After some 16 years the much-loved SweetBeats recently announced that this gig would be their last but it was fitting that it was at their spiritual home of the also well-loved Norwich Arts Centre, for which they were playing to help with the regeneration fundraising.
I was rather lucky to get the late opportunity to attend this one as it was unsurprisingly completely sold out but I did miss the support The High Points but heard good things about them. The SweetBeats had already started their set when I arrived and as well as the familiar music it was nice to see so many familiar faces in the crowd and feel the lovely atmosphere that is always synonymous with SweetBeats gigs. There is more space now in the auditorium without the speaker stacks on the floor and with better sightlines from the side even the aisles either side of the stage were full of people dancing and skanking, smiles everywhere one looked.
Well past 11pm the music kept on coming as people became increasingly aware these were the last songs they’d be hearing by the band so the atmosphere and connection between band and audience was strong and it was quite moving when they finally stopped and took bows to big cheers from the big crowd.
“The Sweetbeats performing in support of our #NACregeneration campaign. This will also be their farewell gig after 16 years of festivals and parties!
“Come and dance your pants off with us for one last time and we hope to see yer down the front. Remember Resistance is Futile!”
Dance all night to the joyful sounds of The Sweetbeats as they blend self-penned songs with twisted versions of the classic Ska, Reggae, Bluebeat, Soul and dub tunes that inspired them. Jamaica is where this music starts – the journey ends in bliss. The soaring saxophone and double-trouble trombone energise your soul while the sweet vocal harmonies entrance your heart. Chunkin’ rhythms and addictive riffs keep you rocking all night.”
A bit earlier on I paid my first visit to The Bowling House, opposite The Reindeer, where Odd Box Promotions were hosting the first gig in the building. It worked rather well in the upstairs cafe area, it was intimate and the sound sweet with Martin controlling it as we had performances from the returning Alexander Carson, Kerry Devine, Jeremy Tuplin, and the wonderful Phoebe Troup, stepping in at late notice for Sunday Driver.
In London the previous evening Alex had played at St Pancras Old Church and was reunited with some Wooden Arms, (Jeff was present here too) and they will be playing some dates together later in the year, including 29 November in Norwich at Bermuda Bob’s.
It was my first time seeing both Kerry Devine and Jeremy Tuplin. Jeremy starting his set quite memorably with Bowie-spirit references in his song. His voice reminded me a little of Dan Michaelson. Kerry just charmed us all with some lovely humour between her gorgeously atmospheric and haunting songs. I’d been told good things about her beforehand and was not disappointed. She expressed her love of Norwich which I think grew even more as she got the audience accompanying her on her version of Portishead’s Glory Box.
Phoebe too was a total delight. She treated us to a brilliant new song and played electric on one or two, Kerry’s Gibson guitar in fact. Just as she was starting Deep in the Riverbed an ambulance noisily drove down Grape’s Hill and onto Dereham Road. Phoebe said “That was good timing” before checking herself and adding apologetically “Oh, not for someone!” which cracked everyone up for some moments. Absolutely charming and a fantastic artist is Phoebe.
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