamic stage presence that emphasizes and enhances the spiritual nature of their music, Uncle Acid could do with a psychedelic lightshow or perhaps even projections from the movies that influenced them, something along the lines of the ‘Melody Lane’ video would be perfect. Seeing microphone stands disappear beneath masses of hair when the harmonious vocals kick in and reappear when it’s time for their mellifluous lead lines to emerge from the twin guitars is barely enough to hold a crowd’s attention.

Yes, their music’s great and live they are as tight as on record, but on stage it wouldn’t hurt to colour it, however subtly, with something visually suited to their nostalgic, psychedelic and misty aesthetic. But their bad-trip, mind-blowing, flower-powered, 70s-flared groove is more than enough for this much appreciative audience. With a discography that keeps getting better and tonight’s impressive ten-track main set and three-track encore, this bunch of ne’er-do-wells needn’t worry about cutting their hair and looking for a real job…