Boy Azooga – Green Door Store, Brighton – 18th October 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

We often talk of an artist capturing the imagination of the youth, so much so that they become obsessed, but when it comes to Davey Newington, aka Boy Azooga, he seems to have reignited a spark in middle-aged minds. With arguably 80% of his gig populated by the 40-plus, it’s clear to see he’s heralded as not only a throwback due to his vast 60s-80s influences, but as a quasi-saviour of rock and roll too. For good reason, no less, as his wonderful fusion of soft-rock, early heavy rock, and the 80s avant-garde makes for a genuine uplifting experience at his Green Door Store show.

Support on the night came from York band The Howl & The Hum, a quartet that clearly revelled in their own eccentricity. Rolling through rock and roll songs about wanting to be sharks, the Godmanchester Chinese Bridge (and its magical construction) and Tesco Value lager, it was impressively strange but also technically excellent. Lead singer Sam Griffiths is a dynamic presence, and a kooky songwriter, with more than a little of a Thom Yorke vibe to his vocals. This certainly won’t be the last time we hear of the band and, with songs as unique as theirs, they won’t be forgotten by the Brighton crowd.

Boy Azooga’s debut record, 1, 2, Kung Fu!, is one of the finest debuts of the year – and unfairly snubbed by the Mercury Prize in my humble opinion – so it’s no surprise that this gig was sold-out well in advance. Making his way, with his band, humbly to the stage there’s no pretence to Davey Newington and co. They appear to be loving every single second of being able to craft music for a living, and do so together, but they certainly don’t take anything for granted. Opening with one of 1, 2, Kung Fu’s finest moments, ‘Taxi To Your Head’, featuring a brilliantly bluesy core riff and one of the best breakdowns of the year, it was a showcase of sheer talent and songs coming from a variety of influences throughout.

An early display of debut single ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ offered up an early singalong but, strangely, it was the more melancholic numbers from the album that struck a chord on the night. Album opener, ‘Breakfast Epiphany’, was a mid-set highlight but it was ‘Hangover Square’ that proved the moment no one would forget. “We don’t normally play this one, but since it’s got a line about Brighton we thought we would” announced Newington, before playing the track. Featuring the line: “On the train to Brighton”, which received a big cheer on the night and was, reportedly, the line that got him signed by Jeff Barratt and Heavenly Records (see our exclusive interview), it was a special and exclusive moment that are usually reserved for the bigger London shows.

This is the way Newington and co. navigate, however, everything they do is with the audience in mind. Not only are they an incredibly affable, likeable presence on stage, they’re also ultimate showmen. With an ending of a cover of his girlfriend’s dad’s band The Tables (called so because “they’d always be a household name”) ‘Do the Standing Still’ and a brand-new song ‘Upside Down’, as well as an extended jam session, this was an incredible showcase of great musicians – and at such a young age it’s strangely affecting to watch.

Davey Newington is a self-proclaimed music nut and his live shows are testament to that. Mixing metal influences with Nigerian-funk at the drop of a hat, a Boy Azooga show is not only a unique experience – and one that you’d expect is different in every single city – but it’s also an exceptionally unpredictable beast. Ending on arguably their biggest single, ‘Loner Boogie’, as well as a cover of T. Rex’s ‘I Love to Boogie’ with their tour manager, it was about as inspiring, uplifting and heartwarming as a show could be and, if possible, I could have watched it for hours and hours longer. Not a single member of the Green Door Store audience left without a huge grin on their face.

Liam McMillen